Postseason football fates loom for Pine Belt teams

Postseason football fates loom for Pine Belt teams
The playoff picture for PIne Belt high school football teams is coming into focus. (Source: Gray Media)

Half of Mississippi’s football classifications are about to wrap up their respective regular seasons, with Class 2A, Class 3A and Class 4A participants ushering in the playoffs on Nov. 8.

Members of the state’s other three classifications, Class 1A, Class 5A and Class 6A, will be finishing out their regular seasons on the same weekend that the playoffs begin for the other three classification.

This is a peek at how the postseason is shaping up for Pine Belt teams playing under the Mississippi High School Activities Association umbrella.

Region 5-2A

The region’s four postseason teams are set.

Taylorsville High School, the defending Class 2A South State champion, has locked up the seed, and can do no worse than a co-championship.

The Tartars (9-1, 4-0) carry an unbeaten region record into Friday’s regular-season finale with Mize High School (6-4, 0-4). Even should Taylorsville lose Friday, the only other team that could finish with one loss in the region, Enterprise High School, lost to the Tartars on Oct. 18 and would lose the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Enterprise comes out on the other end of the head-to-head tiebreaker for the number two seed. If Enterprise (8-1, 3-1) should lose Friday at Puckett High School (5-5, 1-3), the only other team that could finish with two region losses would be the winner of Friday’s Bay Springs High School-Heidelberg High School contest. Enterprise beat both Bay Springs and Heidelberg during the regular season.

The winner of Bay Springs (8-2, 2-2) and Heidelberg (4-6, 2-2) will lock in the third seed with the loser taking fourth. Puckett can finish with three losses, the same as the Bay Springs-Heidelberg loser. But the Wolves lost to both the Bulldogs and the Oilers during the regular-season and would lose the head-to-head tiebreaker against either.

Mize, which started the season 6-0, has been eliminated from the postseason.

Region 8-2A

East Marion High School (7-2, 4-0) clinched the title and the top seed in the five-team region after wrapping up its regular season by defeating North Forrest High last week. The Eagles from Marion County have Friday the second of two open weeks on their nine-game schedule.

Perry Central High School (4-5, 2-1) is in the postseason, and can clinch the two seed with a win over visiting North Forrest (3-6, 1-2).

A loss to North Forrest and a win by Collins High School at St. Patrick High School would put Perry Central, North Forrest and Collins in the postseason, with the seeding determined by tie-breaker.

If Perry Central loses and St. Patrick wins, North Forrest would be the second seed, the Bulldogs the third and the Fighting Irish the fourth.

A North Forrest loss and Collins win would make the Tigers the third seed and the Forrest County Eagles the fourth.

If North Forrest loses and St. Patrick wins, the Eagles, Tigers and Fighting Irish would each be 1-3, with tiebreakers determining the last two playoff spots among the three teams.

Region 8-3A

Undefeated Columbia High School (9-0, 4-0) clinched the top seed and no worse than a co-championship with last week’s win over Seminary High School and Jefferson Davis County High School’swin over Magee High School.

The other three playoff teams also are decided with only the seeding to be determined.

West Marion High School (9-1, 3-1) still can claim a share of the region title with a win over Seminary and a Columbia loss at Magee, but would lose a tie-breaker after an earlier loss to the Wildcats.

On the other hand, the Trojans can do no worse than the second seed, having won in the regular season over both JDC and Magee. Even with a loss that could tie West Marion with either the Jaguars or the Simpson County Trojans _ or both _ the Marion County Trojans would have the edge.

JDC (4-5, 2-2) and Magee (8-2, 2-2) can finish no worse than with three losses. Seminary (5-5, 1-3) can do no better than three losses. The Bulldogs, the defending Class 3A South State 3A champions, lost to both the Jaguars and the Trojans during the regular season and would lose any tie-breaker.

With its win over Magee, the Jaguars hold the head-to-head over the Trojans.

Tylertown (3-7, 0-4) will put away the gear for another year after Friday.

Region 5-4A

.Pretty straight forward: If Northeast Jones High School (4-6, 2-2) defeats Newton County High School (5-5, 2-2) Friday, the Tigers lock down third seed in the region. Lose, and Northeast Jones becomes the fourth seed.

Either way, the Tigers return to the postseason for first time since 2016.

Mendenhall (5-4) and Quitman (7-3) high schools, both 4-0 in region, play Friday for the top two spots. Northeast Jones and Newton County play for the three and four seeds. Florence and Richland high schools can reach postseason play.

Region 7-4A

Three of four seeds are set.

Greene County High School’s win over Poplarville High School last week made the Wildcats (6-3, 4-0) the region’s top seed and no worse than co-champion.

Purvis High School (6-3, 3-1) and Poplarville (4-5, 3-1) are tied, but the Hornets beat Purvis during the regular season. The only way the Tornadoes can claim second seed is to beat Greene County Friday and have Sumrall High School (3-7, 0-4) beat Poplarville.

Forrest County Agricultural High School (2-6, 1-3) and Stone High School meet Friday in Wiggins in a winner-take-all game. The winner claims the region’s fourth seed, the loser wraps up its season.

Sumrall will play its final game of the 2019 season Friday.

Area high schools in the three other classifications _ Class 1A, Class 5A and Class 6A _ have two regular-season games left before the postseason begins.

That makes prognostication even trickier, but here’s what we can say:

Region 4-1A

Nine-team regions are no fun when it comes to sorting scenarios.

The one known: Lumberton High School (8-2, 7-0) locked up its fourth region championship and top seed last weekend.

After that, five teams have the best odds of grabbing the other three postseason slots. Three of those teams have two losses, the other two have three losses. One team plays just one more region game, the other four play two games.

The possibilities are boggling.

Let’s put it this way: Resurrection Catholic High School (8-2, 5-2), one of three teams with two region losses, has one region game left to play and then an open week. The Eagles will likely win that final regular-season game against Salem High School (1-8, 1-5), and likely be the region’s second seed.

But what if the improbable happens? What happens if:

  • Salem wins its second game of the season at Resurrection’s expense
  • The other two teams with two region losses, Stringer and Mt. Olive high schools, win their final two games to close with just two region losses
  • Sebastopol High School, which beat the Eagles during the regular season, wins its final two games

Stringer and Mt. Olive would be in, and Sebastopol and Resurrection would be tied for the fourth spot at 5-3. Sebastopol would own the head-to-head tiebreak and the team with the best odds to finish second seed would be heading home.

That’s just one scenario two weeks out. The picture likely becomes a smidge clearer after Friday.

Region 3-5A

West Jones High School (9-0, 5-0), the defending Class 5A South State champs, has clinched a playoff spot and has the inside track to win top seed and the region crown.

Laurel (7-2, 4-1), which has also clinched a postseason berth, is the only team that can overtake the Mustang for top seed, but would have to win its final two games while West Jones loses its last two to do it. If the teams were to tie, the Mustangs hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.

The former scenario is likely, since the Golden Tornadoes face the bottom two teams in the eight-team conference, Jim Hill and Jackson Wingfield high schools. But the latter is not, and for the same reason: West Jones also plays those two schools over the final two weeks.

Currently, Brookhaven High School holds down third place with two losses (to West Jones and Laurel) and Forest Hill, Natchez and South Jones high schools are knotted up at 2-3 in the region.

Region 4-5A

Picayune and Wayne County high schools have earned playoff spots, sporting 5-0 records in region play.

Wayne County (7-2) has the easier path to remaining unbeaten in 4-5A come a final game showdown with the Maroon Tide (9-0).

The War Eagles face the team at the bottom of the region standings, Long Beach High School (1-8, 0-5), while Picayune has a trickier game with third-place Pascagoula High School (5-4, 3-2).

Hattiesburg (3-6), East Central (5-4) and Pearl River Central (3-6) high schools currently sit tied for the fourth and final spot, with each sporting a 2-3 region mark heading into the final two weeks.

Both Gautier

Region 3-6A

Starting at George County High School Friday, Petal High School (8-1, 5-0) needs to win one of its final two games to wrap up the top seed/region championship.

After that, five teams carry 3-2 marks into the last two weeks of the regular season: Oak Grove High School (6-3); Pearl High School (6-3); Brandon High School (6-4); George County High School (6-3); and Northwest Rankin High School (3-6).

Oak Grove has won its last three games but has a testy end-of-schedule run, heading to Pearl Friday before welcoming Northwest Rankin.

In addition to the Warriors, the Jaguars double down against teams fighting for playoff spots, welcoming Brandon Friday. The Bulldogs also do the double dip, heading to Northwest Rankin before finishing with archrival Pearl at home.

George County gets a taste of both ends of the standings, facing Petal Friday before heading to Meridian High School (1-9, 0-5) to wrap up the regular season.

Meridian and Terry (2-8, 0-5) both are out of the postseason running.

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