By Joseph W. Gex II/Item Sports Correspondent
The Picayune Item
PASCAGOULA, Miss. —
Unbeaten and top-ranked Picayune will face one of its toughest tests of the year tonight without one of its best players.
Standout Maroon Tide tailback Preston Dedeaux will miss his second consecutive game due to a shoulder injury that he suffered in practice last week. It is unclear when, or if, Dedeaux will return this season.
Visiting Picayune faces fellow unbeaten Pascagoula on regional television tonight. The battle of the top two Class 5A teams in the state is set to kick off at 7:07 p.m., here before a capacity crowd of over 8,000 at War Memorial Stadium. Both teams are 5-0, and the co-lead in Region 4-5A is up for grabs.
"Our kids have played on a big stage before on TV," veteran Picayune head coach Dodd Lee said, referring to last year's state championship game against Starkville. "I don't think we will be intimidated by the atmosphere."
The defending state champion Maroon Tide will rely on several running backs to fill the void left by Dedeaux, including Doug Cross, Desmond Taylor, Xavier Harrellson and Kardarrius Cross as well as wingback Daveon Greene.
“They are still going to have the same line and several backs that can take t to the house,” Pascagoula head coach Lewis Sims, whose team lost to Picayune twice last season, said. “Dedeaux is a great player. But Cross, Taylor and Greene are all very good runners as well. And their offensive line may the the best in the state.”
The Maroon Tide is coming off their best defensive outing of the season, and Lee hopes that unit can continue its improvement.
"We seem to be getting better on that side of the ball each week," Lee said. "And we need to keep improving every game."
Picayune’s defense is led by tackle Semaj Branch and end James Tatum up front, as well as linebacker Jacorea Poole and safety’s Nick Marble and Jordan Dedeaux.
Maroon Tide place-kicker Jake Poldermann, in his first year on the varsity squad, is a perfect 32-for-32 on extra point attempts this season.
The televised game will feature all the bells and whistles, like a jumbotron innstant replay screen, a fly over by the Coast Guard and fireworks during and after the game.
“It’s two unbeaten teams ranked one and two in the state playing on TV,” Sims added. “What more could you ask for?”