By Bruce Thornton
228Sports Contributing Writer
The Mississippi High School Activities Association will be handing out State Championship hardware this weekend and six teams from the “Southern Six” will be looking to bring home the gold.
One team, the Gulfport Lady Admirals, will have to wait until Monday to compete for the 6A state title. The Girls Class 6A State Championship game will be played on Monday night at 6 p.m. at a site TBD. Clinton travels to Lewisburg for Class 6A North State Championship on Saturday at Noon and the winner will face Gulfport.
The 4A and 5A girls and boys will compete at Brandon High School while Class I and 6A girls and boys will play at Ridgeland High School.
In Brandon the 4A girls get things started at noon as the Stone High Lady Tomcats (16-4-1) look to go back-to-back as they take on the West Lauderdale Lady Knights (22-2-1). Stone ended the Cinderella run by Bay High as they defeated the Lady Tigers for the third time this season 1-0. West Lauderdale defeated the defending North State champion New Albany 5-0 to reach the championship game.
The 4A boys follow as Bay High, who won their second consecutive South State title by upsetting division rival Pass Christian 2-1, looks to bring home the gold after last year’s runner-up finish. The Tigers (18-5-2) avenged two regular-season losses to the Pirates to now take on North Pontotoc. The Vikings come in with a record of 20-4-1 and are coming off a 2-1 North State victory over Corinth.
The 5A girls are up next where the West Harrison Lady Hurricanes (17-4-1) pulled off the upset of defending State champion Florence 2-1 in the South State finals to advance to their third state championship appearance in school history. West Harrison avenged last year’s 6-0 loss to Florence and Coach Ally Hancock said that loss was a motivating factor in this team’s improvement throughout the season. Standing between the Lady Hurricanes and a state championship will be Saltillo. The Lady Tigers (16-3) knocked off Lafayette 3-2 to advance.
The quadruple header ends with the 5A boys as Long Beach looks to pull off the three-peat. The Bearcats easily dispatched division opponent Pearl River Central 4-0. It was the third win of the season over the Blue Devils. For the Bearcats to make it three in a row they will have to defeat Lafayette (18-5-1). The Commodores defeated Saltillo 1-0 in a game that went to penalty kicks. Long Beach should kick-off against the Commodores around 6:00 pm.
In Ridgeland, the St. Patrick Lady Irish (17-1), kick things off at noon as they take on Tupelo Christian Prep. The Lady Eagles( 17-8) defeated Amory 3-1 in the North State championship while the Lady Irish knocked off division rival OLA 7-1. This was the third win of the season over the Lady Crescents and St. Patrick has won their three playoff games by a combined score of 20-1.
Class I boys follow with Sacred Heart (12-3) take on St. Andrews (15-3-1). Sacred Heart defeated defending state champion St. Stanislaus 2-0 to advance to the title game.
The 4 pm game will be the 6A boy’s contest as I-20 rivals Brandon (17-2-1) and Clinton (20-0-1) battle for 6A supremacy. Brandon defeated Gulfport 2-0 in overtime to advance. The 4 pm time slot was originally scheduled for the 6A girl’s contest. However, the Gulfport Lady Admiral’s opponent is yet to be determined.
The Clinton and Lewisburg contest has been moved to Saturday due to the winter weather plaguing the northern part of the state this week. Coach Chris Pryor said his team is taking a similar approach to the layoff his team had with the first-round bye. The Lady Admirals (20-1-2) have used the last two days for rest and recovery following the emotional 2-1 South State victory over Ocean Springs which was the program’s 6th South State title. The win also avenged the only loss on the Lady Admiral record this season. When the game is played Monday at 6 pm Gulfport will be looking for its fourth state title following championships in 2008, 2020 and 2021.