If you want to pick out a season-opening football game that will provide the most exciting battle and the best atmosphere Friday night, you’ll have to head to Picayune.
The Maroon Tide will play host to Sun Herald preseason No. 1 Poplarville at 7 p.m. Friday in the rematch of last year’s season opener that ended in a 27-24 victory for the Hornets. There was an overflowing crowd in Poplarville last year and you can expect something similar at Lee-Triplett Stadium.
Picayune has plenty of key players to replace from last year’s team that finished 9-3, but Dodd Lee will have his team ready for the Hornets.
That being said, there’s a reason I picked Poplarville to be the best team on the Coast this season.
My prediction: Poplarville 31, Picayune 30.
Here’s how I see the rest of Week 1 shaking out:
Ocean Springs 35, Gautier 20: We’re about to find out what Ocean Springs junior quarterback Blake Noblin is capable of. The Greyhounds are expected to throw the ball around a little bit more after Noblin hit 47.1 percent of his passes for 1,316 yards, 12 touchdowns and three interceptions a year ago. He’ll have some talented targets to throw the ball to, including senior Khalil Levy, who had 20 catches for 561 yards and six scores in 2017. I see the Greyhounds getting revenge after they fell 31-21 at Gautier last season. Ocean Springs will have the home field advantage Friday night.
Long Beach 28, Pass Christian 24: This will be the first game of the season due to a Thursday night kickoff at Long Beach. Bearcats senior running back Dennis Andrews will be sidelined early in the season following knee surgery, but junior quarterback Cade Crosby should give the Bearcats enough help on offense to not suffer a setback here.
Gulfport 28, George County 17: No game on the Coast will be loaded with more talent than this one. Gulfport is led by senior linebacker Derick Hall, who is wanted by the likes of LSU, Florida and Mississippi State, and senior quarterback T.Q. Newsome, a Southern Miss commit. George County features one of the nation’s best defensive linemen in junior McKinnley Jackson and senior defensive back Dylan Lawrence, who has a chance at a breakout season. Gulfport will likely have a little too much firepower on offense. This game will kick off at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Harrison Central in the first contest of the Port City Bowl.
Vancleave 27, Forrest County AHS 20: Vancleave will rely on senior athlete C.J. Johnson to provide plenty of big plays. After being limited to four games last year due to an injury, Johnson gets his chance to show what he can do. The home-standing Bulldogs are in need of a rebound season after going a combined 4-16 the last two seasons.
St. Martin 38, Forest Hill 13: St. Martin thumped Forest Hill 31-6 last year and the Yellow Jackets should be a more dangerous squad than they were a year ago. Ham McGee and company should roll to an easy win on the road.
Hancock 31, Pearl River Central 17: The first game of Jacob Owen’s time as the Pearl River Central head coach will provide quite the challenge. The Blue Devils will play host to the Sun Herald Preseason No. 2 Hawks, who return some nice pieces from last year’s team that finished 10-3. We’ll see if PRC’s Wing-T offense can prove to be an early equalizer.
Biloxi 17, St. Stanislaus 13: This should be one of the more low-scoring affairs Friday night. Biloxi flashed a strong defense in last week’s 14-6 jamboree win over Long Beach. St. Stanislaus should also be tough on that side of the ball in Nathan Encrapera’s first season as head coach.
St. Patrick 20, Snook Christian 17: St. Patrick showed significant signs of progress a year ago and the Fighting Irish will play on their home field Friday night.
Perry Central 24, Resurrection 14: Perry Central is coming off a 10-2 season that included a 20-10 win over Resurrection. Senior Jacob Galle, a transfer from St. Martin and a Millsaps commit, will take over as the quarterback for the Eagles. Expect RCS to throw the ball a little more this season. This game will be played at Gautier.
Pascagoula 24, Moss Point 13: This will mark the 79th edition of the Battle of the Cats after the first game was played in 1925. Pascagoula holds a 40-35-3 lead in the series after ending a one-game skid against the rival Tigers last season. Former Moss Point coach Jerry Alexander has the most wins in the series with 14 and Billy Wayne Miller, who also coached at Moss Point, is second with 11. Pascagoula coach Lewis Sims, who was once the head coach at Moss Point, is third with nine.
Jefferson Davis County 21, Harrison Central 20: This game will serve as the nightcap of the Port City Bowl with a kickoff of 8:15 p.m. at Harrison Central. The Jaguars, a young program loaded with speed, won 25-10 over the Red Rebels a year ago. Harrison Central is hoping that West Harrison transfer Dayln Anderson will provide some juice on offense at quarterback.
West Harrison 20, Bay High 17: This will mark the debut of head coach Quincy Patrick at West Harrison. This game was West Harrison’s lone victory a year ago.
D’Iberville 31, Tylertown 21: With junior quarterback Jaden Walley in position for a breakout season, D’Iberville should be a very dangerous team in Region 4-6A. The Warriors, who are coming off a 5-7 season and will be the home team Friday, won 28-21 at Tylertown last season.
Briarfield Academy 41, Christian Collegiate 24: Briarfield beat CCA 56-6 a year ago, but this game will be played in Gulfport.