The Hattiesburg Tigers are going for history Friday night, but it’s not the ultimate goal for the team. For the second straight season, the Tigers can finish the regular season with a perfect 11-0 record, but coach Tony Vance is just worried about finishing the week 1-0.
“We just need to go 1-0 this week and we’ll add them up at the end of the season,” he said. “It will be a special deal to finish two consecutive seasons undefeated. That’s not the ultimate goal, but we’re not going to overlook the fact that it’s a unique deal.”
After an emotional win two weeks ago against Picayune, Hattiesburg traveled to Long Beach and played one of its most complete games of the season. It took down the Bearcats 60-3 in an all-around dominant performance with 628 yards of total offense.
Three different players recorded a passing attempt, 11 players carried the ball to total 30 rushing attempts and six different receivers snagged a pass. Senior Jairus McFarland highlighted the stat sheet by recording 134 receiving yards and three touchdowns on four receptions, but Vance was happy to get more junior varsity players game action.
“We went out and took care of business and played how we were supposed to play,” Vance said. “We were able to pull out some of our starters early and play some of our young guys. This time of the year, that’s crucial to building toward the future and maintaining your program.”
The winning ways should continue Friday night when the Tigers (10-0, 6-0 in Region 4-5A) entertain West Harrison (2-8, 0-6). The Hurricanes haven’t won since Week 4 against Pass Christian and their only other win came in the season opener to Bay High.
West Harrison is a run-first team. It has 401 rushing attempts compared to only 79 passing attempts this season, and it averages almost exactly 200 yards on the ground a game compared to 62 yards through the air. The offense can put up points, though, scoring at least 24 points in the last two games, but Picayune and South Jones held the Hurricanes to single digits.
“They’re a lot like PRC and Picayune; they’re going to run it a lot more than they throw it,” Vance said. “They’ll try to get first downs and move the ball down the field. They’ll try to keep your offense off the field, but they’re going to take some shots in the passing game more than Picayune and more than PRC as well. They have a few athletes at the skill positions, and we have to make sure we don’t fall asleep.”
Senior Joseph Miller leads the West Harrison offense with 795 rushing yards and six touchdowns on 125 carries this season, and junior Llanes Dickerson is second with 651 yards and seven scores on 129 attempts.
Defensively, the Hurricanes haven’t been able to slow down many teams, especially lately. They’ve allowed at least 36 points in every region game, and all but Long Beach has put up at least 40 points.
“Defensively, they’re very aggressive,” Vance said. “Their secondary guys are rangy, the linebackers are aggressive and fly to the football, and the defensive linemen, same thing. They’ll play a lot more of man coverage and we expect them to blitz a lot to try and put pressure on us.”