It should come as no surprise, but Pearl River County again serves as home to the best high school football in South Mississippi.
Poplarville and Picayune put on a show last week in an exciting season opener. The Class 4A Hornets walked away with a 27-24 victory behind another big game by senior running back Austin Bolton.
Poplarville's victory was made all the more impressive when you consider that Picayune (1-1) took down Sun Herald No. 1 D'Iberville 31-10 Friday night at Lee-Triplett Stadium.
Poplarville made short work of Pearl River Central 42-6 Friday night to improve to 2-0.
The roads to the Class 4A and Class 5A South State titles will again likely have to run through Pearl River County. The Hornets are coming off a season that included their first 4A South State title while Picayune is looking to get back to the 5A South State title contest after coming up short, 45-27, to Laurel a year ago.
Head coach Jay Beech has built quite the program in Poplarville while Picayune's Dodd Lee continues to stand tall as the most respected coach in the southern half of the state.
It's only two games into the season, but there's little doubt that both Poplarville and Picayune have realistic state title goals.
The biggest threat to Poplarville in Class 4A appears to be East Central, which rallied from an early 10-0 deficit to take down Biloxi 24-10 Friday night in the season opener in Hurley.
It can't be emphasized enough how much better East Central is on defense compared to a year ago. The Hornets battled through some injuries on that side of the ball last year, putting the offense in a position where it had to put up big numbers to win games. On Friday night, East Central showed again that it can shut down a quality Class 6A opponent just like it did in a 23-0 win over Pascagoula in the jamboree.
There's a great deal to be decided in the coming weeks, but a Poplarville-East Central playoff game seems inevitable. Beech and East Central coach Seth Smith both hail from Pearl River County and are close friends.
It's hard to pick out a team that appears ready to challenge Picayune in Region 4-5A, but Stone High (1-0) and Wayne County (1-1) appear to be the top candidates.
Stone High had a strong opener on defense as well Friday night, topping Harrison Central 21-7 in Perkinston.
It also can't hurt that Stone High head coach John Feaster is well connected in Pearl River County as a former Picayune football standout and an assistant at both PRC and Picayune.
This week's top coaching performance goes to the man who took on the Coast's No. 1 squad and walked away with a decisive victory.
Lee had to be scratching his head after the last two losses for his team, Laurel and Poplarville, involved scoreless second halves for the Maroon Tide. On Friday night, it was Picayune who shut down D'Iberville in the second half.
Picayune has two more games remaining before region play, hosting Pascagoula on Friday and traveling to Gulfport on Sept. 8. The Admirals (1-1) and Panthers (1-1) have plenty of work to do to get ready for another tough Maroon Tide squad.
Dodd Lee is very deserving of this week's game ball.