Maroon Tide hosts Gators

Published 9:52 pm Friday, September 28, 2012

After one week of league play, four teams are tied atop the standings for first place in Region 4-5A.

That number will be reduced by at least one tonight.

Top-ranked Picayune looks to stay unbeaten this week as the Maroon Tide hosts Gautier.

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Kickoff for the Region 4-5A game is set for 7:30 P.m., tonight at Maroon Tide Stadium

Picayune is coming off an emotional 21-20 win over arch-rival Pearl River Central, a game in which the Maroon Tide was out-played for most of the game by the Blue Devils.

And while PRC gets to face a shaky East Central team after the big game last week, Picayune faces a potent Gator squad coming off a big 42-12 win over Long Beach.

“They are a good team, I think they are better than they were last year and we were lucky to win that one,” veteran Maroon Tide head coach Dodd Lee said, of Gautier. Picayune is 4-0 overall and Gautier is 2-2 overall.

The Gators are led by dangerous quarterback Xavien Johnson, who rushed for more than 150 yards and scored three touchdowns on the ground against the Bearcats last week. Wingback Latwuan Fairley is also a force, as he ran for over 100 yards and scred twice as Gautier racked up over 400 yards of rushing.

“I thought he may have been the best player in our district last year, he almost beat us by himself,” Lee said, of Johnson. “He looks as good as he did last season.”

Picayune pulled off a miraculous 38-31 win last year at Gautier, rallying from a 16 point deficit with less than six minutes to play. Picayune committed seven turnovers in that game.

Gautier Defensive end Tre’Don Polk said it was the worst feeling he’s ever had walking off a football field.

“I was in tears after that game,” Polk said. “We were up big, and we thought it was over. But they miraculously came back.”

“We got up big in the fourth quarter last year and we got too excited — we stopped playing,” Gator cornerback Tyrone Patterson said. “If we had won that game, who knows how our season might have turned out?”

The Gators went on to finish the year at 2-9, and head coach Arlton Hudson left at the end of the year. Chris Peterson is in his first year as the Gautier head coach.

After starting the year 0-2 with losses to Ocean Springs and D’Iberville, Gautier trailed Vancleave 7-6 at halftime before outscoring the Bulldogs 27-0 in the second half. When combined with the win over Long Beach, the Gators have outscored their opponents 69-12 in the last six quarters.

“It was the first time this year we didn’t have a turnover on offense, and that made a big difference,” Peterson said, of last week’s win. “We really controlled the ball with the running game. Xavien did a great job making all the right reads and running the ball, and Latoijuin ran really hard. The offensive line executed probably the best it has all season.”