By Curtis Rockwell, Sports Editor
The Picayune Item
It don't get much bigger than this...well, in the regular season anyway.
Picayune travels to Pascagoula Friday night in one of the biggest match-ups in the state this year. Kickoff here at War Memorial Stadium is set for 7 p.m., in a game that matches the past two Class 5A South State champions.
The Maroon Tide is 3-1 and the Panthers are 4-1 so far this season. Both teams are 2-0 in Region 4-5A play, and the winner is fully expected to be the league champion in six weeks.
The teams have one common opponent so far. Picayune bashed D'Iberville 41-13 and then the next week that same Warriors team shut out Pascagoula 28-0.
Picayune has won the past two Region 4-5A titles and has won nine of its last 10 games against Pascagoula. However, the one Panther win in that streak came in the last meeting between the two teams, when Pascagoula upset Picayune in this same venue in 27-10 in the Class 5A South State semifinals last year. Picayune was unbeaten at 11-0 and ranked in the Top 20 in the nation at that time. That came after Picayune had butchered Pascagoula 49-10 on TV seven weeks earlier.
The Maroon Tide beat Starkville for the 2011 Class 5A state championship, and the Panthers fell to the Yellow Jackets last year in the state title game.
“Picayune is Picayune. Whenever you play them, you know what you’re going to see," Pascagoula head coach Lewis Sims said. "They’re very consistent. You’ve got to stop them on four downs, instead of just three. Mentally, that’s quite a switch. If it’s fourth and less than four, they’re going. They’re going to control the clock.”
Picayune is coming off a 49-1 win over Long Beach Friday night, while Pascagoula beat East Central 35-7. Ironically, the Hornets are led by Seth Smith, who is the son-in-law of Picayune head coach Dodd Lee meaning that the Panthers will be trying to win two straight over the same family.
East Central (0-6, 0-2) led briefly at 7-6 following a 3-yard run by quarterback Justin Plummer late in the first quarter, but Pascagoula took the lead right back on the next play. Drew Dunn connected with Jaylen Smith on a 54-yard touchdown pass and then found Will Inlow on a 2-point toss to put the Panthers up 14-7 after a quarter.
Reginald Hunter ran for his 54-yard run, also on the first play of a possession, to give Pascagoula a 21-7 lead at the break. Hunter, a freshman, led the Panthers with 80 yards rushing on just four carries.
Pascagoula added a pair of scores in the second half, a 6-yard touchdown pass from Dunn to Smith and a 32-yard run by Markquez Jackson. Dunn finished 6-for-15 for 101 yards passing, while Smith's only two catches resulted in touchdowns.
Pascagoula also forced five turnovers, including three interceptions. Safety Kenny Holloway had two of those picks, with cornerback Jullian Jackson grabbing the other.