Several local prep football teams earned the right to practice during the week of Thanksgiving with big wins in the state playoffs Friday night.
In all, four squads in the “Southern Six” moved on to South State championship games and are one step away from reaching the state championship round the first weekend of December at M.M. Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg. But, alas, two other local teams saw their seasons come to a sudden halt as well.
Here are seven things we noticed in the “Southern Six” Friday night:
- New Heights — Ocean Springs stands 12-0 for the first time ever on the gridiron in school history, as the Greyhounds gained a measure of revenge with a 42-25 beatdown of visiting Oak Grove. Bray Hubbard ran for just over 250 yards and three touchdowns for the Greyhounds, and he also recorded a touchdown toss. The win was just the second ever in eight all-time meetings for OSHS over OGHS, and the first since 2004 which ironically enough is the only time the Greyhounds have ever played for the state football championship. Ocean Springs will be at home for the third straight week in the Class 6A state playoffs next week against Brandon.
- New Heights (part two) — Gautier will be playing in its first-ever South State championship game after the Gators dispatched Vancleave for the second time in just over a month Friday night winning this one 38-21. Kaden Irving accounted for four touchdowns in the win for the Gators. Gautier stands a nifty 10-2 on the season, with the only loss for the Gators coming at the hands of perennial power Picayune which just happens to be whom the Gators will face off against in the Class 5A South State championship game next week. Gautier has never beaten the Maroon Tide on the football field. Vancleave, on the other hand, finished a very successful season with an 8-4 mark.
- Same song — And speaking of Picayune, the perennial power Maroon Tide collected a school record 24th consecutive win Friday rallying from a 17-7 halftime deficit to pull out a 28-17 win over visiting West Jones. Dante Dowdell ran for just over 160 yards and a trio of scores for Picayune. Picayune, the defending Class 5A state champion, moved to 13-0 on the season and can tie the school record for most wins in a season with a win over Gautier next week at home in Lee-Triplett Stadium.
- Stone cold — Stone High is headed to its third South State championship game in school history, but first since 1991, after registering a major upset in knocking off Poplarville 32-28 at A.L. May Stadium on the campus of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in Wiggins Friday night. The Tomcats rallied from a 28-18 fourth-quarter deficit to pull out the win, and moved to an impressive 9-2 on the season. Head coach John Feaster’s crew began the season with two straight losses, but has won nine straight since then and is now one win away from earning a trip to the state championship game for the first time in 31 years.
- Humbled Hornets — Poplarvile, on the other hand, was trying to make an appearance in the Class 4A South State championship game for the seventh consecutive season. But those hopes came crashing down in the final period against Stone Friday night. The Hornets finish the season at 11-2, opening the season with a 21-7 loss to Picayune and closing the campaign with the aforementioned 32-28 upset loss at the hands of the Tomcats. Poplarville has recorded double-digit win totals in six out of its last seven seasons.
- Tiger tale — Mendenhall moved to 12-1 on the season with a 34-0 thumping of Quitman, and now the Tigers will head to Wiggins next week to face Stone in the Class 4A South State title tilt. The Tigers, much like the Tomcats, started the season out with a loss to defending Class 4A state champion Columbia but now have won 12 straight games including a revenge win over that same Columbia squad two weeks ago.
- Bulldog blitz — Brandon, the Region 3-6A champion, will now meet the Region 4-6A champ Ocean Springs next week in the Class 6A South State championship game after the Bulldogs knocked off visiting Warren Central 36-28. It marked the second time this season that BHS beat the Vikings, following a 21-7 decision in the regular season. Brandon stands 11-1 on the season, with its lone loss a 25-20 defeat at the hands of Oak Grove a little over a month ago.