The Coast high school football scene appears to have largely returned to the parity that was a trademark of the 2015 season, but one Class 5A team may be emerging as the best of them all.
Dodd Lee's No. 4 Picayune squad (3-0) again made it look easy Friday night with a 25-7 victory over No. 2 Gulfport. After sitting out the first week of the season, the Maroon Tide has run over three of the best 6A teams on the Coast. Picayune trounced D'Iberville 35-7 on Aug. 26 and thrashed St. Martin 56-21 in game two last week.
Picayune appears to be back in a big way after injuries contributed to a 5-7 campaign in 2015. That season featured losses to the same three teams it's faced this season by a combined score of 154-77. The Maroon Tide has drastically improved on defense and the ground game is back in good form.
Hattiesburg (3-1) may be the most talented team in Region 4-5A, but Picayune has to be the favorite with region competition set to begin on Sept. 23.
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Pascagoula, which lost its first three games of the season, also showed that it can't be counted out in 4-5A on Friday night with a 36-29 win over George County. The two-pronged rushing attack that so many expected to carry the Panthers this year is finally a reality after senior running backs Reginald Hunter and Javarous Walker played in the same game for the first time this season.
Hunter returned from injury to carry 15 times for 139 yards and a touchdown. Walker ran 19 times for 111 yards and two scores.
The Pascagoula offense made a dramatic turnaround after D'Iberville shut it down 22-0 the week prior.
Stone High (3-1) lost its first game of the season 38-35 at Poplarville Friday night, but the Tomcats will also have a big say in 4-5A.
The same D'Iberville squad that Picayune ran over in the opener suddenly looks like a team capable of making noise in Region 4-6A with a 2-1 record.
First-year D'Iberville coach Eric Collins took his team to Oak Grove on Friday night and pulled off a 50-44 victory. Not much was expected of D'Iberville this season as it made the transition to a new system under Collins, but all appears to be going smoothly through three games.
The place to be this Friday night will likely be D'Iberville with the Warriors hosting No. 1 St. Stanislaus, which fell 41-7 to Brother Martin in New Orleans Friday night. SSC quarterback Myles Brennan needs just 126 yards passing to break Dylan Favre's state career passing record.
With George County, St. Martin and Gulfport all losing in back-to-back weeks, it's hard to tell who will be the favorite in 4-6A. D'Iberville and Biloxi (2-2) were the only 4-6A teams to win their games Friday while Ocean Springs (2-1) had the night off. At the moment, D'Iberville has the most momentum prior to the start of region play.
St. Stanislaus (3-1) hasn't been at its best recently after struggling to get by Long Beach and taking it on the chin for a second consecutive season against Brother Martin. The early season schedule has been challenging for SSC and there's little doubt that it remains one of the favorites to earn a 4A state title.
Another favorite to contend in 8-4A, Moss Point, is suddenly reeling at 2-2 after a 49-28 loss at a previously winless Greene County Friday night.
East Central (3-1) may be emerging as the biggest threat to St. Stanislaus in 8-4A after winning 35-13 at Quitman Friday night. The Hornets have a big, strong offensive line to run behind and a defense that showed improvement Friday.