PRC looking to ice devilish streak with Picayune

PRC looking to ice devilish streak with Picayune

CARRIERE, MS (WLOX) - Nineteen games.

That's how many in a row that the Picayune Maroon Tide has won against the Pearl River Central Blue Devils.

The Blue Devils (6-4, 5-2) begin the 5A playoffs Friday night as the No. 4 seed from region 3-5A, and their opponent could not be any more fitting of the role.

Picayune (9-1, 6-1) took home the region 4-5A regular season title following a 21-0 win over Stone.

PRC actually entered its season finale one game ahead of the Brookhaven Panthers for the fourth and final playoff spot from region 3-5A. The Blue Devils actually played the Panthers in the season finale and came away with a 42-12 win, ending the year on a three-game winning streak and earning the fourth seed.

"In the history of our school, I don't think we [had] actually ever beaten Brookhaven," Pearl River Central head coach Eric Collins said. "It was a really good game for us."

Senior Alex Travis, who leads the state of Mississippi with 10 interceptions and ranks third in the nation in that category, didn't record an interception against the Panthers. However, he kept Ole Brook's top target on an island all night.

"My team played great," Travis said. "I just covered my man and did what I was supposed to do."

The hard part was completed with relative ease. However, the even harder challenge stands in their way in the form of a cross-town, hated rival.

"There's nothing like the Picayune game for our community," Collins said. "I don't want to speak for them, but I know for our community, there's nothing like it. There's a different electricity in the air. There's more interest and that will be showing because when we go play them, you better get there around five [o'clock] because there won't be a place to sit."

Because the two schools are separated by only a few miles, both sides of the stands during these matchups fill up not just to the max, but to full capacity an hour before the game even starts.

"Every time we play Picayune, it's by far the best experience I have on the field," PRC senior Cole Lott said. "I've been on the field against Picayune six times so far and played in two of them. It's by far the best experience of my whole high school career."

"I think it's a different animal because it's the playoffs," PRC offensive coordinator Quincy Patrick said. "It doesn't matter if you're playing Picayune or any other team. It's just a whole different animal. It's just going to be a different environment."

Blue Devils defensive coordinator John Feaster has been a part of both sides of this extended rivalry. Feaster graduated from Picayune Memorial High School in 2000 and began playing on the varsity during his sophomore year.

"This game matters," Feaster said. "If we win, we go on tomorrow. If we lose, they go on. We have a lot to play for. Not only pride but we want to continue to win so we can continue playing."

It's also a family affair for Pearl River Central senior Caleb Hebert. He earned a starting spot on the offensive line after Picayune's 19-14 win over PRC in September, which means he didn't get to enjoy playing against his cousins, Dalton and Devin Hedgepeth.

That will change once the two teams meet for Friday night's 7 p.m. kickoff.

"I worked my way up and got a starting spot so it's a big deal to me in that aspect," Hebert said. "I grew up with all the guys on the other team. If we win and move on, I have that for the rest of my life."

The PRC coaches, players and supporters hate hearing about the tenuous losing skid. Picayune could increase its winning streak in the all-time series to 20 games.

Ending that stretch, in the postseason no less, would be a phenomenal achievement and confidence boost. But to also continue the season in front of a boisterous crowd would be a stellar start to a hopeful playoff run.

"You've got people walking up to you in the hallways at school just asking, 'Hey, are we going to win,'" Lott said. "It's a lot different. The atmosphere of the school is electric."

"The best way to put it is electric," Hebert said. "Everybody in the stands is behind you. You know that they're so pumped for the game that they're just as pumped as you are. That's amazing to know that every single person in the stands is behind you 110 percent and it makes the feeling in you to get the job done even greater. That's just an amazing feeling."