PETRO: Friday is going to be wild at D.I. Patrick StadiumBy CAMAL PETRO,
I call Hattiesburg coach Tony Vance every week on Monday afternoons, and I meant to ask him a certain question off the record when our interview was done. I forgot, and that’s my mistake.
Well Tony, which would you rather, play rival Laurel at home or travel to face Brookhaven? Obviously, we now know the matchup is Laurel at D.I. Patrick Stadium, but it was an interesting thought to which would be a better option. Most teams want to play at home, and I’m not saying a road game at Brookhaven would have been easier than a home with Laurel, but playoff games with the Golden Tornadoes haven’t been kind to the Tigers.
I’m the type of person that believes every season is different. It doesn’t matter to me that Laurel beat Hattiesburg the last two postseasons. That’s over and done with, but I’m sure it’s in the back of everyone’s mind. There might be a mental hurdle for both teams, but those mental blocks will disappear when the two teams settled into the game Friday night.
My general thought was, sure, Hattiesburg wants to host a south state title game, but since the game is against Laurel, it almost brings an uncertain element to the matchup. The cliché of “throwing the records out” when these two teams play each other absolutely applies in this case. It doesn’t matter if one team is down and the other team is elite, either squad could win when Hattiesburg and Laurel step on the same field. As it turns out, both teams are playing its best football right now.
The 13-0 Hattiesburg Tigers have really only played two close games this season, a four-point win over Picayune and a six-point win over – you guessed – Laurel. In the Battle of the Little Brown Jug, Hattiesburg needed an interception in the end zone from Dexter Jordan with no time left to seal the win. That was a Week 2 matchup, and Laurel has definitely gotten better since then. Hattiesburg has, too, though.
Laurel is currently riding a five-game winning streak since losing to West Jones in mid-October, and it took out two of 5A’s better teams in the playoffs (Picayune and Brookhaven). You could hear a collective “Thank you” in Petal from Hattiesburg fans directed towards Laurel when the Golden Tornadoes took down Picayune.
Then, like I said earlier, Hattiesburg fans had a dilemma: Root for Laurel to beat Brookhaven and get a home game, or hope Ole Brook can win so the Tigers wouldn’t face their rival? I couldn’t decide which I thought would be a better option for Hattiesburg, but I’m pretty happy I don’t have to drive to Brookhaven to cover the game.
D.I. Patrick Stadium is going to be rocking Friday night. I even had somebody ask me if they should move the game to Southern Miss’ M.M. Roberts Stadium instead. No way Vance would opt out of a true home game, but I bet there would be more fans there than the last Southern Miss home game.
There’s one thing for sure, every person associated with Hattiesburg is very confident. They wouldn’t shy away from a playoff game against Laurel, and they darn sure wouldn’t admit it if they didn’t want to play them. This will be my third Hattiesburg-Laurel game to cover, and I’m willing to bet this matchup will be the most intense one.
We couldn’t have asked for a better storyline. Hattiesburg. Laurel. South State Championship.
Friday night is going to be wild, that’s for sure.