I have to say that I did not expect to have this upcoming Friday off because I anticipated to have one or two area teams competing in the South State Championship. As we all know, that’s due to the amount of talent this area puts out every season.
This past year, we had seven area teams reach the playoffs, which were Oak Grove, Hattiesburg, FCAHS, Sumrall, North Forrest, Lumberton and PCS. Oak Grove was the only program to reach the second round.
Selfishly, I was kind of relieved to have the Friday after Thanksgiving off for a couple of reasons. The first is that, like everyone else in the area, I’ve been sick in bed. I’m not sure if it’s the weather change or the bug everyone has been getting – probably both. But as you can imagine, being sick and standing in 30-degree weather is a not an ideal combination. The second reason is that I’ll get to spend an extra day back home in New Orleans enjoying the Thanksgiving holiday.
Now although we won’t have area teams playing this week, our high school football coverage this season is not over yet. With Southern Miss hosting the state championship games, Pine Belt Sports will be covering all six games for a second straight year. Tell your friends that we will have live updates on Twitter, recaps, video interviews and photos available.
Given how my brain works I began to wonder when the last time was that we didn’t have an area team playing in the South State Championship. I went down that rabbit hole and scoured archives and shockingly I had to go back to 2007 to find that answer. That’s right, it’s been 15 years since a football team from Forrest and Lamar counties hasn’t made the semifinals.
Out of those 15 years, there have been at least two teams to reach the semifinals eight times and in 2015 and 2020 and we had three area teams make it. I have to point out that PCS was one of those three teams each time, and I feel the need to point out that the MAIS 6A finals are not the same week as Thanksgiving. Either way though, three area teams in the semifinals is impressive.
But that streak could have been easily longer because back in 2007, we had four area teams advance in the playoffs. Let’s recap: North Forrest, who was led by current Sumrall coach Shannon White, helped reached the third round of the Class 2A playoffs as the Eagles lost to Taylorsville 43-7. Oak Grove lost to Meridian on the road 27-20 in the second round of the 5A playoffs. FCAHS lost in the second round of the 4A playoffs to Laurel 48-28. Purvis lost to Raleigh in the second round of the 3A playoffs 43-28.
Hattiesburg lost to Ocean Springs in the first round of the 5A playoffs 31-24. Sumrall fell to Franklin County 21-3 in the 3A playoffs. Lumberton also fell to Taylorsville in the 2A playoffs 34-16.
I think that’s a testament to how good football normally is in this area. Notably, if Oak Grove makes South State in 2007, that would have made for nine consecutive years the Warriors would have accomplished that. If that was the case, then the streak for area teams would date back to at least 2002.
As soon as the high school football championships conclude, I’ll shift coverage to the high school basketball and soccer seasons. There are a few teams that I have circled on my calendar to see, not to mention the early success from the Southern Miss men’s basketball program has given fans reasons to be excited.
As always, I’ll see you guys out there and have a Happy Thanksgiving.
State Semifinals Apperances:
2021 – Oak Grove
2020 – Oak Grove, Lumberton, PCS
2019 – Oak Grove, Petal
2018 – Oak Grove
2017 – Hattiesburg
2016 – Lumberton, Petal
2015 – Lumberton, Petal, PCS
2014 – Oak Grove, Purvis
2013 – Oak Grove, FCAHS
2012 – Petal
2011 – Petal
2010 – Oak Grove, Lumberton
2009 – Oak Grove
2008 – Oak Grove