Pascagoula's Sims returns to Laurel to chase Golden Tornadoes again

Pascagoula's Sims returns to Laurel to chase Golden Tornadoes again

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Pascagoula Panthers head coach Lewis Sims is all too familiar with the Laurel Golden Tornadoes.

Before this week's playoff showdown between Pascagoula and Laurel, Sims was a coach with the Moss Point Tigers in 2007 when his team lost at the place nicknamed "Between the Bricks" in the 4A south state championship game. The Golden Tornadoes defeated the Tigers 40-33 that day before taking down Noxubee County 19-16 in the 4A state championship.

"It's not my favorite place in the world but it's a [chance for] a little bit of redemption," Sims said. "It's just an electric atmosphere and a lot of great tradition between the bricks. I'm just really looking forward to having these young men go up there and have the experience of going up there and competing on that surface."

Pascagoula bounced back from last year's 28-20 loss to Brookhaven in the first round with a 24-17 win at home against the West Jones Mustangs in the opening round of this year's postseason.

Now their attentions shifts to Laurel -- a team that was one victory shy of a berth in the 5A state title game in 2013.

"They're very athletic and very skilled up front on the offensive line," Sims said. "They have some guys that are able to take it to the house at every moment so we have to play every play like it's important."

The Panthers admit that they still have yet to piece together a solid all-around performance this season, but what better place to do it than in a stadium that was literally built brick-by-brick. Pascagoula has a solid foundation itself along that defensive line kept together by Division 1 talent.

Mississippi State's Keith Joseph Jr. and Southern Miss commitment Jauan Collins will have to cement their best performance this season against a big Laurel offensive line. The two pass rushers have combined for nine of the 20 sacks recorded by the Panthers this season.

"It's going to be really important because they have some great receivers," Joseph Jr. said. "They've got some big guys and they go up and catch balls. We're just going to get pressure on them and I don't believe they've seen anybody like us. I just believe we have a dominant 'D' line, we're going to put pressure on them and make them make quick decisions that [quarterback Keon Howard] probably isn't used to."

Pascagoula's offense has really hit its stride ever since entering region 4-5A play. The Panthers have recorded at least 100 yards rushing in every game this season, including a season-high 321 yards in a 27-23 win against George County three weeks ago.

The Panthers (9-3) are currently riding a five-game winning streak. Brothers Jakwaize (111 yards) and Javarous (109 yards) combined for 220 rushing yards in the win over West Jones to give Pascagoula its first home playoff win since 1990.

Senior wide receiver Jaylen Smith, who is committed to play football for Louisville, caught a 76-yard touchdown pass from Jakwaize Walker in the third quarter against the Mustangs.

Laurel (10-2) has also won five consecutive games, including a 71-41 victory over East Central in a first round playoff game last week.

"They fly to the ball," Smith said. "They don't have any slouches on defense. If we make a big play, they get fired back and come up with a bigger play. We need to keep them on their toes all night."

Another cold night of football is expected for playoff games in the state of Mississippi. Laurel is forecast to have a low temperature of 45 degrees, which was very similar to how it felt for Sims and the Moss Point Tigers seven years ago.

"We have to be ready for any type of weather but the weather is the same for both sides of the ball," Sims said. "If it's cold, it's cold. If it's hot, it's hot for both teams. We just have to find a way to perform and get the job done."

Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. The winner will face the Wayne County-Picayune winner in the 5A south state championship.