With the start of yet another prep football season across South Mississippi set for this week, it’s time for the first installment of “A Look Ahead” here on 228 Sports for 2023.
A Look Ahead has been part of the journalistic fabric of prep football across this region for most of the past three decades. Each week of the season on Monday we’ll take a look at the action set to kick off on the gridiron in stadiums throughout the “Southern Six” counties of Mississippi.
We’ll get started with a bit of a different take on things, as we focus on seven items (or eight) to keep an eye out for in the upcoming season.
7 NEW CLASSES: For the past 14 seasons, there has been six classifications as enforced by the Mississippi High School Activities Association but that all has changed. With the current school year, the MHSAA expanded to seven classifications for the first time ever and the move affected just about all 24 schools in the “Southern Six” that play under the MHSAA umbrella in some form or fashion.
6 NEW GUYS (sorta): There will be eight new coaches in the “Southern Six” this season, but two of the eight are just moving to different schools in our South Mississippi footprint coverage area. Blake Pennock moves from Ocean Springs to Gulfport, and John Feaster moves from Stone to Moss Point. Jake Bramlett takes over at OSHS and Jacob Aycock steps in at Stone, while Jeff Stockstill is now on the job at Pass Christian, Oscar Glasscox at St. Patrick, Tim Lala at St. Stanislaus and Jacob Webb at Pearl River Central.
5 OLD ONES: Pascagoula’s Lewis Sims is by far the “dean” of the school of coaching prep football in the “Southern Six” as he is the longest-tenured head coach entering his 16th season as a head coach in Jackson County. This is Sims’ 13th season at the helm of the Panthers, coming across Jefferson Street after serving for three seasons in charge at his alma mater Moss Point. Other head coaches in Jay Beech at Poplarville, Neil Lollar at Hancock, Kevin Fant at Vancleave and Katlan French at Biloxi have all been in their current posts for at least five seasons or more.
4 NEW ENDINGS: For a quartet of the biggest squads on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, the implementation of expansion brings about a new ending for the regular season schedule as well. For the first time in 42 years, perennial arch-rivals Gulfport and Biloxi will not close out the regular season against one another. Instead, the Indians and Admirals will face off in week seven, on Friday, Oct., 5th, to open the first-ever Region 4-7A schedule for each team. Also, Ocean Springs and St. Martin will close the regular season against one another for the first time in in almost two decades, as they will meet on Thursday, Nov 2nd.
3 Of A Kind: A trio of local players have been selected to the prestigious “Dandy Dozen” pre-season list as selected annually by The Jackson Clarion-Ledger. The Picayune Dynamic Duo of defensive end Jamonta Wallr and tailback Chris Davis along with Pascagoula defensive lineman Jeffrey Rush all picked up the honor. Waller is committed to the University of Florida, Davis to Stanford and Rush to Ole Miss.
2 TIME CHAMPS: Waller and Davis and the Maroon Tide under the direction of fourth year head coach Cody Stogner are looking for their third straight state championship after winning back-to-back state crowns in 2021 and 2022. Picayune picked up its fourth Class 5A state championship in 12 seasons last year. If it weren’t for the Maroon Tide, no team in the “Southern Six” counties of the state could call themselves a state champion over the past decade. The last teams besides Picayune to win a state crown was D’Iberville in 2002 and St. Stanislaus in 2009.
1 FOR THE BOOKS: Bay High will travel to Gautier Friday to meet Resurrection High for the first time ever on the gridiron. It’ll be the first meeting in football between the schools in some 70 years, as the Tigers did face RCS’ predecessor OLV several times in span from the late 1940s into the early 1950s. OLV also hosted Bay High in 1948 in Pascagoula, the year that War Memorial Stadium first opened. The meeting this week will be a rare Class 1A vs. Class 4A match-up in the state of Mississippi.
0 LEFT: Super senior standout Quarterbacks. Gone are both Bray Hubbard at Ocean Springs and Kaden Irving at Gautier, as they have taken their talents to the next level. As did Keilon Parnell at Pascagoula. When you combine the absence of Deuce Knight, who is no longer at George County after transferring to Lipscomb Academy in Nashville, Tenn., suddenly before pre-season practice started, that leaves another hole in the backfield in the “Southern Six”.