High School Sports

Patrick’s Picks: Pass Christian-Vancleave looms large, Poplarville seeks crucial W

There may not be a district in the state of Mississippi that features more parity than Region 8-4A.

For the final three weeks of the regular season, each contest can be considered a toss-up with Moss Point, Vancleave, Pass Christian, Bay High and St. Stanislaus all fully capable of winning games.

The only 8-4A game Friday night that features two undefeated teams in region play is the Pass Christian-Vancleave contest in Jackson County.

While Pass Christian (5-2, 1-0) may be as close as there is to a favorite in the region, Vancleave (4-3, 1-0) can’t be counted out after beating Moss Point 29-22 last week to give the Bulldogs three wins in the last four games.

First-year Vancleave head coach Kevin Fant has done a good job putting together a strong offensive game plan every week, just like he did when he was the offensive coordinator at Pascagoula.

Sophomore running back Dayan Bilbo has emerged recently as a centerpiece of the offense. He has cleared 100 yards in three of the last four games, including a 33-carry, 200-yard performance against Moss Point last week.

Pass Christian rolls in with the best passing attack in all of Class 4A, and they’ll likely need to be on their game if they want to move to 2-0 in region play. Senior quarterback Dustin Allison has completed 99 of 171 passes for 2,004 yards, 23 touchdowns and five interceptions.

My pick: Pass Christian 31, Vancleave 24.

Moss Point 31, Bay High 28: For the third straight week, Bay High (5-2, 0-2) faces one of the better passing attacks on the Coast. The previous two games have resulted in losses for the Tigers. Moss Point junior quarterback Ruben Lee will keep the pressure on the Bay High defense. He has thrown for 1,524 yards, 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions for Moss Point (1-6, 1-1).

D’Iberville 35, Hancock 10: D’Iberville (6-1, 3-0) is quickly emerging as the team to beat in Region 4-6A with only 33 points allowed to region competition through three games. Senior athlete Jaden Walley is a threat to pass it, run with it or catch it.

St. Martin 28, Biloxi 10: St. Martin (6-1, 2-1) has long had a potent offense, but it hasn’t always been that strong on defense. After surviving a 54-35 shootout at Hancock the week prior, the St. Martin defense showed up strong in a 27-0 win over Harrison Central last week. Biloxi (5-2, 1-2) is coming off a 14-0 loss at Ocean Springs and needs to find some life on offense in a hurry.

Pearl 28, George County 20: The Pearl Pirates (5-2, 2-1) are averaging 47 points a game in region play and George County (4-3, 1-2) has scored a total of six points in the last two region defeats. Pearl senior running back Kenyatta Harrell, who started his high school career at Biloxi, has run 117 times for 1,027 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Gulfport 31, Harrison Central 17: After starting the season in promising fashion, Harrison Central’s playoff hopes have taken a hit in back-to-back weeks. The Red Rebels are 3-4 and 1-2 in Region 4-6A. Gulfport (5-2, 3-0) has been steadily impressive through the first three weeks of region play, but the big test comes next week at D’Iberville.

Ocean Springs 31, West Harrison 17: The Greyhounds (3-4) are winning with defense when they’re at their best. West Harrison (1-6, 0-3) is an improved team this season, but it may not show up in their final record.

East Central 38, Gautier 20: East Central coach Seth Smith views last week’s 42-40 loss to Wayne County as “one we let slip away.” The Hornets are 4-3 overall and 1-2 in Region 4-5A. Gautier, which is 2-5 and 1-2, will play the role of host.

Pearl River Central 28, Hattiesburg 20: After starting the season 1-3, Pearl River Central (3-4, 2-1) has a shot to climb back to .500 in Carriere Friday night. Senior Detrich Spikes is closing in on a 1,000-yard season with 110 carries for 910 yards and eight touchdowns.

Picayune 49, Long Beach 14: Picayune senior running back Cameron Thomas has run 128 times for 1,644 yards and 20 touchdowns. The Sun Herald No. 1 Maroon Tide (7-0, 3-0) likely won’t face a test of any kind until it travels to Wayne County in the regular season finale.

Wayne County 31, Pascagoula 20: If Pascagoula (4-3, 2-1) wants to turn the region on its head, the Panthers have an opportunity at home against Wayne County (5-2, 3-0).

Greene County 35, Stone High 17: Greene County (4-3, 2-0 in 7-4A) has won four consecutive games. Stone High (1-5, 0-2) has lost three straight.

Poplarville 31, Purvis 27: Poplarville (3-4, 2-0) hasn’t lost a region contest since falling 23-14 to Purvis on Oct. 13, 2015. That’s a run of 18 consecutive region victories for the Hornets. Purvis (5-3, 2-0) offers a serious threat to end that run with a winning streak of five games.

St. Stanislaus 28, South Plaguemines 14: South Plaquemines (2-4) serves as the Rockachaws’ final non-region opponent of the season.

Resurrection 28, Sebastopol 10: It’s all about defense for Resurrection (7-0, 5-0), but senior Zack Switzer rushed for 207 yards and three touchdowns last week in a 25-8 win over Richton.

Sun Herald Top 5

1. Picayune (7-0, 3-0).

2. D’Iberville (6-1, 3-0).

3. Gulfport (5-2, 3-0).

4. St. Martin (6-1, 2-1).

5. Pass Christian (5-2, 1-0).

Friday’s games

Moss Point at Bay High

D’Iberville at Hancock

Biloxi at St. Martin

Pearl at George County

Gulfport at Harrison Central

Ocean Springs at West Harrison

East Central at Gautier

Hattiesburg at Pearl River Central

Picayune at Long Beach

Wayne County at Pascagoula

Greene County at Stone High

Pass Christian at Vancleave

Poplarville at Purvis

South Plaquemines at St. Stanislaus

St. Patrick at Perry Central

Resurrecion at Sebastopol

Patrick Magee is a sports writer who has covered South Mississippi for much of the last two decades. From Southern Miss to high schools, he stays on top of it all.