PETRO: Four teams alive in playoff hunt

By CAMAL PETRO,

My columns the last couple of weeks have highlighted two particular teams – Hattiesburg and Lumberton. Both were district champions and both are considered favorites entering the postseason Friday to make a trip to its respective state championship.

Now that all six classifications are in the playoffs, as 2A, 3A and 4A began a week before than the other three, we have four teams still playing. PCS and Sumrall’s runs came to an end in its first-round games last Friday, while Purvis won and Petal joins Hattiesburg and Lumberton, which starts postseason play Friday.

Let’s take a look at each team’s first-round matchup and what a possible run throughout the playoffs could look like.

Petal

The Panthers have become a mainstay in the playoffs, and this is their 10th straight trip. Thanks to a Pearl overtime win over rival Brandon, knocking the Bulldogs to No. 3 seed, Petal will host D’Iberville Friday as the No. 2 seed. The two played a first-round contest last season on the coast, as the Panthers, a No. 4 seed, defeated the Region 4-6A Champ.

I’ll take a closer look at the Warriors in the preview story, but this should be a game the Panthers win. Region 3 has always had the upper hand on its coast counterparts, and this matchup should be another example. I’ve always said I don’t make predictions, but it would be really disappointing for Petal if it couldn’t pull out this win.

The Panthers would be guaranteed a road game if they made it to the second round, because Gulfport, a No. 1 seed, would host the second-seeded Panthers, and Meridian, a No. 4 seed, would host Petal because the Wildcats didn’t play a home game in the first round.

Petal beat Gulfport in its Week 2 matchup, while it fell to Meridian three weeks ago.

Hattiesburg

The Tigers are by far the strongest team in the 5A South and I only see a couple of teams that could trip them up. If Hattiesburg can get by fourth-seeded South Jones, then it will either host West Jones (8-3) or travel to Stone.

There is no way for Hattiesburg to control the situation, but if it does get to the 5A South State title game, it will either travel to Brookhaven or host any other team. This year, if two No. 1 seeds meet in the south state game, the lower number region gets the home game. Since Brookhaven is in Region 3 and Hattiesburg is in Region 4, Ole Brook would get the home game.

Brookhaven is the biggest competition for the Tigers, so that could be a very, very tough hurdle to clear, but that matchup is not set in stone yet. That’s why they play the game. Although, Picayune and Laurel play each other in the first round, so that’ll knock out at least one dangerous team.

Purvis

How about those Tornadoes? My best friend was getting married this weekend, so I couldn’t cover any games Friday night, but that would have been the game I’d cover. I was pretty bummed I missed out as I followed along on Twitter from the rehearsal dinner.

When I went and talked with Purvis coach Perry Wheat last week, he said he liked the section of the bracket his team was in, despite being the No. 4 seed. Well, Purvis knocked off No. 1 Mendenhall, a team it lost to earlier this season, and will now travel to No. 3 Florence (8-4) Friday. If it can win Friday, it’ll almost certainly host No. 1 Poplarville in the third round.

Lumberton

In probably the strangest matchup of any postseason game, Lumberton will host a team that has to travel 200-plus miles for the game. The teams in the 1A South, and where they’re located in the team, have been a running joke for a while now, and it’s laughable that Vardaman, which is closer to the state of Tennessee, has to travel 230 miles for a game.

Lumberton, however, won’t complain about it, though. The top-seeded Panthers get a home game as they begin their trek to another 1A State Championship Game berth.

Winner of Vardaman-Lumberton will play the winner of Resurrection-French Camp, so if Lumberton wins, it’ll either host French Camp or travel to Resurrection. That would be a tough situation for the Panthers because they already beat the Eagles at home this season.