Patrick Magee

Pascagoula’s Lewis Sims pushed all the right buttons for ‘Battle of the Cats’

Pascagoula head coach Lewis Sims talks with an official during the second quarter against Moss Point Friday at Moss Point.
Pascagoula head coach Lewis Sims talks with an official during the second quarter against Moss Point Friday at Moss Point. Special to the Sun Herald

What a difference a week makes.

Pascagoula head coach Lewis Sims was in good spirits Friday night after his team's 24-6 win at Moss Point, and for good reason.

Following a 23-0 loss to East Central in a jamboree on Aug. 11, Sims pointed the finger at himself and his players after the game. He challenged his Panthers to step it up in practice and do what their coaches ask them to do.

The Sun Herald video that showed Sims' dressing down of himself and the players made the rounds on social media last week, drawing some criticism and praise for Sims.

It turns out Sims was pushing all the right buttons.

Standing in front of his team at Jerry Alexander Stadium Friday night, Sims addressed his team in much the same fashion Friday night. This time, he heaped praise on his Panthers.

"We were a totally different team in one week, not because of anything we did, but because of everything these guys did," Sims said. "It's not because I'm trying to sugar coat anything for them, but because they understand that we're men with them."

Pearl River County classic

The Picayune-Poplarville rivalry was revived for the first time since 2008 Friday night and the season opener for two of South Mississippi's top teams did not disappoint.

Fans stood four-deep around the field at Poplarville to watch a game that had been long anticipated after both squads put together 12-2 records a year ago.

While much of the chatter entering the season was about Poplarville's plethora of skill players on offense, it was the defense that helped seal the deal in the second half. Poplarville held Picayune scoreless in the second half, outscoring the Maroon Tide 14-0, to take a 27-24 win.

For Picayune head coach Dodd Lee, it had to be bit of a flashback to the second half of last year's 5A South State title game when Laurel outscored the Maroon Tide 35-0 in the final two quarters for a 45-27 win.

The player of the game was unquestionably Poplarville running back Austin Bolton, who ran 10 times for 232 yards and three touchdowns. He also had a 94-yard touchdown called back on a penalty.

The 5-foot-8, 170-pound Bolton may not have the top rushing numbers in South Mississippi when the season comes to a close, but it's hard to find a more skilled back in the area. Poplarville doesn't pass the ball much, but he's also a gifted receiver.

East Central, which didn't play a game this week, and Poplarville seem destined to collide in the postseason. If they do play, rush to the box office and buy your ticket.

Game ball

Most high school football coaches give the game ball to their top player every Friday night. During the 2017 season, I'll be handing out a game ball to the coach who is most deserving of their own reward.

The first game ball of 2017 goes to Gautier coach Chris Peterson, who led his team to a 31-21 win over Ocean Springs on Friday.

Peterson was out as the Gautier head coach after the Pascagoula-Gautier School District announced his departure on Dec. 2, 2016, following a 4-7 season.

On July 10, 2017, he was reinstated as the Gautier head coach.

Peterson and school officials have refused to discuss the details of the strange turnabout.

On Friday night, Peterson and his Gators overcame an offseason full of drama to take take down the neighboring Greyhounds.

Ocean Springs was 6-0 all-time against Gautier entering Friday's contest and had won those games by an average of 21 points.