St. Martin and Ocean Springs have met on the football field plenty of times, but it's unlikely a game between the two teams has meant as much as the one set for Friday night at Greyhound Stadium.
Ocean Springs (7-1, 4-0) sits at No. 1 in the Sun Herald Top 10 and St. Martin (8-1, 3-1) trails not far behind at No. 3 headed into Friday's 7 p.m. contest.
For each school, there's no denying the importance of this week's game.
"Everybody is excited - from the ninth graders to the 12th graders, from the teachers to the principal," St. Martin senior Tyler Polk said.
Ocean Springs will be dealing with not only the emotions that come with a big rivalry contest. It's also senior night as linebacker Vincent Milanese and the rest of his senior teammates will suit up at Greyhound Stadium for the final time.
"Both teams have such great records this year," Milanese said. "We feel like it's going to decide the (Region 4-6A) championship. It's senior night so it's the last home game of the season. That definitely adds a little to it, makes it a big game. This game is the biggest it's been in a long time."
It's sure to be a packed house at Greyhound Stadium with St. Martin fans making the short trip.
"I've got a good feeling there's going to be a lot of people there," St. Martin coach Eddie Wayne Whitehead said. "It's going to be pretty loud."
Ocean Springs coach Ryan Ross sees this game as being a big deal for the two neighboring communities in western Jackson County.
"It's good for both communities," Ocean Springs coach
Ryan Ross said. "(St. Martin) has been highly successful, very entertaining. They've been putting a lot of points on the board with great athletes running around making plays. Both schools being successful, it's good for both communities."
The last time St. Martin made the playoffs also happens to be the last time it beat Ocean Springs - 2003.
A win Friday night and St. Martin will be in good position to get back in the postseason again.
To beat an Ocean Springs team on a seven-game winning streak, St. Martin coach Eddie Wayne Whitehead believes his team will have to put forth a flawless effort - "No turnovers and no penalties." Those mistakes contributed to St. Martin's 28-10 loss at Gulfport on Sept. 25.
Since the defeat, St. Martin is averaging 51.3 points a game. It is averaging 44.6 points a game overall this season.
Polk and junior Wayne Overman have split quarterback duties and produced numerous big plays for the Yellow Jackets this season. They are helped by a pair of gifted receivers in senior Kaleb Clark and Kalem Reddix.
Overman has thrown for 1,427 yards and 11 touchdowns with two interceptions. Polk, who has 119 carries for 908 yards and 12 touchdowns, has thrown for 633 yards, 12 touchdowns and an interception.
A sturdy Ocean Springs defense will face a difficult test Friday.
"We've just got to do what we do," Milanese said. "Everybody needs to do their jobs and not overplay. They've got great guys with the ability to make plays. We'll have to take away their key players."
The Ocean Springs defense has been at its best in region play, holding teams to an average of 7.5 points a contest. Milanese credits that improvement to a meeting the defense held prior to the start of region competition.
"We just said everybody needs to buy into the system to be successful," Milanese said. "It was a mixture of coaches and players. We just said what we're doing is not going to cut it in district games. We focused on the things we do well and made sure everybody was on the same page."
Polk is hoping to make his last game against Ocean Springs a memorable one.
"I've never beaten Ocean Springs or D'Iberville," Polk said. "This is my last shot. It would be great to beat Ocean Springs."