Three schools in Jackson County that sit within an eight-mile footprint and share two football stadiums are all still alive in the state football playoffs for the first time ever.
Pascagoula, Resurrection and Gautier represent half of the six “Southern Six” squads left in the postseason heading into action Friday night. It marks the first time in history that the Panthers, Eagles and Gators have all been playing a football game on the Friday night before Thanksgiving.
“It seems like it’s pretty rare. I can imagine maybe it’s happened in the Jackson area a time or two because there are so many schools, or perhaps in a rural area in the days before school consolidation,” veteran sports writer and Jackson County native Creg Stephenson said. Stephenson covered prep sports in the area for almost 20 years in two different stints with the now defunct The Mississippi Press newspaper in Pascagoula. “But I certainly don’t remember it ever happening on the Coast in football.”
All three teams are on the road this week and fighting for spots next week in three different South State championship games on Black Friday. Pascagoula travels to Picayune Friday night in the Class 6A South state quarterfinals, while Gautier heads to Florence in Class 5A and Resurrection travels to Cammden to face Velma Jackson in Class 1A.
This week also marks the first time in history that Pascagoula and Gautier, which share the same school system, are both still alive this deep into the state football playoffs. Gautier’s first year as a school was 1997.
Resurrection, which split its home games this season between Pascagoula’s War Memorial Stadium and Gautier’s Vaughan-Wallace Stadium, just began playing football as a sanctioned member of the Mississippi High School Association again 13 seasons ago in 2011. The school, formerly known as OLV, stopped playing football in 1984 just three seasons after a state-wide playoff system was implemented by the MHSAA.
On Friday night at Lee-Triplett Stadium in Picayune, the Panthers come calling on the Maroon Tide in a rematch from the regular season. This will be Pascagoula’s first trip to Picayune in four seasons, and it marks the third postseason meeting between the two teams in the past 12 years after the teams had never met in the postseason in the first 30 years of the statewide playoff system. Picayune pummelled Pascagoula 51-14 to open Region 4-6A play on the first Friday in October during a torrential downpour.
At the same time in Florence Friday night, the Gators and the Eagles face off for the first time ever on the football field and the match-up comes in the Class 5A South State semifinals. Florence is 8-4 overall, while Gautier is 7-4 due to having an open week on its schedule which the Eagles did not. The teams have two common opponents this season, and both picked up wins over each as Gautier beat Natchez 50-18 last week and defeated Wayne County 49-33 in Region 4-5A play earlier this season while Florence beat Natchez 35-20 three weeks ago and defeated WCHS 36-0 last week.
Also, in Camden Friday night, a “Battle of the Birds” takes place as the Eagles fly up against the Falcons for the first time ever on the gridiron. The game is a Class 1A South State Semifinal match-up, as VJHS comes in at a perfect 11-0 and the Falcons allowed just 25 points in 10 regular season games. RCS is 9-2 on the season and is in the third round of the state playoffs for the first time since 2017.