PETRO: It's playoff time...

By CAMAL PETRO,

It’s finally here – playoff time. Sure, the postseason started for some teams in the state last week, but now every classification’s playoffs are in full swing. That means teams’ seasons are going to start ending one by one.

It started two weeks ago when Purvis wrapped up its season, then Sacred Heart played its last game one week ago. PCS and Sumrall lost first-round playoff games last week to conclude its seasons, so that leaves four more teams vying for a state championship.

Hattiesburg, Lumberton and Oak Grove will host first-round games Friday night, while Petal travels to Gulfport for a rematch of the high-scoring Week 2 contest. I figured now is as good as any time to take a look at what’s ahead for our area teams.

Let’s start with Oak Grove and Petal in the 6A playoffs.

The Warriors and the Panthers could meet in the second round if both teams win their first-round games. Man, that would be a sight to see. But first, Oak Grove will have to take down No. 3 seed Harrison Central while Petal must pull off the upset over 10-1 Gulfport.

When Petal and the Admirals met in Week 2, Petal could have come home with the win in the 33-28 loss. Even with that loss, it’s given the Petal coaches and players a little confidence they can hang with the top-seeded Admirals.

Most people around the state have already written this off as an easy win for Gulfport, but Petal is playing with a lot of momentum on its side. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if Petal shocked the coast favorite. Plus, the coast 6A teams usually don’t make a long playoff run either, so history is on Petal’s side.

I fully expect Oak Grove to handle the Red Rebels Friday, which would either set up a road game to Gulfport in the second round or a home date with rival Petal. I’m so confident in a playoff run for the Warriors that I think we’re going to see a rematch with Brandon in the 6A South State Championship game.

In other 6A games, Pearl travels to Ocean Springs and Brandon hosts St. Martin. The Bulldogs should win easily, and I think they’ll beat whichever team wins from the Pearl-Ocean Springs matchup. Although, last week’s Brandon-Pearl contest showed a rematch in the second round could be entertaining between the Jackson-area rivals.

I’ve been saying it all season, but I fully expect Hattiesburg to play for another state championship. But, for laughs and giggles, let’s take a peek at the 5A bracket.

Up first, the Brookhaven Panthers, and the winner will most likely get West Jones in the second round. The Mustangs play Stone Friday night. West Jones is a team that could trip up the Tigers, but it’s so hard for any team to limit Tigers’ offense, so they’ll have to outscore Hattiesburg in order to win.

The only team I believe could do that is Picayune, and it proved it could hang when the teams met a few weeks ago. I think it’ll be a rematch between those two in the 5A South State Championship.

The 1A South bracket has a few hurdles Lumberton will have to clear. Stringer proved to be a formidable opponent when the two played a couple of weeks ago, but the good news is Stringer and Nanih Waiya are primed for a second-round meeting, so the Panthers will only have to go up against one of those teams.

On Lumberton’s side of the bracket, if it gets by Leake County (if it doesn’t then something went terribly wrong), either Noxapater or East Marion will come to Lumberton in the second round. The Panthers already destroyed East Marion in their regular-season meeting, but Noxapater would provide a tough matchup. Lumberton definitely has to earn its spot in the 1A State Championship, that’s for sure.

It’s going to be quite a ride for our area teams over the course of the next few weeks, and I’m looking forward to being there for coverage.