Panthers preparing for Picayune

Published 12:00 pm Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Lewis Sims is getting prepared to face Picayune for the ninth time in 70 games as a high school football head coach, so it’s safe to say the Pascagoula head man knows Dodd Lee’s Maroon Tide very well.

Picayune (4-1) visits Pascagoula’s War Memorial Stadium at 7 p.m. Friday night, in a showdown for first place in Region 4-5A. The Maroon Tide and Panthers (5-1 overall) own identical 2-0 region records.

Sims is 3-5 in his career against Picayune, including a 27-10 victory in the second round of the 2012 playoffs that ruined the Maroon Tide’s bid for a perfect season and a second straight 5A state championship. Though four offensive linemen graduated from last year’s 11-1 team, Picayune still features a power-running attack led by senior Preston Dedeaux that averages 402 yards per game on the ground.

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“Picayune is Picayune,” Sims said. “Whenever you play them, you know what you’re going to see. They’re very consistent. You’ve got to play assignment-sound football, disciplined football. You’ve got to make sure you tackle, and you’ve got to gang-tackle. Personnel-wise, they’re a mirror-image of last year. And I think they may be better in some spots, because they have more experience.”

Pascagoula beat East Central 35-7 last week, giving Sims his 50th career victory in six years as a head coach. Lee, on the other hand, is one away from his 200th win, compiled in 25 years at Bay, East Central and Picayune.

Due to the luck of the draw in region scheduling, Friday night will mark the fourth straight time Picayune has traveled to Pascagoula. In addition to regular-season visits in 2012 and this season, the Maroon Tide has also made playoff trips to War Memorial each of the last two years.

“I just remember the physicality of the game against Picayune,” said Pascagoula quarterback Drew Dunn, who was injured for last year’s playoff game. “They’ll really get after you. We expect it to be a really upbeat atmosphere when they come in here, like always.”

Picayune has had little trouble with Pascagoula in recent years, recording nine straight wins between 1997 and last year’s playoffs. Included in that streak was the 2012 regular-season meeting, when the Maroon Tide ran away with a 49-10 victory in a match-up of unbeaten that was televised by Fox Sports South.

“OnceĀ  they get you down, it’s like sharks in the water. They smell blood and they go for the throat.” — Pascagoula coach Lewis Sims, on Picayune

The TV cameras didn’t show up for the playoff encounter, but Pascagoula certainly did. The Panthers held the Maroon Tide to 246 total yards and forced three turnovers in snapping Picayune’s 18-game winning streak.

The Panthers went on to beat Pearl River Central the next week for the 5A South State title.

“We were able to capitalize on some of their mistakes and we minimized ours,” Sims said. “Whenever you play Picayune — and you can ask anybody that’s played them — they are one of the most opportunistic teams you could ever play. They can compound the mistakes you make. Within three or four minutes, they can score 28 points on you. Once they get you down, it’s like sharks in the water. They smell blood and they go for the throat. You have to figure out a way to stymie their momentum, and it’s awfully hard to do.”

Dedeaux has run for 875 yards in five games this season, while fellow backs Deandre Anderson, Kardarius Cross (also an outstanding cornerback on defense) and Daveon Greene have all contributed. Mammoth left tackle Demarcus Haralson (6-foot-6, 310 pounds) leads a Maroon Tide offensive line that is routinely among the best in the state.