There are 10 teams from South Mississippi remaining in the playoffs and five of those squads have difficult road trips to make Friday night.
Sun Herald No. 1 Poplarville (11-0) is likely the only team with a road game Friday night that can be considered a heavy favorite. The Hornets travel to St. Stanislaus (6-5) hoping to advance to face the winner of Purvis-Florence in the third round.
If there’s one other road team that’s going to win Friday night, I’m taking the Stone High Tomcats.
Stone travels to West Jones, which is 8-3 and coming off a 26-0 loss to Brookhaven in the regular season finale.
Stone High and West Jones have one shared opponent — Wayne County, a team that Stone High beat 44-21 on Oct. 21. Wayne County beat West Jones 43-7 in the season opener.
My pick – Stone High 35, West Jones 28.
Here’s how I see the rest of Friday night’s game shaking out:
Pearl 28, St. Martin 14: Pearl rolls in as one of the best teams in the state at 12-0 and the Pirates are loaded with playmakers all over the field. St. Martin (6-5) will be fired up to play its first playoff game since 2003, but Pearl is a very tall task.
Brandon 31, Hancock 21: This is Hancock’s first home playoff game since 1990, but the Hawks (9-2) will have their hands full against a very good Brandon squad. Brandon’s sophomore quarterback, Will Rogers, has completed 64.6 percent of his passes for 2,295 yards, 17 touchdowns and four interceptions. The Bulldogs are better than their 7-5 record indicates.
Gulfport 28, Meridian 20: The Admirals (8-3) present Region 4-6A’s best chance of winning a playoff game Friday night and I’m fairly confident they will follow through with the win. Junior quarterback T.Q. Newsome is expected to be ready to go after missing some time with an injury late in the season. Meridian is 5-6 and coming off three consecutive wins.
Petal 31, D’Iberville 24: D’Iberville (5-6) may present 4-6A’s second best chance of picking up a win Friday night. The Warriors have shown that they can hang with top competition and they’re coming off decisive wins over Harrison Central and St. Martin.
Picayune 38, Laurel 21: The Maroon Tide (9-2) are battle tested and ready for the postseason. They’ll also be looking for a bit of revenge after losing 45-27 to Laurel in the Class 5A South State title game a year ago. Laurel (7-4) has won four of its last five, but all of those wins came against less than stellar competition.
East Central 38, West Lauderdale 17: East Central (10-0) should finally get some competition this week after pummeling opponents with ease since the start of region play. West Lauderdale is led by a quarterback who possibly has the best name in high school football going today — Turbo McKee.
Poplarville 35, St. Stanislaus 24: Poplarville (11-0) is limping in a little with senior running back Austin Bolton not fully healthy, but the Hornets have other playmakers to go to like junior Tyson Holston and senior Roosevelt Raine. The Rockachaws (6-5) would love to spoil Poplarville’s pursuit of a second consecutive Class 4A South State title.
French Camp 28, Resurrection 24: RCS (5-6) will make the 247-mile trip to French Camp on Friday night hoping to spark a playoff run. Resurrection is perfectly capable of getting hot in the postseason, but French Camp (8-3) is always a tough Class 1A program.