Prior to the start of the 2019 campaign, there weren’t many high school football fans who would have pegged Bay High-Pass Christian as the game of the week for South Mississippi in Week 7.
Thanks to the quick rebuilding efforts of two new head coaches, that’s where we are.
The Pirates play host to the Tigers at 7 p.m. Friday night in a game that may have a big say in who wins Region 8-4A.
“I think it’s a cool thing,” Pass Christian coach Blake Pennock said. “It’s two programs in the past that have kind of fallen on hard times. Each one is trying to turn the page and create a new culture, doing what it takes to be successful in football. You’re starting to see the excitement.”
Eric Collins, who proved he could turn a program around at Pearl River Central, has Bay High believing faster than just about anyone could have expected after he moved over from D’Iberville in the offseason. Bay High (5-0) is the only undefeated Class 4A team on the Coast after winning no more than four games in a season in the previous six years. The Tigers won only a total of three games from 2016-18.
At Pass Christian, Pennock has proven to be the right man for the job in his first opportunity as a head coach. While the Pirates were a playoff team in 2016 and 2017, they dropped to 1-9 in 2018.
Pass Christian stands at 4-2 behind an impressive showing at quarterback from senior Dustin Allison, who has completed 58 percent of his attempts for 1,800 yards, 19 touchdowns and five interceptions. He has also run 43 times for 298 yards and five scores.
His 1,800 passing yards lead the state, according to MaxPreps.
While Pass has relied on an explosive offense, Bay High has been winning thanks to the combination of a strong ground game and a solid defense. Sophomore Noah Cutter has run 68 times for 538 yards and six touchdowns while the Tigers’ defense has held opponents to an average of 10 points a game over the last four contests.
My pick: Bay High 28, Pass Christian 24.
Here’s how I see the rest of Friday’s games playing out:
Brandon 27, George County 17: The George County Rebels proved last week that they’re fully capable of taking down some of the better teams in Region 3-6A with a 24-20 win over Oak Grove. On Friday at Brandon (4-2), George County (4-1, 1-0) faces one of the best teams in the state. The challenge will be for the Rebels to slow down Brandon QB Will Rogers, who has completed 62 percent of his passes for 1,239 yards, 11 touchdowns and three interceptions.
D’Iberville 31, Ocean Springs 24: The Greyhounds (2-3, 1-0) are coming off their best performance of the season in a 35-7 win over Hancock. D’Iberville (4-1, 1-0) has found a nice mix on offense and the defense has given up an average of 8.5 points a game against every team not named Picayune.
Harrison Central 21, Biloxi 20: Biloxi (4-1, 0-1) will have to get back to winning games with defense after falling 31-12 to D’Iberville last week. The Red Rebels (3-2, 1-0) are solid on that side of the ball and should only get better on offense with time.
Gulfport 38, West Harrison 20: The Admirals (3-2, 1-0) haven’t lost a region game since falling 20-17 to D’iberville on Oct. 21, 2016. That’s a run of 17 consecutive Region 4-6A victories. At the moment, it appears that streak won’t be threatened until the Admirals travel to Harrison Central on Oct. 18.
St. Martin 31, Hancock 17: Following consecutive losses where the Hancock offense failed to get rolling, the Hawks (3-2, 0-1) have to find a way to get going at the Kiln. St. Martin (4-1, 0-1) will have to avoid the turnovers that played a roll in last week’s 47-16 loss to Gulfport.
East Central 41, Long Beach 20: East Central (3-2, 0-1) has three players with 470 yards or more rushing this season and that could spell trouble for Long Beach (1-4, 0-1), which is giving up 42.6 points a game this season.
Picayune 42, Gautier 21: The Gators and Maroon Tide combined to put on a classic last year with Picayune walking away with a 42-35 loss in overtime. The Gators have to make another trip to Picayune Friday night and the task is even tougher against the Sun Herald No. 1 Maroon Tide.
Hattiesburg 24, Pascagoula 21: Pascagoula (2-3, 0-1) has lost three straight since starting out the season 2-0. Hattiesburg is 1-4 and 0-1 in Region 4-5A, but the Tigers will have the home field advantage.
Wayne County 31, Pearl River Central 24: PRC (2-3, 1-0) got off to a promising start in region play with a 20-13 win at Pascagoula, but Wayne County (3-2, 1-0) has quality wins over Laurel and Hattiesburg to its credit.
Poplarville 31, Forrest County AHS 21: It’s been a tough start to Poplarville, which has had multiple injuries to key players along the way to a 1-4 start. After playing an extremely difficult non-region slate, the Hornets should bounce back on the road at FCAHS (2-3).
St. Stanislaus 38, Moss Point 24: This game marks the Region 8-4A opener for both squads. This will be one of the better quarterback battles on the Coast this season with St. Stanislaus senior Max Favre and Moss Point junior Ruben Lee combining for nearly 2,200 yards and 23 touchdowns so far.
Stone High 27, Purvis 20: After playing three Class 6A programs in a 1-3 start, the Stone High Tomcats begin play in Region 7-4A. I fully expect John Feaster’s Tomcats to respond to the challenge.
St. Patrick 20, North Forrest 14: Points have been hard to come by for North Forrest (2-4) and St. Patrick (5-1) should have one of the better defenses in Region 8-2A.
Resurrrection Catholic 28, Stringer 14: The RCS Eagles (5-0, 3-0) have dominated Region 4-1A competition, but Stringer (3-3, 2-1) should be the stiffest challenge yet.
Sun Herald Top 5
No. 1 — Picayune (5-0, 1-0)
No. 2 —George County (4-1, 1-0)
No. 3 — Gulfport (3-2, 1-0)
No. 4 — D’Iberville (4-1, 1-0)
No. 5 — Bay High (5-0)
Bay High at Pass Christian
George County at Brandon
Ocean Springs at D’Iberville
Harrison Central at Biloxi
Gulfport at West Harrison
St. Martin at Hancock
Petal at Oak Grove
Long Beach at East Central
Gautier at Picayune
Pascagoula at Hattiesburg
Pearl River Central at Wayne County
Poplarville at Forrest County AHS
Moss Point at St. Stanislaus
Stone High at Purvis
St. Patrick at North Forrest
Lumberton at Sacred Heart
Stringer at Resurrection