A quartet of prep football teams in the “Southern Six” are headed to the South State championship round.
Picayune is playing in its eighth South State championship game.
Ocean Springs has qualified for the Class 6A South State title tilt for the first time ever, but the Greyhounds played in a pair of Class 5A South State championships as well.
Stone is headed to its third South State championship game.
And Gautier is in its first-ever South State championship game of any type, as the Gators have qualified for the Class 5A South State title game.
Picayune rallied from a 17-7 halftime deficit to knock off visiting West Jones 28-17. Ocean Springs gained a measure of revenge on Oak Grove with a 42-25 win. Gautier beat Vancleave 42-21, and Stone pulled off a major upset with a 32-28 win over visiting Poplarville.
Before their latest meeting Friday night in Greyhound Stadium, Ocean Springs had beaten Oak Grove just once in seven all-time meetings.
That win, in 2004, propelled the Greyhounds into their only appearance ever in a state championship game.
Ocean Springs hopes the same scenario develops again this season after its latest win over the Warriors.
Super senior signal-caller Bray Hubbard ran for over 250 yards and three scores and also threw for a touchdown in leading the Greyhounds to the win. Ocean Springs is now 12-0 for the first time in school history.
On the Greyhounds’ first possession, Hubbard nailed J.P. Coulter on a 56-yard scoring strike to put OSHS up 7-0.
Then, on the first play of the second OSHS offensive possession, Hubbard broke through the Warrior defensive line almost untouched and raced 70 yards for a score.
Oak Grove cut the deficit to 11 with a field goal in the second stanza.
But Hubbard came out and again took things into his own hands to extend the OSHS advantage in the third frame, scampering 54 yards for a score midway through the period to make it 21-3.
Oak Grove scored 16 points in 27 seconds in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 21-19. But again, Hubbard and his ‘Hounds answered to secure the win as he ran for a 35-yard touchdown to make it 28-19.
Will Gray then returned an interception 75 yards to put OSHS up 35-19, and Trace Carter returned an interception 43 yards for a score to make it 42-19.
Ocean Springs will face Brandon next week after the Bulldogs beat Warren Central 36-28.
Kaden Irving accounted for four touchdowns as the Gators beat the Bulldogs for the second time in just over a month.
Irving hit Dillon Alfred from 25 yards out for the first score of the game and then hooked up with A.J. Phillips from 30 yards out as well. He also added a 10-yard scoring run.
Gautier’s defense added a big score as well to the winning effort when Monyeh Boykin picked off a pass and returned it 30 yards for a pick-six.
After Vancleave cut the deficit to 28-21 in the fourth period, Marcus Cunningham scored up the middle from 5 yards out to seal the win and put the Gators up 35-21 with 5:35 in the contest.
Irving later hit Kelvin Beavers on a 5-yard scoring strike to close out the scoring.
Hunter Parker ran for one score and threw for another for VHS, and Kyle Capers had a pair of interceptions on defense for the Bulldogs.
Gautier travels to Picayune for the second time in three weeks next week.
Dante Dowdell ran for three touchdowns as Picayune rallied to win its 24th consecutive game and get back to the Class 5A South State championship game for the third time in four seasons.
The Mustangs tallied two scores off of Picayune turnovers in taking the lead, as they returned a fumble for a touchdown and also recovered another fumble that resulted in a short field goal.
But Dowdell countered and Amarion Tyson returned an interception for a score as well in the winning effort. Dowdell finished with 162 yards rushing and three scores, while Chris Davis added 102 yards rushing for the Maroon Tide as well.
Poplarville was aiming for its seventh straight trip to the Class 4A South State championship game, but Stone rallied from a 28-18 deficit with a fourth-quarter rally to pull out the four-point win.