The Class 4A playoffs begin Friday night with five Coast teams taking part in first-round games.
Vancleave and Moss Point have the difficult task of making first-round trips to take on one-loss quads. The Bulldogs (5-5) travel to West Lauderdale (10-1) and Moss Point (4-7) makes the trek to Mendenhall (9-1).
When you consider that West Lauderdale beat Mendenhall 28-6 on Oct. 12, you have to think Moss Point has a better chance of advancing out of the first round on Friday.
The Tigers played arguably the toughest schedule in the state this season and head coach Eugene Harmon hopes that difficult run has prepared his team for the challenge.
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My pick: Moss Point 21, Mendenhall 20.
Here’s how I see the rest of Friday night’s games playing out:
George County 14, Meridian 10: Both the Rebels and the Wildcats are eliminated from the postseason with region marks of 2-4. Petal (3-3) will be the No. 4 seed out of Region 3-6A thanks to the head-to-head advantage against both teams.
Gulfport 28, Biloxi 14: There isn’t much to play for other than pride. Gulfport (9-1, 6-0) has already locked up the No. 1 seed and Biloxi (4-6, 2-4) has been eliminated from postseason contention. Biloxi has scored 14 points in each of the last two games and it will need to do better than that at Milner Stadium.
D’Iberville 35, St. Martin 21: This will be another heated contest between the Warriors (5-4, 3-3) and Yellow Jackets (6-4, 3-3). The winner will advance to the postseason and the loser will be eliminated. If St. Martin somehow pulls it off, it will be the Yellow Jackets’ first win over D’Iberville since 2003.
Hancock 27, Pascagoula 20: The Hawks (3-7, 1-5) finally ended their seven-game skid last week at Biloxi, 21-14. Pascagoula (1-9, 0-6) is out to end a six-game losing streak.
Harrison Central 31, Ocean Springs 20: The winner of this game will earn a first-round home game in the playoffs as the No. 2 seed out of Region 4-6A. Both teams are already in the playoffs.
Gautier 35, Wayne County 28: Gautier (6-4, 3-3) came oh so close to picking up an impressive win at Picayune last week, but instead fell 42-35 in overtime. If Gautier wins, it’s in the playoffs. No matter what happens Friday in Waynesboro, the Gators made a significant step forward in Marc High’s first year as head coach. Wayne County is 6-4 and 3-3.
Hattiesburg 45, West Harrison 17: Hattiesburg (10-0, 6-0) seems sure to make the Dec. 1 Class 5A state title contest a home game at Roberts Stadium. The Hurricanes (2-8, 0-6) have nothing to hang their heads about after making major improvement in Quincy Patrick’s first season as head coach.
Stone High 42, Long Beach 20: The Tomcats (3-6, 3-3) are in good shape to advance to the postseason with a win at home Friday night. Senior quarterback Trey Arrington, who has only played in six games this season, should clear the 1,000-yard rushing mark. He has 166 carries for 987 yards and three touchdowns.
Picayune 42, Pearl River Central 27: Picayune senior running back Jortin Raine became the first player in South Mississippi to hit the 2,000-yard mark last week. He has 257 yards for 2,071 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Resurrection 31, East Marion 28: East Marion (5-5, 3-2) is led by former Moss Point head coach Kevin Jackson. RCS and East Marion (6-3, 3-2) are already in the playoffs.
West Lauderdale 38, Vancleave 17: West Lauderdale’s only loss this season was in overtime against a really good Neshoba Central squad (9-2). Vancleave (5-5) needs a huge game from senior running back C.J. Johnson, who has 1,152 yards rushing, 14 touchdowns, 15 receptions for 239 yards and a 66-yard touchdown pass.
East Central 31, Quitman 10: Quitman comes to Hurley for a first-round playoff game, but the Panthers (5-6) are far from a slouch. They lost 22-21 at Mendenhall (9-1) last week. East Central (9-0) has been pulverizing the competition behind a dominant defense and that will have to continue to be the case for the Hornets to earn a second consecutive Class 4A South State title.
Northeast Lauderdale 28, St. Stanislaus 24: Northeast Lauderdale (6-4) should put up a stiff challenge on the road in Bay St. Louis. Junior running back Brandon Bordelon has taken over at running back for the Rockachaws (5-5, 4-1) and has delivered with 46 carries for 373 yards and four touchdowns over the last two games.
Poplarville 41, Lanier 14: With Poplarville averaging 46.25 points a game over the last four contests and that’s a good sign for the Hornets headed into the playoffs. Poplarville (9-1) is East Central’s greatest threat in South State.