Six prep football teams in the “Southern Six” are one win away from playing for South State championships in their respective classifications after moving on with wins Friday night.
And yet seven other squads saw their season come to a sudden halt.
Here are seven things we noticed in the “Southern six” Friday night:
- Big upset — Vancleave went on the road as the fourth and final seed out of Region 4-5A and knocked off home-standing Hattiesburg 41-35 at D.I. Patrick Stadium on the campus of The Blair Center. It was the first-ever meeting between the two schools on the football field. Vancleave super senior running back John Peterson ran roughshod over the Tigers, who were riding a seven-game win streak, as he galloped for over 350 yards and six touchdowns in the win. Both totals were school records for a playoff game. The Tigers were the top seed in Region 3-5A.
- Big comeback — Gautier fell behind visiting Wayne County quite quickly 13-0 in their opening round Class 5A South State playoff game, before rallying to pull out a big 38-21 win. It marked the first postseason win in 17 years for the Gators, since a 40-24 win over Mendenhall in 2005, and it broke an eight-game playoff losing streak in the process. It marked the first win ever on the field in six games for the Gators over the War Eagles, as Kaden Irving threw for three touchdowns in the first half and ran for another to guide the Gautier comeback. Irving threw for 340 yards and Dillion Alfred caught eight passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns.
- Tiger tale — Moss Point saw its season come to an end on the road in Quitman in the second round of the Class 4A South State playoffs with a 39-13 loss. The Tigers started the season out with seven straight losses, before bouncing back with three straight wins including a 48-6 thrashing of visiting Forrest County AHS in the first round of the playoffs. It’s been 22 years since MPHS won its last state championship, and the Tigers are 14-20 in the state playoffs since that title in 2000.
- Rocked out — St. Stanislaus also is done for the current campaign, after falling on the road to Raleigh 30-21 in the second round of the Class 3A South State playoffs. The Rock-a-chaws actually led at halftime 12-8, before the Lions rallied to survive and advance. The Rocks finish the season at 7-5, as senior running back Chandler Chapman finished the year with almost 1,700 yards rushing which set a new school record. Defensively, Jacob Bradford finished the season with over 100 total tackles for the second straight year.
- Humbled Hornets — West Jones continued its mastery over East Central with a 38-0 thumping of the Hornets in the opening round of the Class 5A South State playoffs, The Hornets are now 0-6 all-time against the Mustangs, with four of those decisions coming in the postseason. East Central finishes its first season under the direction of Sam Huff at 8-3. The Hornets ended the season with two backs eclipsing the magical 1,000-yard rushing mark, as both Grey Bradley and Eli Smith accomplished the feat.
- Sail away — Gulfport saw its season come to an end with a deafening thud, as Warren Central rolled into Milner Stadium and thumped the Admirals 38-3 in the opening round of the Class 6A South State playoffs. Gulfport, which finishes 9-3 on the year, actually got a pretty tough draw to open the state playoffs. The Vikings, who improved to 10-1 overall, were the third seed in Region 3-6A but they actually tied with Brandon and Oak Grove for first place in the league and only drooped to the third slot due to tie-breakers.
- Status quo — Both Picayune and Ocean Springs maintained their perfect records with wins in the opening round of the playoffs, as the Maroon Tide went to 12-0 with a 24-9 win over Laurel in Class 5A and the Greyhounds whipped Northwest Rankin 49-21 in Class 6A. Picayune, the defending Class 5A state champ, has now won a school-record 23 straight games while OSHS has now posted consecutive 11-0 records in two consecutive seasons for the first time ever in school history.