High School Sports

Region play arrives: Poplarville eyes Greene County, Region 4-6A up for grabs

Poplarville quarterback Antonio Barnes throws against Stone during the second quarter of their game at A.L. May Stadium in Perkinston on Sept. 8.
Poplarville quarterback Antonio Barnes throws against Stone during the second quarter of their game at A.L. May Stadium in Perkinston on Sept. 8. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com File

Now the games truly begin to count.

All of Class 1A, 5A and 6A begin region competition across South Mississippi this week, but it's worth looking two weeks ahead to the start of play in Region 7-4A.

Poplarville will hold its Sun Herald No. 1 ranking this week after taking care of business against a solid Heidelberg squad Friday night, 33-14 on the road. The Hornets will be off this week before starting region play with a home game on Sept. 29 against Greene County, which is undefeated at 5-0 and improving with each week

Greene County will travel to Moss Point (1-4) this week as a heavy favorite after scoring a late touchdown to win 20-14 at Long Beach Friday night.

Poplarville (5-0) will be the popular pick on its home field against Greene County, but Hornets head coach Jay Beech wasn't talking up his team too much after the win at Heidelberg.

"We're playing pretty sloppy, but I'll take the win," Beech said. "We've had too many pre-snap penalties. Too many motions, false starts, stuff like that."

Senior running back Austin Bolton again got loose with 24 times for 236 yards and three touchdowns. Even though Bolton has 13 touchdowns 907 yards rushing total, Beech believes his star running back can do even better with a little help.

"If we can block for him and give him a little room, he can do incredible things with the football," he said.

Watch Greene County's final drive in the last seconds of the fourth quarter to score a touchdown and defeat Long Beach, 20-14, on Friday, September 15, 2017.

Up for grabs

I can't imagine one region in the state that is more wide open than 4-6A.

No team has been particularly hot, but D'Iberville (1-3) will start region play this week as somewhat of a favorite to take first place. The Warriors have played a tough non-region schedule with three road games, including a hard-fought 27-21 loss at Madison Central.

As for which team is the favorite to land in second, it's anybody's guess. St. Martin (3-1) will travel to Gulfport (1-3) this week in a game that should play a significant role in the postseason hunt.

One team that has some momentum entering region play is Ocean Springs, which sits at 2-2 and has made significant improvement since being upset 31-21 by Gautier in the season opener. Sophomore quarterback Blake Noblin is beginning to settle in and has a chance to develop into into a nice prospect as a passer.

The biggest game in Region 4-5A this week will be Picayune at Wayne County. The No. 2 Maroon Tide (3-1) have been the better team, but the trip to Waynesboro is never an easy one. Wayne County (2-2) gained a little confidence on the road Friday night, winning 37-0 at Moss Point.

Game ball

The East Central football team faced two of the state's best Class 3A teams in consecutive weeks and allowed a total of seven points. After beating Jeff Davis 31-7 on Sept. 8, the Hornets pulled away for a 21-0 win over Hazlehurst Friday night.

After leading East Central to a 4-0 start to the season, head coach Seth Smith deserves this week's game ball for the top coaching performance.

The Hornets will be off this week before starting Region 8-4A play on Sept. 29 in Hurley against Moss point.

St. Stanislaus (2-2) appears to be the only team that can truly threaten East Central in region play. If the Hornets' defense keeps up its recent play and senior running back Tony Brown gets rolling, they'll be impossible to stop.