Patrick Magee

Harrison Central's hard luck continues, Ocean Springs-St. Martin sets up as huge match

TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALD 
 A host of Harrison Central defenders try to bring down Gulfport running back Deon Cole..
TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALD A host of Harrison Central defenders try to bring down Gulfport running back Deon Cole.. SUN HERALD

Harrison Central has to be wondering what it has to do to beat rival Gulfport.

Admirals receiver Alton Conerly pulled in a tipped pass in the end zone with 10 seconds left to beat Harrison Central, 13-12, Friday night.

The Red Rebels led 12-0 at halftime, but that lead slowly evaporated in the second half.

Gulfport now holds a 33-5 all-time lead in the series. The Red Rebels can take heart knowing they played much better under first-year coach Casey Cain compared to last year's 42-14 loss to Gulfport, but there are no moral victories when it comes to losing to a big rival.

Harrison Central sits at 3-6 and 2-2 in Region 4-6A while No. 2 Gulfport is 6-2 and 4-0.

Gulfport is much improved over the team that stumbled in a 31-14 loss to Petal in week two and fell on the road in a difficult road trip to Prattville, Ala.

However, if the Admirals are to contend for a 4-6A title, they will have to play their best football of the season over the next three weeks. They travel to D'Iberville on Friday, go to No. 1 Ocean Springs on Oct. 30 and travel to arch rival Biloxi on Nov. 6 in the regular season finale.

Gulfport continues to show that it can win tight contests, but it has much more to prove in the weeks ahead.

Ocean Springs helps its standing as the favorite to win 4-6A with every week. The Greyhounds (7-1, 4-0) easily dispatched of George County, 49-17, on Friday night with defensive back Isaiah Toler reaching the end zone on a blocked punt and an interception return.

There is little doubt that Ocean Springs has the best defense on the Coast, but that group may face its stiffest test yet on Friday when rival St. Martin comes to Greyhound Stadium.

No. 3 St. Martin (8-1, 3-1) beat Biloxi, 49-14, Friday and has averaged 51.3 points over the last three games after losing 28-10 to Gulport in the region opener.

I'm sure Ocean Springs coach Ryan Ross and his staff will look closely at film of the St. Martin-Gulfport game to determine out how the Admirals stymied the Yellow Jackets.

In the history of the Ocean Springs-St. Martin rivalry, I find it hard to believe that there's been a more hyped matchup between the two teams.

In 4-5A, some wondered whether Pascagoula could keep pace with the likes of Pearl River Central and Hattiesburg following some key injuries. The Panthers (6-2, 4-0) sent a message to the rest of the region Friday night with a 21-18 victory over Hattiesburg at War Memorial Stadium.

With the win, Pascagoula head coach Lewis Sims moved into second-place all-time in wins at the school. He now has 45 with only the legendary Bill Matthews sitting ahead of Sims with 75 victories.

Reginald Hunter was again the star at running back for Pascagoula with 21 carries for 139 yards and a touchdown.

The No. 4 Panthers were helped out by the return of senior receiver/defensive back Jakwaize Walker, who had a team-high 11 tackles and three pass breakups in the secondary. He missed three games with a lower leg injury.

If Walker gets healthier by the week, Pascagoula will become a bigger threat to make a run in the postseason.

While St. Martin-Ocean Springs is the biggest 6A battle on the Coast Friday, Pascagoula travels to No. 5 Pearl River Central (7-1, 4-0) in an intriguing match in 4-5A on the same night.

Picayune, Pascagoula and PRC are all tied for first place in 4-5A at 4-0 and Hattiesburg, which has a win over 5A defending state champion Laurel, sits at 6-3 and 2-2 in the region.

There's no question that the top four teams in 4-5A will be battle tested and ready to take on the rest of 5A when the playoffs begin.

Contact Patrick Magee at pmagee@sunherald.com and follow him@Patrick_Magee.

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