Pascagoula’s Jacoryn Walker stars in jamboree win at St. Martin
The high school football season gets underway in South Mississippi Friday night and there will be no more intense match-up than the one taking place at Dantzler Stadium in Moss Point.
It’s the annual “Battle of the Cats” rivalry and the Moss Point football team looks for its third win in the last four seasons over arch rival Pascagoula. Moss Point thumped ‘Goula 35-7 a year ago.
Both teams made nice showings in their jamboree scrimmages last week. Moss Point thumped West Harrison 21-0 and Pascagoula took down St. Martin on its home field, 14-3.
Pascagoula should rely on a stiff defense this season while Moss Point will have as much talent among its offensive skill players as any Class 4A team in the southern half of the state — junior quarterback Ruben Lee, junior running back/linebacker Savion Burkes and junior receiver Chanton Millender.
Pascagoula is a young squad overall, but it does have a strong senior running back in Jacoryn Walker, who had a pair of touchdowns in the jamboree last week.
This series has been tough to predict in recent seasons, but I see Pascagoula’s defense proving to be the difference.
My pick: Pascagoula 31, Moss Point 20.
Here’s how I see the rest of Friday night’s games playing out:
Gulfport 24, Stone High 17: This will be the second contest played Friday night at Gulfport’s Milner Stadium as part of the Port City Classic. The Admirals and Tomcats will likely kick off around 8:30 p.m.
When Long Beach’s Cade Crosby transferred to Gulfport for his senior season, it set up an interesting situation at quarterback for head coach John Archie. Dawson Malley, who played well when given opportunities a year ago, is back for his senior year after backing up T.Q. Newsome last season.
On Thursday, Archie confirmed to the Sun Herald that the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Malley will be the starting quarterback on Friday against Stone High.
The Tomcats can’t be taken lightly, but the Admirals haven’t lost a season-opener since 2012 against Pascagoula.
On an unrelated note, Crosby recently committed to play baseball at Samford in Birmingham. Regardless of his role for the Admirals’ football team, Crosby will be a standout addition to the Gulfport baseball team in the spring.
East Central 28, Harrison Central 24: The Hornets and Red Rebels will knock heads in the opener of the Port City Classic at 5:30 p.m. on Friday at Milner Stadium.
This game is a toss-up, but East Central has more proven talent on the offensive side of the ball.
A trio of seniors in running back Dylan Grinsteinner, quarterback Will Young and running back Teshun McGee will be working behind what should be an improved ECHS offensive line.
While Harrison Central won’t be lacking in talent this year with players like junior star receiver Jacobi Moore, the Red Rebels have as many starters to replace as any team on the Coast.
Harrison Central may be a team that works out some kinks early before closing the season strong.
Biloxi 27, Greene County 14: While Biloxi starts the season as a team expected to contend for a Region 4-6A title, the Indians can’t take anything for granted against a talented Greene County squad that finished 9-4 in 2018.
The man who was supposed to start at QB for Biloxi, junior Chad O’Neal, is out with an ankle injury and may not return until the start of region play. Junior Tristan Pearson, who started three games last year, will get the nod.
The Indians are the host team.
West Harrison 21, Bay High 20: This will be an intriguing battle between mentor and pupil at West Harrison Friday night.
Second-year West Harrison head coach Quincy Patrick worked under Collins at both Pearl River Central and D’Iberville from 2008-17, serving as his offensive coordinator.
Collins is in his first season after moving over from D’Iberville in the offseason.
Collins and Patrick are both in the middle of rebuilding projects, but I’ll give Patrick the edge here after the Hurricanes showed some progress last season.
Gautier 31, Vancleave 20: Gautier has plenty of production to replace on offense, but the Gators still have a nice array of playmakers and a defense led by senior linebacker Drake Thornton.
There’s good reason for buzz in Vancleave due to the debut of Kevin Fant as the Bulldogs’ head coach, but the team has plenty of production to replace from the 2018 squad.
Ocean Springs 28, Ridgeland 21: Blake Noblin enters his senior season as the Ocean Springs starting quarterback, and he seems due a significant leap forward after completing just 50 percent of his passes a year ago. Noblin, who holds a Southern Miss offer, stands 6-foot-4, 195 pounds and runs the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds. For the Greyhounds to make a playoff run, it’s up to Noblin to piece together his best season by far. The Greyhounds are playing at home Friday night.
West Jones 28, George County 14: Former Gautier head coach Chris Peterson is now the offensive coordinator at George County, and he’ll have to find a way to get the Rebels’ offense rolling after having 10 games where they scored 13 or fewer points in 2018. As long as senior defensive tackle McKinnley Jackson is on the field, the Rebels will be difficult to score on. West Jones will be a heavy favorite on its home field after winning Class 5A South State a year ago.
St. Stanislaus 31, St. Joseph (Madison) 14: The Rockachaws made an impressive showing with a 21-7 win over Gulfport in a jamboree last week. Senior athlete Brandon Bordelon may be a due a breakout season in head coach Nathan Encrapera’s second year on the job. This game will be played in Bay St. Louis.
Long Beach 27, Pass Christian 20: This contest featured plenty of fireworks at Long Beach last season with the Pirates holding on for a 34-31 win.
On Friday night at Pass Christian, Blake Pennock makes his debut as the Pirates’ head coach after previously serving on the staff at Clinton.
While Crosby has made the move to Gulfport, both the Bearcats and Pirates return several playmakers on the offensive side of the ball.
This game may be a toss up, but Long Beach surely hasn’t forgotten last year’s disappointment in the Oyster Bowl.
Hancock 28, Pearl River Central 24: These are two teams that have a chance to be significantly improved over a year ago.
Second-year PRC head coach Jacob Owen will bring his Blue Devils to the Kiln with hopes of putting a more potent Wing-T offense on the field.
Hancock may feature one of the best offensive lines in Region 4-6A behind senior Christian Sapp, a 6-foot-2, 312-pound South Alabama commit, and senior Quintin Fowler (6-3, 280).
Poplarville 35, Laurel 27: This should be one of the more fun games in South Mississippi Friday night with the Golden Tornadoes making the trek to Pearl River County.
While Laurel seems to reload every season, it has to replace the top rushers and receivers from a year ago.
Poplarville has several key pieces back from a team that won a Class 4A South State title, including senior running back Chase Shears, defensive tackler Chandler Norris and defensive end Devin Hart.
Jefferson Davis County 27, D’Iberville 24: Much like Harrison Central, D’Iberville has no shortage of talent, but it is lacking in overall experience on both sides of the ball. Jefferson Davis County has many of the key pieces back from a team that reached the Class 3A South State title game, including senior running back Kyser Booth.
D’Iberville has two of the best players on the Coast in senior quarterback Jaden Walley and his brother, defensive back Justin Walley. We’ll find out a lot more Friday about Larry Dolan’s Warriors, who are the home team.
St. Martin 20, Forest Hill 10: The Yellow Jackets, who are the host team, handled Forest Hill on the road, 23-0, a year ago.
St. Martin QB Patrick Greer, a transfer from St. Stanislaus, showed nice accuracy last week in the jamboree. He’ll have to provide more of the same on Friday.