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Tide faces Indians

Picayune opens defense of its 2011 Class 5A state championship on Saturday.

The Maroon Tide will compete in the renewal of the tradition-rich Shrimp Bowl Classic, which takes place here Saturday at Biloxi High School.

Picayune faces the host Biloxi Indians, in a marquee match-up for the opening weekend of prep football in the state of Mississippi. The teams are slated to meet at 7:30, or 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first game of the doubleheader which pits Pascagoula against Gulfport. That game begins at 4 p.m.

The game pits a pair of the higher ranked teams in pre-season in the state. Picayune is fifth and Biloxi eighth in the first edition of the Mississippi Public Broadcasting Top 25 Preseason Poll. In the Super 10 Poll by the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, the Maroon Tide is ranked fifth and the Indians sixth.

Biloxi returns a powerful offense that averaged over 40 points per game last season. Senior quarterback Jaylen Woullard is back at the helm of the Indians offense, after throwing for just over 2,000 yards and rushing for almost 1,300 yards last year. He also accounted for 38 touchdowns.

Picayune must replace the heart of a solid defensive unit that was key in the state title run last season.

Steady linebackers Troy Egana and Cody Smith are gone, as are Ken Breland, Dalvin Acker and Nolan Fletcher from the speedy secondary.

Picayune returns 10 starters on offense, though.

“We have some experience on offense, but we are going to have to use this tough opening part of our schedule to help the defense get ready,” Picayune head coach Dodd Lee, who is in his 17th season at the helm of his alma mater, said. “Last year our defense brought us back to the level of play we had been known for. Now we have to keep that going if we want to continue to be successful.”

The game is the first of a tough four game stretch for the Maroon Tide before they open Region 4-5A play. Picayune hosts Petal next week, and then meets Forrest County AHS at home the following week. After a week off, the Maroon Tide travels to Ocean Springs. All four teams are ranked in the Top 12 by the MPB Preseason Poll.

The first game is also a rare meeting between the two long time tradiional powers in South Mississippi prep circles. It is the first time the teams have played since 2003, and just the third meeting in the past 20 years between the schools on the gridiron.

It is the first time Picayune has traveled to Biloxi since 1993.