Friday night's games helped further clarify the postseason picture in South Mississippi, but there are plenty of meaningful games to be played in the coming weeks.
While the coaches may shy away from saying it, the top seed in Region 8-4A was essentially decided Friday night with East Central thumping St. Stanislaus 41-7 in soggy conditions in Hurley. A win for East Central (7-0, 3-0) this upcoming Friday over Bay High (0-8, 0-3) would lock up the program's first region championship since 1993.
While the offense has shined week in and week out, it's the play of the defense that has allowed East Central to roll to an undefeated mark without being truly threatened. When SSC quarterback Jake Greer ran 36 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter Friday, it was the first touchdown given up by the East Central defense since the opening drive of the 31-7 win over Jefferson Davis County on Sept. 8. The Hornets have allowed only 48 points all season and the defense has given up just five touchdowns.
Of the new stars that have emerged in South Mississippi through the first nine weeks of the season, it's unlikely many have been more impressive than East Central junior linebacker Avery White. The 6-foot-4, 190-pound White had 21 tackles Friday night to bring his season total to 106.
White has plenty of speed and athleticism. If he packs on a few more pounds, he should grab the attention of some of the top FBS programs in the region.
In Region 7-4A, Poplarville faces its last significant hurdle for a region title when it hosts Purvis (4-4, 3-1) this week.
It seems more likely with each week that we'll see East Central and Poplarville (8-0, 3-0) facing off for a Class 4A South State title.
Gulfport rolls along
In Region 4-6A, Gulfport further solidified its first-place position Friday night with a 33-14 win at Harrison Central. The Admirals (5-3, 4-0) are the favorite to to take the top seed into the playoffs, but they still have to travel to D'Iberville this Friday and Biloxi on Nov. 3. Ocean Springs comes to Milner Stadium on Oct. 27.
Hancock (6-2, 3-1) remains in the hunt for a 4-6A title thanks to its 56-28 thumping of D'Iberville, but Gulfport already holds the head-to-head advantage over the Hawks thanks to a 26-7 game on Oct. 6.
In Region 4-5A, Picayune (7-1, 4-0) plays host to Hattiesburg (8-0, 4-0) this week in what should be one of the most exciting games in the state.
Hattiesburg has scored at least 56 points over its last four games and Picayune has proven that it can score with the best of them.
However, the Picayune defense has been a little inconsistent recently and it will have to play its best game of the season to hang with the Tigers.
Pass Christian took it on the chin in a 47-0 loss to East Central Oct. 6, but instead of letting that loss impact the next week's game, the Pirates showed up strong at Moss Point Friday night.
Pass Christian beat Moss Point 12-0 to improve to 4-4 overall and 2-1 in Region 8-4A, putting the team in good position to lock up a postseason bid.
After leading his team to a dramatic turnaround, Pass Christian coach Casey Wittmann gets the Game Ball for this week's top coaching performance.
Pass Christian can erase any doubt of its postseason fate with a win at Vancleave this week.