BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - High school football experiences a new level of competition for most teams this week. It's the start of Region play. Teams with hopes and goals of cracking the state playoffs must get down to serious business.
Week six of Friday Night Football Showdown will feature six games beginning at 10:15 p.m. on WLOX ABC-CBS with A.J. Giardina and Patrick Clay.
In an exciting Region 4-5A opener in Wayne County, the home standing 2 and 2 War Eagles battle 3 and 1 Picayune. The Maroon Tide carry momentum into the region opener, having won three straight games.
Both teams have top-notch coaches in Dodd Lee of Picayune and Todd Mangum of Wayne County. When the Maroon Tide and War Eagles clash, you can always expect a close encounter that will go right down to the wire to determine a winner.
Picayune running back Shaun Anderson will be a key player for the Maroon Tide. He has rushed for 544 yards and 5 touchdowns, netting 6.7 yards a carry. Quarterback Tyler Penton is the field general directing a precision offensive attack. Defensive teams will see a ground assault, but coach Lee will have Penton throw the ball and many times when he does get the ball in the air, it's a big play.
War Eagles quarterback Zhakerreun Wesley directs a balanced offensive attack. The senior has passed for 361 yards and two touchdowns and is Wayne County's leading rusher with 322 yards and 7 touchdowns.
The Friday Night Football Showdown will feature the St. Martin-Gulfport Region 4-6A opener at Milner Stadium. The home standing Admirals (1-3) are coming off a bye-week. Two weeks ago Picayune defeated Gulfport 37-7. The 3 and 1 Yellow Jackets also had an extra week to prepare for the Admirals after beating St. Stanislaus 9-7 in a defensive struggle on September 8.
Despite losing a host of game breaking offensive players from the 2016 team, St. Martin head coach Eddie Wayne Whitehead changed his offense, but they are still explosive. Junior running back Ham McGee has 401 rushing yards with 4 touchdowns. He's averaging 6.3 yards per carry. Junior quarterback Mileon Graham is a dual threat. Graham has busted free for 345 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns. He's added 118 yards through the air.
Gulfport head coach Eddie Pierce is looking for more offensive production from his team. When quarterback TQ Newsome went down with an injury, the Admirals offense has suffered. Senior quarterback Jalen Knight has 93 yards rushing while sophomore quarterback Dawson Malley has passed for 129 yards with 4 touchdowns.
Arch rivals D'Iberville and Biloxi clash at Biloxi Stadium in another Region 4-6A opener. In this rivalry, the Warriors have dominated the series in recent years. Entering the Friday Night Football Showdown, D'Iberville has won five straight games over the Indians. The last time Biloxi defeated the Warriors was back in 2011, a 42-21 decision. In those five D'Iberville victories, the Warriors have averaged 34.2 points while the D'Iberville defense has given up an average of 14.4 points.
Both teams are eager to get back under the win column. Entering the showdown, the Warriors are 1 and 3, while the Indians are searching for win No. 1. The Biloxi offense is beginning to find more consistency after starting quarterback Brodie King was injured in the first game of the season. Junior Kamron Suddeth has passed for 468 yards and five touchdowns. Head coach Bobby Hall has counted on running back Kenyatta Harrell. The 5-foot-10, 185 pound sophomore has ripped off 221 yards rushing, netting 4.1 yards a carry.
D'Iberville head coach Eric Collins loves running the footbll and he has an outstanding tailback in senior Ja'quavis Foster. The 5-7, 165 pound Foster leads the Warriors ground attack with 413 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns. Every time he gets his hands on the football, Foster has busted loose for an average of 5.8 yards. Fullback Jordan Hartley has racked up 230 rushing yards with 2 touchdowns. Junior quarterback Michael Kozlowski has completed 47 percent of his passes for 262 yards and 3 touchdowns.
The Pascagoula Panthers jumped from the Region 4-5A ranks into the Region 4-6A ranks this season. Coach Lewis Sims leads his 2 and 2 Panthers against the 1 and 3 Harrison Central Red Rebels in Lyman. Pascagoula was off last week and will be looking for back-to-back wins after defeating rival Gautier 41-21 on September 8.
Harrison Central head coach Casey Cain wants his team fall to George County 19-14 last week. The Red Rebels appeared to have a victory in their grasp, before the Rebels from Lucedale rallied in the final period.
The Harrison Central defense will have to contain 5-foot-8, 160 pound senior running back Trey Abney. Two weeks ago he exploded for a Pascagoula school record 355 yards rushing and cracked the end zone 4 times, leading the Panthers past Gautier.
The Pascagoula defense also has a tough assignment, try and contain senior running back Keon Moore. Keon has rushed for 591 yards and 5 touchdowns, averaging 5.9 yards a carry. Senior Chase Jones has taken over the quarterbacking duties and has tossed 4 TD passes in four games.
In another Region 4-6A Friday Night Football Showdown, Hancock travels to Ocean Springs (2-2). Hancock has been one of the surprise teams so far this season. The Hawks under first-year head coach Neil Lollar ran off 3 consecutive wins before losing to Lakeshore, Louisiana 51-23 last Friday. Junior quarterback Caleb Garcia has connected on 56 percent of his pass attempts for 702 yards and 4 touchdowns. When the Hawks go to the running game, 195 pound junior running back Blake Comeaux responds in a positive way. Comeaux has rushed for 433 yards and 7 touchdowns. Rondell Womack has added 280 yards, netting 10.8 yards a carry and Marquis Cherry, a 6-foot-2, 215 pound senior has exploded for 195 yards on 17 carries. That adds up to 11.5 yards per carry.
Ocean Springs head coach Ryan Ross has sophomore quarterback Blake Noblin running the Greyhounds attack. Noblin has passed for 417 yards. Senior running back Daveaunce Gaines has rushed for 311 yards and 5 touchdowns. The 200 pound Gaines has averaged 5.5 yards per rush.
The Gautier at Hattiesburg Region 4-5A opener also will be featured on the Friday Night Football Showdown. The 1 and 3 Gators will have their hands full. The home standing and undefeated Tigers (4-0) are ranked No. 6 in the latest MaxPreps state football poll. 194 pound junior quarterback Jarod Conner is Mr. Magic on the football field for the unbeaten Tigers. He enters the Gautier game with 531 yards passing and 5 touchdowns. When Conner takes off running, look out! He has rushed for 267 yards on 41 attempts and has cracked the goal line 7 times.
Gators junior quarterback Kameron Kincaid is a highly capable passer. He has connected on 6 touchdowns. Junior running back Micah Kelly has used his 190 pounds to pile up 297 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns. Kelly has averaged 8.7 yards per rush.
In other games: Long Beach travels to Pearl River Central, Greene County at Moss Point, St. Stanislaus has a home game with Madison Ridgeland Academy, Resurrection entertains Sacred Heart at Gautier High School, Bogue Chitto at St. Patrick, George County on the road at Oak Grove, Stone battles West Harrison on the campus of MGCCC, Pass Christian travels to Sumrall and Christian Collegiate Academy has a home game with Rebul Academy.
Get out and support your local high school football team. Games kickoff at 7:00 p.m.