By Curtis Rockwell, Sports Editor
The Picayune Item
PASCAGOULA, Miss. —
Twenty five years ago to the day, reigning state champion Picayune came calling here to War Memorial Stadium to face Pascagoula in a clash of titans.
The Maroon Tide was riding high, with an eight game win streak and a lofty Top 20 national ranking in the USA Today Poll.
Picayune jumped out to a 7-0 half-time lead, only to watch as the homestanding Panthers reeled off 31 straight points in the second half to take a resounding 31-7 win.
The Panthers went on to finish 14-0 and capture the state title, while Picayune lost four of its next five games and failed to make the playoffs.
Thursday night’s regionally televised showdown featuring a pair of 5-0 teams will mark the first time since that night 25 years ago that a pair of unbeaten teams will face off in the month of October in this historic venue.
“I certainly hope we play better than we did that night, we were terrible,” veteran Picayune head coach Dodd Lee, who was an assistant on that Maroon Tide staff, said.
The top spot in Class 5A is up for grabs, as Picayune sits number one and the Panthers number two. The Maroon Tide is second overall in the state and Pascagoula sits sixth.
The lead in Region 8-4A is also on the line, as both teams are 2-0 in the league and tied with Moss Point for first place.
The game will be shown on Fox Sports South as part of the “Bright Lights: Football” Thursday night series sponsored by C-Spire Wireless.
“We’re excited to be a part of this event on such a big stage,” Pascagoula head coach Lewis Sims said. “We know that Picayune always comes to play and is always well coached and very well prepared. We are looking forward to it.”
Just like 25 years ago, Picayune is again the defending state champion. The Maroon Tide has beaten Pascagoula eight straight times, including twice last year en route to the state title.
Pascagoula is coming off an outstanding 2011 season for its athletic programs, as the football team made it to the second round of the state playoffs for the first time since 1995 before falling to Picayune. The basketball team made it to the Final Four in Class 5A, and the boy’s soccer team made it to the state finals. The baseball team won the state championship.
Picayune is expected to be without standout tailback and leading rusher Preston Dedeaux for the second consecutive game due to a shoulder injury he suffered in practice last week.
Both teams practiced Sunday, a normal off day, in preparation of this week’s big game.
The game is slated to kickoff at 7:07 p.m. A capacity crowd of more than 8,000 is expected.