JACKSON, Mississippi — For the first time in four seasons, neither Pascagoula nor Picayune will represent the South in Class 5A in the state football finals.
Instead, a team that beat both the Panthers as well as another local team in the playoffs will play in the big game.
Laurel meets Oxford Saturday night at 7 in the Class 5A state title tilt. The Golden Tornadoes beat both East Central and Pascagoula in the playoffs on their way to the championship contest.
"We are certainly happy to be here," Laurel head coach Todd Breland said Monday. "There were a lot of really good teams in the South this season. We are fortunate to be the last one standing."
For the first time ever, all six state title games are being played in Starkville at Davis-Wade Stadium on the campus of Mississippi State University. There are three games on Friday and three more games on Saturday as the Mississippi High School Activities Association wraps up yet another football season.
The championship weekend kicks off Friday morning at 11 with the Class 1A game which pits Natchez Cathedral against St. Al. The Green Wave of NCHS beat Resurrection earlier in the season.
The Class 2A state championship game follows at 3 that afternoon, featuring Bassfield against Calhoun City. The first day of play concludes with the Class 6A game Friday night at 7 pitting South Panola against Oak Grove. Oak Grove eliminated Ocean Springs in the Class 6A South State semifinals.
On Saturday, the Class 3A games kick things off at 11 that morning as Collins faces Charleston. Then at 3 that afternoon, the Class 4A game features St. Stanislaus vs. Noxubee County.
The championship weekend wraps up with the Laurel-Oxford game for the Class 5A title at 7 Saturday night.
Despite the successful seasons by Pascagoula and Picayune as well as Wayne County and East Central and Gautier among others this year, most prep football observers in the state picked Laurel and Oxford to face off in the state championship coming into this season.
Picayune, which has won two of the past three Class 5A state titles, rallied late to knock off Oxford in last year's title tilt after the Maroon Tide beat the Golden Tornadoes in the South State finals.
"I think these are the two teams most people felt would be here when all was said and done," veteran Oxford head coach Johnnie Hill said. "And here we are."
After over a decade, the games aren't being televised by Mississippi Public Broadcasting this season. Instead, the MHSAA distributed the games out to other networks. Check local listings.
Information from: The Mississippi Press, http://www.gulflive.com
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