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(A Look Ahead) 7 prep games to see this week

Squads in our coverage area are vying for spots in the Class 6A, Class 5A and Class 4A South State title tilts this week and seeking wins that would put each on the verge of a spot in state championship games.

The goal for every player and coach in prep football in the state of Mississippi is to have practice on the Monday of Thanksgiving week while school is not in session.

Here are seven games to watch in the Southern Six this week:

  1. Vancleave at Gautier (Game of the Week) — We have a winner! For most times picked as Game of the Week this year, that is. For the second time in a little over a month, the Gators host the neighboring Bulldogs in a Jackson County battle in The Swamp at Vaughn-Wallace Stadium. Except, the stakes this time are much higher as this meeting comes in the Class 5A South State semifinals. Gautier stands 9-2 on the season and Vancleave 8-3, and the Gators won the first GOTW meeting last month fairly easily 55-28. Gautier held off Wayne County last week 38-21 while Vancleave went on the road and upset Region 3-5A champs Hattiesburg. This marks the 22nd meeting all-time between the two rivals, but the first-ever meeting in the postseason. This one will once again feature the high-flying Gautier aerial attack featuring quarterback Kaden Irving against the rushing-oriented ground and pound attack for Vancleave featuring tailback John Peterson.
  2. West Jones at Picayune — The other Class 5A South State semifinal takes place at Lee-Triplett Stadium in Pearl River County as the home-standing Maroon Tide faces yet another long-time postseason foe in the visiting Mustangs. This marks the ninth meeting all-time between the teams overall, and the seventh in the playoffs. In the past nine seasons, the teams are an even 2-2 in head-to-head playoff meetings. Picayune slipped past Laurel last week, whom they have now played seven times in the past 10 years in the postseason. The Maroon Tide’s 24-9 win over the Golden Tornadoes along with a commanding 38-0 win by West Jones over East Central set this game up. The winner faces the survivor of the aforementioned Gautier-Vancleave game the day after Thanksgiving in the Class 5A South State championship game.
  3. Oak Grove at Ocean Springs — Well, the rematch will in fact take place as the Greyhounds host the perennial state power Warriors Friday night. This has to be one of the most highly anticipated rematches in Greyhound football history, especially considering the fact that the game wasn’t guaranteed to take place before the season started. But it most certainly has materialized. Last season, in an almost mirror image of the current one, OSHS came into the second with of the playoffs with a perfect 11-0 record and hosted 9-2 OGHS as the prohibitive favorite. The Greyhounds are once again 11-0, and favored, with the only slight change being that the Warriors are 10-2 coming into the game this week. This marks the eighth all-time meeting between the teams, with all of them coming in the playoffs. Oak Grove has dominated the series at 6-1, with the only OSHS win coming in the first-ever meeting between the teams in the 2004 Class 5A Sout State championship game when Richard Dickson led OSHS to a 30-13 victory. Since then, it’s been all Oak Grove including a 28-21 win last season in this exact same round under almost the exact same scenario in this exact same stadium.
  4. Warren Central at Brandon — Although a bit outside the footprint of the “Southern Six”, this one holds big implications for the Ocean Springs-Oak Grove winner as that victor will face the survivor of this one in the Class 6A South State championship game next week. Oak Grove along with these two teams actually all finished in a three-way tie atop the Region 3-6A standings, but Brandon was crowned the top seed with OGHS taking the second slot and WCHS the third seed due to tie-breaking procedures. Both teams are coming off comfortable opening-round playoff wins over “Sothern Six” squads, as Brandon hammered Hancock 42-7 and the Vikings thumped Gulfport on the road 38-3.
  5. Poplarville at Stone — The Tomcats, the Region 8-4A champs, host the Hornets, the top team in Region 5-4A, in Wiggins in the Class 4A South State semifinals Friday at A.L. May Stadium n the campus of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. Both teams hosted playoff games in the first two weeks of the postseason and each has a pair of wins, including last week when Stone nipped North Pike 17-16 and Poplarville popped Newton County 49-21. The Hornets are looking for a spot in the Class 4A South State championship game for a state record seventh consecutive season, while this marks the first time in 31 (1991) years that the Tomcats have reached the third round of the state playoffs. It’s the first time since 1990 (32 years) that Stone has hosted three playoff games in the same season. The Tomcats played for back-to-back state titles in those same seasons, but fell to Water Valley 20-14 in 1990 and then to Lousiville in 1991, 6-3.
  6. Quitman at Mendenhall — Again, a game a bit outside of the “Southern Six” footprint but with implications on the aforementioned Poplarville-Stone match-up pits the up-start Panthers on the road against the seemingly always powerful Tigers. Mendenhall is coming off a big 29-20 upset of defending Class 4A state champion Columbia last week, while Quitman beat up on Moss Point 38-13 after opening the playoffs with a massive 42-21 upset win on the road against McComb. Mendenhall stands 11-1 on the year, and Quitman is 6-5. The winner of this one faces the winner of the Poplarville-Stone game in the Class 4A South State Championship game the day after Thanksgiving.
  7. Tourney time — Our basketball coverage at tips off this week with Pascagoula facing Gulfport Tuesday night in a big early regular season match-up. But that is just the precursor for several local Thanksgiving Tournaments taking place in the “Southern Six” beginning on Monday of next week. Gulfport, St. Martin and Picayune will all be hosting two-day tourneys to get everyone in the holiday season and begin that yearly transition from the gridiron to the hardwood that takes place for every high school in the state of Mississippi in November. We will have the match-ups for those three hoops events later this week.


Written by Curtis Rockwell

Curtis has almost three decades of experience at four different daily newspapers across South Mississippi, specializing in Sports and live Music.


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