High School Sports

Patrick’s Picks: Can Pearl River County send 2 teams to Starkville?

Sports Guys: Picayune and Poplarville should advance in playoff games

Sun Herald sports writers Patrick Ochs and Patrick Magee give a preview of Poplarville’s 4A contest with Florence and Picayune’s 5A game against Laurel.
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Sun Herald sports writers Patrick Ochs and Patrick Magee give a preview of Poplarville’s 4A contest with Florence and Picayune’s 5A game against Laurel.

The place to be Friday night is Pearl River County.

The Picayune and Poplarville High School football stadiums should be packed out as they host the Class 5A and Class 4A South State title games.

Considering Poplarville had more fans than Mendenhall on the Tigers' home field last week, you can bet that the Hornets will have a huge home field advantage against Florence.

At Picayune, Maroon Tide head coach Dodd Lee and his staff will have their hands full against an always talented Laurel squad. As the rest of South Mississippi understands, it's never easy to walk into Lee-Triplett Stadium and leave with a win.

If Poplarville and Picayune both win South State, you can bet that there will be a steady stream of vehicles from Pearl River County to Starkville for the Dec. 3 championship games at Davis Wade Stadium on the campus of Mississippi State.

After my picks came up perfect a week ago at 3-0, I'll take a shot at this Friday's two big games:

Poplarville 35, Florence 28: If the Poplarville team that beat Mendenhall 60-12 shows up Friday night, it's hard to see the Hornets losing on their home field.

Florence runs a spread offense, but not the fast-paced brand. The Eagles will get up to the line of scrimmage and look over to the sideline for instruction from coaches, allowing the play clock to run down.

Florence has a strong ground game behind sophomore running back Degerrick Lee, but senior quarterback Brad Dennis should keep the Poplarville honest with the passing game. He has thrown for 1,597 yards and 11 touchdowns.

The Poplarville defense has been very good at creating turnovers and we'll see if that pans out Friday night.

A bad sign for Florence is that it lost the season opener 26-16 to Mendenhall, the same team that Poplarville thumped a week ago.

Laurel 30, Picayune 27: This should be one of the more evenly match games in the state Friday night.

The concern for Picayune entering the game will be whether it can find a way to slow down Laurel senior quarterback Tyquan Ulmer, who was a standout at receiver the last couple of seasons before taking over at quarterback early this year.

Ulmer is an athletic quarterback and that could cause issues for Picayune. Wayne County quarterback Zabryan Jackson ran 23 times for 100 yards and two touchdowns and threw for 164 yards and two scores in the Maroon Tide's 40-38 win last week.

Picayune senior running back Josh Littles still won't be 100 percent due to an ankle injury, but he should still get plenty of carries. Littles has run 262 times for 2,271 yards and 24 touchdowns this season.

It's cliché, but whoever holds onto the ball best will likely advance to the 5A state title game.