The Pine Belt football season is just over a month away. Every year this area is treated to some of the state’s most exciting games. The 2021 season should stay on par with that, especially with the recent reclassification giving several districts newer and tougher competition.
Purvis vs. Lumberton – Aug. 27
This is a really interesting area matchup between 4A Purvis and 1A’s reigning state champions Lumberton.
For Lumberton, this is the first of four tough non-district matchups that the Panthers have this season, which includes 4A Lawrence County, Wesson, which finished 8-3 last year, and 4A state runner up Poplarville. Purvis will be a good test for Lumberton, which returns multiple starters from its state championship team even without stud running back Robert Henry.
For Purvis, which started last year 4-0 but was derailed by COVID-19, led to the Tornados finishing 6-4. Purvis brings back several starters but lost starting quarterback Hunter Robinson and talented two-way player Ty Badon.
This game will be a great test for both programs to see where they stand.
Hattiesburg at Laurel Nov. 5
It’s a no-brainer to put this matchup on the list, but this year’s game is much different. These two classic rivals are now in the same district, which just raises the stakes and fuels the fire for this game.
Both teams lost a good bit of talent from last season, but as we have seen, both Hattiesburg and Laurel always improve as the season goes on and always put themselves in playoff contention.
Hattiesburg was 3-3 facing elimination and won four straight games to make the playoffs. The Tigers were three points short of making the South State championship. Laurel started the year 0-3 and won out to reach the second round of the playoffs.
This year these two rivals play each other in the regular-season finale, and this could very well be the game that decides who gets in the playoffs and who doesn’t.
Sumrall at Columbia Oct. 1
Sumrall had a strange year last season, but the talent shined as the Bobcats were two minutes away from making the South State Championship game. The Bobcats bring in some new talent and have a very experienced corps of players that could very well see them make a run in the postseason.
Columbia is a new addition to 4A Region 7, which makes this region that much tougher. The Wildcats bring back much of their talent from a team that won 10 games last year and was a touchdown away from a 3A state championship appearance.
Sumrall opens region play against Columbia, so this will be a true test for the Bobcats to see if they finally put it all together.
Oak Grove at Brandon Oct. 22
Brandon was the only team that challenged Oak Grove in the regular season as the Warriors came out with a 24-22 win.
The Warriors and Bulldogs are entering a new chapter as Brandon hired Sam Williams to lead the program. Williams is a young and up-and-coming coach that led Ridgeland to a 10-3 season and a South State championship appearance. Prior to that, Williams led Pelahatchie to three straight playoff appearances and finished 27-11.
Both Brandon and Oak Grove return the bulk of their teams from last year, so this game should be pivotal in deciding the competitive 6A Region 3 that now features Meridian, Petal, Terry, Pearl, Northwest Rankin and Warren Central.
Lumberton vs. Taylorsville Oct. 15
The reigning 1A state champs and 2A state champs will collide as region foes this year. What’s not to like about that? These two teams last year combined for a 24-2 record (each had one loss).
Taylorsville is now without star quarterback Ty Keyes, who graduated. Likewise, Lumberton is without stud running back Robert Henry. However, both these teams bring back loads of talent.
At the same time, both teams are without the head coaches that were key in leading the two programs as Taylorsville’s Mitch Evans took the job at Seminary while Lumberton’s Zach Jones took the job at Magee.
Both the Tartars and Panthers return the bulk of their starting defenses, and several skill players that have been waiting for their turns to be the main sources of production on the offensive side of the ball.
This game will likely decide who comes out on top for the region title, but it’s very likely that these two teams would meet