It’s only the third week of Region 4-5A play, but Friday’s Wayne County-East Central football game has a good shot at deciding which team will be playing at home in the first week of the playoffs.
Defending region champ Hattiesburg (1-5, 0-2) is struggling badly and no other team in the region appears ready to make a run toward the top of the standings.
That means that Wayne County’s trek to Hurley Friday night may very well decide who will be the No. 2 seed behind Sun Herald No. 1 Picayune, which appears ready to steamroll the rest of the competition with a 6-0 overall mark and a 2-0 record in region play.
Wayne County is 4-2 overall and 2-0 in 4-5A. East Central is also 4-2 overall with its lone loss in region play coming in a 35-14 loss to Picayune.
Wayne County features a speedy ground game that is led by senior quarterback Zhakerreun Wesley, who has run 87 times for 604 yards and three touchdowns. His top two running backs, Kelnevious Walley and Shadamien Williamson, have combined for 107 rushes for 830 yards and 12 touchdowns.
However, soggy conditions at East Central could play to the Hornets’ benefit. Seth Smith’s offense can grind out the tough yardage with ease.
My pick: East Central 31, Wayne County 24.
St. Stanislaus 31, Bay High 28: St. Stanislaus (3-3, 0-1) got a bit of a reality check last week with a 46-38 loss to previously winless Moss Point to begin competition in Region 8-4A. Moss Point QB Ruben Lee showed that the Rockachaws are vulnerable to the passing game on defense. Bay High (5-1, 0-1) showed the same thing in last week’s 42-14 loss at Pass Christian.
D’Iberville 42, West Harrison 13: Aside from a 41-6 loss at Picayune in Week 2, D’Iberville (5-1, 2-0) has proven to be a steady squad. With junior Dwight Williams getting plenty of snaps at quarterback, that has allowed senior Mississippi State commit Jaden Walley to become that much more of weapon while lining up at other positions.
Biloxi 21, Ocean Springs 14: This could be another game where rainy weather could play a role in the outcome. Biloxi (5-1, 1-1) has proven to be a strong running team with junior K.K. Kendrick leading the way with 86 rushes for 633 yards and seven touchdowns. Since taking over at quarterback two games ago, junior Chad O’Neal showed what he is capable of with 20 carries for 111 yards in a 28-26 win over Harrison Central.
George County 24, Northwest Rankin 10: This stands out as a must-win game for George County (4-2, 1-1) to stay on track for a postseason bid in Region 4-6A. Northwest Rankin (2-4, 2-0) has won both of its region games, but the victories came over a pair of struggling teams in Meridian and Terry.
Gulfport 38, Hancock 14: Senior quarterback Cade Crosby has developed a strong chemistry with an experienced Gulfport receiving corps. Senior Deshun Shields has been his top target, pulling in 24 passes for 523 yards and eight touchdowns. Gulfport (4-2, 2-0) is still the team to beat in Region 4-6A.
St. Martin 27, Harrison Central 24: This game is critical for both squads. Senior running back Jay McGee returned from injury last week for St. Martin, running 27 times for 152 yards and two touchdowns in a 54-35 win at Hancock. Harrison Central (3-3, 1-1) needs a win on the road before hosting rival Gulfport next week.
Pascagoula 21, Gautier 20: This is another contest where both teams are in serious need of a victory. Pascagoula (3-3, 1-1) came to life on the road last week with a 26-7 win at Hattiesburg. Gautier (2-4, 1-1) is trying to get off the floor after losing 55-0 at Picayune last week.
Picayune 52, Hattiesburg 10: After losing 49-35 at Hattiesburg a year ago, this game offers Picayune a shot at revenge. Maroon Tide senior running back Cameron Thomas has proven that he is the best running back on the Coast with 108 carries for 1,428 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Pearl River Central 28, Long Beach 21: PRC running backs Detrich Spikes and Ty Herring have combined for 1,376 yards and 12 touchdowns. Long Beach (1-5, 0-2) needs this game badly, but the Blue Devils (2-4, 1-1) should have the edge on their home field.
Moss Point 35, Vancleave 28: This game at Moss Point (1-5, 1-0) should end up being one of the more entertaining games in South Mississippi Friday night. Much like it was last week at St. Stanislaus, it will be up to junior quarterback quarterback Ruben Lee to set the tone. He has thrown for 1,352 yards, 14 touchdowns and six interceptions. Junior Chanton Millender and sophomore Larry Simmons have been the most productive receiving duo on the Coast with 60 catches for 1,187 yards and 15 touchdowns. This is the region opener for Vancleave (3-3).
Poplarville 38, Stone High 24: This could turn into a nice rivalry now that both teams are in Region 7-4A. Poplarville’s defense showed up strong in the region opener last week in a 44-0 win at Forrest County AHS.
East Marion 35, St. Patrick 14: East Marion is 4-2 overall and 1-0 in Region 8-2A with its only two losses coming to a pair of undefeated teams — Columbia and West Marion. St. Patrick, which is 5-2 overall and 0-1 in region play, has a narrow path to walk for a playoff bid.
Resurrection 35, Richton 10: Resurrection (6-0, 4-0 in Region 4-1) recovered from an early deficit to take down Stringer 35-20 at War Memorial Stadium in Pascagoula. The Oct. 25 home game with Lumberton is almost guaranteed to decide the region championship. With four shutout victories, it’s all about defense for the Eagles.
Sun Herald Top 5
No. 1 — Picayune (6-0, 2-0)
No. 2 — George County (4-2, 1-1)
No. 3 — Gulfport (4-2, 2-0)
No. 4 — D’Iberville (5-1, 2-0)
No. 5 — Biloxi (5-1, 1-1)
All games at 7 p.m.
St. Stanislaus at Bay High
West Harrison at D’Iberville
Biloxi at Ocean Springs
Northwest Rankin at George County
Gulfport at Hancock
Harrison Central at St. Martin
Oak Grove at Meridian
Wayne County at East Central
Pascagoula at Gautier
Picayune at Hattiesburg
Long Beach at Pearl River Central
Vancleave at Moss point
Poplarville at Stone High
East Marion at St. Patrick
Richton at Resurrection