Round one of the Class 5A state football playoffs offers a little variety on Friday night.
Picayune (9-2) hosts Laurel in a rematch of last year’s 5A South State championship game at Lee-Triplett Stadium. Stone goes for its first playoff victory since the 1990’s when the Tomcats travel to West Jones.
Laurel at Picayune
Laurel (7-4) overcame a 27-10 deficit to beat Picayune 45-27 in the 5A South State finals last year. The Tornadoes lost to West Point in the 5A state championship game.
Several members of that Laurel squad has graduated, but Picayune coach Dodd Lee doesn’t see much difference in the Region 3-5A third-place team.
“They look like the same Laurel teams we’ve played before,” Lee said. “They’re well coached, very athletic, can run and throw the football very well.”
Junior quarterback Sinclair Ulmer has competed 54 of 101 passes for 954 yards and eight touchdowns. Junior running back Zias Perryman leads the Tornadoes with 876 yards rushing and 11 scores.
Shaun Anderson is the latest Picayune running back to surpass the 2,000-yard rushing mark. He has 2,110 yards and 27 touchdowns on 225 carries. The Maroon Tide has rushed for 4,150 yards. Quarterback Tyler Penton can throw effectively, completing 35 of 71 passes for 699 yards and six scores.
“We have to win the turnover battle and make more big plays than Laurel,” Lee said.
Awaiting the Picayune-Laurel winner will be either Brookhaven or Wayne County in the second round next week.
Stone at West Jones
The Tomcats (7-3) take their potent run-oriented attack into the Soso community for a showdown against West Jones, the second-place team in Region 3-5A.
Stone coach John Feaster has guided the Tomcats into the state playoffs two straight seasons for the first time since 1993 and 1994. Stone seeks its first playoff victory since reaching the 4A state finals in 1991.
“We’re motivated to do something special at Stone High,” Feaster said. “We owe it to the community. Our goal is to get the Stone community thinking about football again.”
Senior running back Kentrell McCray leads Stone with 967 yards on 139 carries and nine touchdowns. Enrique Whaley, another senior, has 760 yards and nine TDs on just 98 carries. Defensively, Whaley has five interceptions. Trey Arrington has 101 total tackles and reigning Sun Herald defensive player of the week.
West Jones has a quarterback rotation, according to Feaster. Junior Dusty Cook leads the Mustangs’ passing attack, completing 49 of 95 passes for 638 yards and five TDs. Senior Peyton Brown has thrown for only 239 yards and two TDs. Senior running back Austin Land has a team-high 956 yards and six TDs on 228 carries.
Feaster knows it won’t be easy against the Mustangs (8-3).
“West Jones plays good defense and they throw the ball very well with different quarterbacks,” Feaster said. “We have to execute and don’t give up any explosive plays.”
The Stone High-West Jones winner meets either Hattiesburg or South Jones in the second round next week.
5A state playoffs
Laurel at Picayune, 7 p.m. (Radio: WRJW 1320 AM)
Stone at West Jones, 7 p.m.
Online: For LIVE scores throughout the night from all of South Mississippi’s games, visit SunHerald.com.