The Harrison Central-Gulfport football rivalry has increased in intensity with each season and it’s hard to imagine a more important chapter in the series than Friday night’s game at Milner Stadium.
Both teams stand at 6-1 overall and 3-0 in Region 4-6A entering the contest.
Gulfport holds a 34-6 all-time edge in the series with the Admirals winning seven of the last eight games. The Red Rebels’ last win in the series was a 14-13 contest at Milner Stadium in 2016.
Gulfport is in its first year under head coach John Archie, who replaced the retired Eddie Pierce in the offseason.
Archie, who served on Pierce’s staff at Gulfport from 2013-15, has seen his Admirals buy in to what he’s preaching.
“It was an easy transition coming back as far as knowing everyone,” Archie said. “It was just taking on the role of head coach and obviously it came with a lot of challenges and expectations.”
While Gulfport has been known more for its tough defense in recent seasons, the Admirals have pulled out tight games recently thanks to a potent offense led by senior quarterback T.Q. Newsome. The Southern Miss commit has thrown for 1,248 yards, 11 touchdowns and two interceptions. On the ground, he has 91 carries for 605 yards and 10 touchdowns.
“I think he’s been awesome,” Archie said. “You can’t ask for anything better. He hit the weight room hard, gave up baseball last spring. He worked on some things fundamentally-wise throwing the ball and it’s really showing right now.”
At Harrison Central, the Red Rebels have seen a resurgence in Casey Cain’s fourth season on the job. The team has already doubled its win total from a 3-8 campaign in 2017.
The Red Rebels have their own weapon at quarterback in senior Dayln Anderson, a West Harrison transfer who has 1,107 yards passing, 12 touchdowns and three interceptions.
“We’re getting better every week,” Cain said. “Last year, we struggled passing the ball. This year, it’s our strong suit.”
My pick: Gulfport 27, Harrison Central 24.
Here is how I see the rest of Friday’s games playing out:
St. Martin 21, Biloxi 20: Both teams are badly in need of wins as they sit at 1-2 in Region 4-6A. Biloxi has managed to score just seven points total over the last two weeks. It may not be an elimination game for the postseason, but it’s pretty darn close.
D’Iberville 35, Hancock 20: D’Iberville quarterback Jaden Walley accounted for eight touchdowns total last week in a come-from-behind win at Pascagoula. He has a chance to hit the 1,000-yard mark on Friday night with 886 yards and 12 touchdowns through just six games.
Ocean Springs 24, Pascagoula 21: The Greyhounds (4-3, 2-1) can take an important step toward reaching the playoffs with a win at home Friday night. Ocean Springs senior running back Micah Kelly hit the 1,000-yard mark last week with 158 carries for 1,035 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Gautier 31, Stone High 27: This game in Perkinston should be one of the more entertaining contests of the season. Gautier (5-2, 2-1) probably has one too many playmakers on offense for Stone High to keep up.
Picayune 45, Long Beach 28: A young and talented offensive line has helped pave the way for Picayune senior running back Jortin Raine, who has 154 carries for 1,275 yards and five touchdowns.
Pearl River Central 31, West Harrison 10: PRC senior Kobe Whitehead, who has 964 yards and 11 touchdowns, should join the 1,000-yard party.
Vancleave 24, Bay High 14: With just 20 points allowed over the last two weeks, a defense led by senior linebacker Cade Compretta has made Bay High (1-6, 1-1) competitive in Region 8-4A.
East Central 24, St. Stanislaus 13: The East Central offense is getting healthier by the week. Senior wingback Ryan Evans and senior running back Cameron Gray are both back on the field for the Hornets (6-0, 2-0).
Moss Point 35, Pass Christian 10: The Moss Point defense should be tough to score on through the remainder of Region 8-4A play. Moss Point senior defensive end Keandre Booker, a Southeast Missouri State commit, has 38 tackles and five sacks.
Poplarville 38, Sumrall 17: Sumrall rolls in at 7-1 and 1-1 in Region 7-4A, but they haven’t faced a schedule as difficult as the one that Poplarville (6-1, 2-0) has played. Poplarville has four players with at least 250 yards rushing with junior Ethan Taylor leading the way with 42 carries for 565 yards and five touchdowns.
St. Patrick 21, Perry Central 18: This game should give St. Patrick (3-4, 0-2) a chance to get its first region victory over a Perry Central squad that stands at 2-5 and 0-1.
Resurrection 38, Mount Olive 7: Resurrection (5-1, 2-1) should have no problem earning their its Region 8-1A victory. Senior Kolin Thompson ran 32 times for 237 yards and five touchdowns last week.
Sun Herald Top 5
1. East Central (6-0)
2. Gulfport (6-1)
3. Picayune (5-2)
4. Poplarville (6-1)
5. Harrison Central (6-1)