Trying to predict who comes out on top in the Sun Herald's Game of the Week? Might as well flip a coin. No. 1 Ocean Springs and No. 2 Gulfport head into Friday night's clash at Milner Stadium with the Region 4-6A championship on the line.
Both Ocean Springs (8-1, 5-0) and Gulfport (7-2, 5-0) play a similar brand of football. Ocean Springs' Drew Windham has thrown for 992 yards and six touchdowns; Gulfport's Cleveland Ford and Rhodes Walker have combined for 1,102 yards and nine TDs. The Admirals' flash and smash combo of Larozzo Shugart and Deon Cole have rushed for 1,800 yards and 19 touchdowns; Led by Matthew Pleasant (971 yards, 7 touchdowns) and Trexton Coleman (383, 5), the Greyhounds have racked up 1,782 yards and 25 touchdowns on the ground. Austin Williams has proven himself as a go-to target for OSHS, with 43 receptions, 663 yards and four scores; Alton Conerly has 23 receptions for 612 yards and seven touchdowns.
Defensively, both teams have a defensive secondary full of ball hawks with Gulfport racking up 12 interceptions and Ocean Springs with 14.
But what's the greatest similarity? When it comes down to it, the Admirals and Greyhounds just win.
"I've noticed how hard Gulfport plays," Ocean Springs coach Ryan Ross said. "They're playing with a lot of urgency and passion. There's no mistake why they're undefeated."
Gulfport defeated Harrison Central 13-12 with seconds remaining on the clock when Ford hit Conerly for a 6-yard touchdown on fourth-and-goal. The Admirals also needed an interception from Keeth Prince as time expired to win 42-35 at George County.
"It just shows you there's no quit in them. They're going to play until the last snap," Ross said. "Again, I just see those guys making plays for each other, playing good team ball, and they thrive off of anybody making the play. I don't know how good you're supposed to feel playing somebody who just makes plays and hangs around like they do."
The Greyhounds have had their own scares. They needed a goal-line stand as time expired to beat Hancock 17-13 earlier in the season and then marched down the field in the final minutes and eclipsed St. Martin 31-29 on a 45-yard kick from Brad Wall.
"What I see when I look at film, it's a team that does a lot of things well," Gulfport coach Eddie Pierce said. "They don't beat themselves. You have to be ready to go when we get there Friday night. You have to be on top of your game."
The Greyhounds are the defending 4-6A champs. Gulfport last won the region outright in 2012. Head to head, OSHS holds a 6-4 advantage over the last 10 years. Ocean Springs' won last year's game 13-6. Gulfport won the previous two 27-22 and 16-8. Any way you cut it, the Greyhounds and Admirals look like two evenly-matched foes. That's how both Ross and Pierce look at Friday's 7 p.m. showdown.
"I expect it to be a tight game. I expect it to be a hard-fought game," Pierce said. "Just by nature of the offense they run, they don't let you play with the ball a lot so when you get the football you have to do something with it. You have to make the most of your opportunities.
"... Our kids have to focus and get ready to play. If they do that, we'll throw it out there and see what happens."