There’s often a feeling out period early in the football season. Every team enters with an abundance of optimism and hopes; goals that are not yet dashed.
Then play begins and teams begin to sort themselves out between the true contenders, programs that are still trying to understand what they are, and still other schools that may start to look toward the future.
We’re two weeks into the season and some South Mississippi programs are beginning to differentiate themselves.
New No. 1 Poplarville (2-0) can lay claim to the Pearl River County crown after knocking off regional rivals No. 2 Picayune (1-1) and Pearl River Central (0-2) in consecutive weeks. The Hornets haven’t lost a regular season game since falling at St. Martin to open last year with the lopsided victory over PRC, pushing their streak to 10 straight.
The Hornets have predictably relied on a trio of running backs to set the tone, led by Austin Bolton, who has already broken free for 368 yards and five touchdowns. The senior running back is averaging a gaudy 20.4 yards per carry. He’s not the only Hornet getting it done, as fellow senior Roosevelt Raine has rushed for 178 yards and two scores. Junior Tyson Holston has also rushed for 140 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Antonio Barnes has been nearly perfect, completing 6 of 7 passes for 89 yards.
The Hornets will have a good test this week when they host Class 3A Seminary (2-0), which is coming off of a 10-4 2016 campaign.
Poplarville will then play at Stone and Heidelberg in consecutive weeks before opening its Region 7-4A schedule at home against Greene County.
New to the rankings
The latest Sun Herald Top 10 features one newcomer this week in No. 10 Hancock. The Hawks are 2-0 under new head coach Neil Lollar after rallying from an early deficit Friday to knock off South Jones 27-14. This is a familiar feeling for the Hawks, who opened 2015 and ’16 3-0.
Can Lollar get HHS over the hump this season or will the Hawks once again stumble in Region 4-6A? We’ll have to wait a couple of weeks to find out. The Hawks host Gautier and then visit Lakeshore, Louisiana ,on Sept. 15 before opening their 4-6A schedule at Ocean Springs.
The Coast’s schools are pretty spread out this week, which resulted in zero Top 10 showdowns.
For the ranked teams: Seminary visits No. 1 Poplarville; No. 2 Picayune hosts Pascagoula; No.3 East Central is at George County; No. 4 St. Martin travels to Crestview, Florida; Madison Central hosts No. 5 D’Iberville, with the other No. 5 Gulfport playing at Archbishop Rummel on Saturday; No. 7 St. Stanislaus at St. Paul in Mobile, Alabama; No. 8 Stone at Biloxi; No. 9 Long Beach at Bay; and No. 10 Hancock hosting Gautier.
Sun Herald Top 10
1. Poplarville (30)
2. Picayune (26)
3. East Central (25)
4. St. Martin (21)
T5. D’Iberville (16)
T5. Gulfport (16)
7. St. Stanislaus (12)
8. Stone (9)
9. Long Beach (7)
10. Hancock (3)
Dropped out: Gautier (0; 1-1; 0)