Picayune face unfamiliar foe in first round of playoffs

Published 7:00 am Thursday, November 10, 2016

He’s back: Running back Josh Littles seems to be 100 percent healthy as he ran for almost 300 yards in Picayune’s game Friday against PRC. Photo by Taylor Welsh

He’s back: Running back Josh Littles seems to be 100 percent healthy as he ran for almost 300 yards in Picayune’s game Friday against PRC. Photo by Taylor Welsh

Friday’s first round 5A playoff game between the Picayune Maroon Tide and the Wingfield Falcons has the makings of becoming one of the highest scoring affairs this year in Class 5A.

Although Wingfield comes into the playoffs with a losing district record of 3-4, their production on offense has helped them achieve a 7-4 overall record and a spot as the fourth seed coming out of the 3-5A District.

Friday, the Falcons will travel to Picayune with one of the best passing offenses in the state, senior quarterback La’andre Thomas at the helm.

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Thomas has proven unstoppable his senior year, throwing 27 touchdowns and personally running 16 into the end zone. He also has thrown for over 3,000 yards and averages 306.9 passing yards per game.

Thomas started the 2016 season rushing for 11 touchdowns and throwing five in his first three games. In the following game, Thomas changed his point of attack and threw for six touchdowns on Sept. 16 against Lanier High School.

However, after that game, the Panthers lost three out of its final five games of the regular season, squeezing into the playoffs with an unfavorable match up against the No. 1 seeded Maroon Tide.

Picayune might not line up against pass heavy opponents often and so far this year the Maroon Tide defense has been dicey against strong wide receivers—like Hattiesburg’s Jordan Murphy and Stone County’s Nick Brown.

Unlike those teams, the Falcons’ Thomas spreads the ball around to all of the team’s receivers, giving five of them at least 30 receptions and 400 yards this season.

One of those receivers, Henry Perry, stands out with 56 receptions for 819 yards and five touchdowns. However, Perry is not Thomas’ favorite red zone target.

Thomas has connected with receiver Terry Watts nine times in the end zone, and with 35 catches this season. One out of every four catches Terry makes results in a scoring play.

Picayune’s defense has been stout lately, letting opponents score 28 total points against them after their only loss of the season against Stone County on Oct. 14.

As for the offense, as long as Maroon Tide’s running back Josh Littles stays healthy, they will lean on him and fullback Blake Merrifield to pulverize opposing defensive lines and move the ball down the field for Picayune.

Last week, Littles scooted for 278 yards and scored four times over the Maroon Tide’s rival Pearl River Central. Also, Merrifield joined the scoring frenzy with two touchdowns on eight carries.

The two teams squaring off on Friday in Picayune could not be more different offensively, but they share a common goal of advancing to the second round of the playoffs and fighting for their chance at a championship title.

Kickoff is at 7 p.m. this Friday in Lee-Triplett Stadium.