BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - Almost one year to the day, the St. Stanislaus Rock-a-Chaws will have another opportunity to advance to the 4A south state championship with a win over the Forrest County AHS Aggies.
It's basically an identical scenario as it was a year ago. The Rocks' opponent, game location and playoff round is the same.
But the attitude is different. That's because of last year's 49-42 win in favor of the visiting Aggies.
With that in mind, revenge was the popular word used at Thursday's practice.
"We've been waiting for this game for 52 weeks," said St. Stanislaus head coach Bill Conides, who was the offensive coordinator on Gabe Fertitta's staff last season. "It's been the driving force behind everything we've done since then. A lot of things have had to work out in order for that to happen."
Prior to the 2013 third-round matchup, St. Stanislaus hadn't lost in 12 games. Forrest County featured 10 wins in 12 games. The Rock-a-Chaws still run a spread offense heading into Friday's matchup, while FCAHS switched from an air attack to the Wing-T offense this season, something to which St. Stanislaus defensive coordinator Tim Lala will need to adjust.
In 2014, the Aggies (5-7) are the No. 4 seed from region 5-4A, while the Rock-a-Chaws (11-1) are the No. 2 seed from region 8-4A. Even though Forrest County has a winning percentage below .500, St. Stanislaus isn't taking them lightly.
"They're certainly playing their best football right now," Conides said. "They're going to be fundamentally sound offensively and defensively. They're a different team than they were last year."
"Last year, what cost us the game is we made too many mistakes and they capitalized on them," senior offensive lineman Alex Myrick said. "This year, we really have to play good, clean football and limit our mistakes because we know they won't make many."
"Towards the end, we had to make a big stop," said tight end Chase Rogers, who started in last year's game against FCAHS as a freshman. "We didn't execute and that really stuck with me. The feeling after the game was just terrible.
"This year, they're athletic and they've played really well. We just have to play our game and we'll be okay."
If St. Stanislaus can avenge last season's playoff loss, and Poplarville picks up a road win over Purvis, that would set up a 4A south state championship game featuring two coast teams. The Hornets defeated the Rock-a-Chaws 47-46 in overtime four weeks ago and eventually earned the top seed from their region.
The Rocks offense is led by sophomore quarterback Myles Brennan, who leads the state of Mississippi with 4,607 passing yards, 51 touchdowns and 299 completions. He took over the lead in the shotgun this year when current Mississippi Gulf Coast Bulldog Tyler Allen graduated in May.
Brennan's top target, senior Chase Rhodes, leads the team with 1,134 receiving yards on 86 receptions and 14 touchdowns. He's actually just six catches shy of becoming the all-time leader in receptions at St. Stanislaus.
Junior wideout Owen Betz, who also has Division 1 scholarship offers to play soccer, is second on the Rock-a-Chaws offense with 1,015 receiving yards and nine touchdowns.
Seniors Evan Lundgren and Patrick McRaney also play an integral part in the offense, as well as sophomore Corbin Blanchard.
"I expect [FCAHS] to come here and try to really, really grind it out against us," Conides said. "We've had trouble defending Wing-T teams in terms of tackling in the past in the first half. I think we're going to get a heavy dose of that for sure."
The first-year head coach will rely on leading tackler Zach Ladner, Louisiana Tech commit Jordan Bradford and senior Kevin Haas on the defense to shut down the Aggies rushing attack.