They're like fire and ice. They're the odd couple -- only on the gridiron. One averages 23 completions per game. The other has attempted 23 passes all season. They're No. 7 St. Stanislaus and No. 8 East Central and they meet Friday in Hurley with the drivers seat to Region 8-4A on the line.
"They would be the polar opposite of us," said East Central's Seth Smith, coach of Class 4A's newest and largest team.
The Hornets' opponent is the reigning Class 4A South State Champion St. Stanislaus Rockachaws (4-3, 2-0). SSC throws it more than anyone in the state and runs a hurry-up offense that attempts to confuse opponents by catching them off guard. Once one play is over, the Rockachaws are on the ball and ready for the next snap.
"They're clearly one of the best we've played and one of the best in the state. They pose a tremendous challenge for us to go out and challenge on Friday night," Smith said. "We've got to do the best job we can at trying to mimic some sort of scout team, but there's no way you can put a scout team together in practice that even resembles that.
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"Friday night is going to be a huge challenge for us."
The key to SSC's offense is reigning Sun Herald Player of the Year Myles Brennan. The junior quarterback has a lower completion percentage than a year ago at 61 percent, but he's already thrown for 2,574 yards and 23 touchdowns.
"Their quarterback is one of the best in America for a reason," Smith said. "He's as good as advertised. No question. They're very, very good at what they do. Their system is sound and their kids understand exactly where to go. That's what makes them so hard to defend."
Run, AJ, Run
Asked what he knew about East Central (5-2, 2-0), SSC coach Bill Conides didn't hesitate.
"They're certainly not afraid to give that kid the football," he laughed. "They just give him the ball and say 'go get it.'"
"That kid," is senior running back A.J. Davis who overtook Picayune's Josh Littles on Friday as the Coast's leading rusher with a 231-yard performance.
Davis has carried the ball 242 times in seven games, racking up 1,546 yards and 11 touchdowns.
The 5-foot-10, 175-pound senior hasn't ripped off many home run sprints, but he's a reliable ball carrier averaging more than 6 yards per carry.
"He runs extremely hard and he's very, very tough. His desire and toughness are what separates him. He fits our style of football," Smith said. "He keeps his feet moving once he hits the hole and has great vision. He's a gifted runner."
Smith mentioned they're going to have find a way to contain St. Stanislaus' offense to have a chance to win. Conides said he expects ECHS to try and milk the clock with the run game akin to what Bay High did the week before.
With the only two 8-4A unbeaten teams facing off in Hurley -- Vancleave (3-5, 1-1) visits Bay High (3-4, 0-2) and Moss Point (3-4, 0-2) visits Pass Christian (4-3, 1-1) -- both teams are
treating Friday like a playoff game.
For SSC, Friday's matchup brings back memories of last year's 47-46 overtime loss to eventual 8-4A champion Poplarville.
"We were in the same position last year heading into the Poplarville week and we got beat by a team that just flat out wanted it more than we did," Conides said. "We're going to do everything in our power to make sure that doesn't happen again. For us, this is like playing Poplarville all over again. We know it's going to be tough and it'll be a hostile environment."
Added Smith: "We realize we have two more good teams to play (at Bay High and Vancleave), but there's no question it's an extremely meaningful game."
Looking at the series
ECHS and SSC have faced one another 28 times since 1966 with the Rockachaws holding a 17-11 advantage.
The Hornets won the opener 12-6, but SSC picked up a 13-0 win the following year. The most recent meeting came in 2004 when SSC won 47-10.