Blue Devils face Pascagoula

Published 3:30 pm Friday, November 2, 2012

Pearl River Central and Pascagoula face off tonight with a home playoff game on the line.

The Blue Devils host the Panthers, who are making their first trip ever to Carriere, at 7 p.m., in Hendrix Stadium. The teams are tied for second place in Region 4-5A, and the winner will get to stay home for the first round of the playoffs while the loser will have to hit the road in the opening round next week.

Both teams are 8-1 overall on the season, and 5-1 in league play. PRC is ranked second in the state in Class 5A, and Pascagoula is ranked fourth.

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“I’d like to say it will be a great defensive battle, but I really don’t know how it’s going to play out,” Pascagoula coach Lewis Sims said. “But it should be a great game either way. A lot of people think  they are going to just run all over us, and they may be right. I’d encourage everyone to make the drive over to Carriere, because it’s going to be a playoff-type atmosphere.”

The Blue Devils routed the Gautier Gators 69-0 last week, while Pascagoula scored in the game’s final seconds to beat arch-rival Moss Point 15-14. The week before, Pascagoula beat Gautier 21-14, and PRC beat Moss Point 52-6.

“Pascagoula is bigger, physically, than anyone we have played all season,” PRC head coach Eric Collins said. “Their defense is one of the best in Mississippi, which will pose a great challenge for our offense.  This week will be a great test for us.  We just need to focus on what we have been doing all season long that has brought us to this point.”

The Blue Devils have lost only to top-ranked defending state champion Picayune (the same team that dealt Pascagoula its only defeat), falling 21-20 on Sept. 21. Otherwise, PRC has outscored its  opponents 412-48, including victories of 52-6 over Moss Point and 69-0 over Gautier the last two weeks.

“They probably score more points on defense than they do on offense,” Sims said. “But in another way, their best defense is their offense. They control the ball and keep their defense off the field. We’re going to have to work really hard to shorten their drives, and take advantage of our touches when we do get the ball.”

The Panthers have been a dominant defense in every game other than the 49-10 loss to Picayune on Oct. 4. Pascagoula has allowed no more than 18 points in any other game, posting three shutouts — including a 25-0 blanking of 6A Region 4 champion Gulfport.

Senior Desmond Michel is an outstanding two-way player for the Blue Devils, posting six sacks as a defensive end and nine touchdowns as a running back.

against Gautier last week, all three PRC linebackers, Brandon Padgett, Adam Peronne and Greg Shearburn scored  touchdowns.

“We played very well on both sides of the football,” Collins added. “We got 18 points out of our defense and when a team can do that they will be very hard to beat.  All three of our linebackers scored touchdowns which is just unbelievable.”

Both teams feature outstanding place-kickers, in PRC’s Jovan Detto and Pascagoula’s Grant Warren. Warren gives the Panthers a special teams weapon, having hit five field goals from better than 40 yards (and two from 50-plus) and having averaged 44.5 yards per punt.

Stacey Warren, who also starts at linebacker for Pascagoula, has been the most effective quarterback for the Panthers as well as he has guided them to big wins in the second half over both Ocean Springs and Moss Point in second half relief performances.

He hit Breland Hoye with the game winning pass against Moss Point. Hoye, along with cornerback Brandon Rich and running back Kevin Scott are solid players for the Panthers as  well. Scott had 110 yards rushing and scored against Moss Point last week also.

Item Sports Correspondent Joe Gex contributed to this report.