Petal, Jim Hill want to earn first region win Friday

By CAMAL PETRO,

The Petal Panthers are in trouble and their backs are against the wall. However, sitting at 1-6 overall and 0-3 in Region 3-6A, the Panthers still have a chance to run the table and make the playoffs.

They’ve played the three toughest teams in the region already in Pearl, Oak Grove and Brandon, and those are the teams that’ll most likely get three of the four playoff spots. That leaves five more teams, including Petal, battling it out for the fourth spot.

It all starts this week against Jim Hill (1-7,0-3), which has a nearly identical record as Petal. After that, it’ll travel to Meridian before finishing the season with two straight home games against George County and Terry.

All four are winnable, but Petal coach Marcus Boyles doesn’t want to look ahead.

“It’s still week-by-week, but obviously we’re 0-3,” he said. “There used to be a couple of games on the schedule you could always count on wins, but when you’re 0-3 in the region, I don’t know that there’s anybody on the schedule like that.”

Jim Hill used to be, and still is for most teams, a game on the schedule that could be counted as a win. The Tigers have finished 0-7 in region play the last five seasons, and they’re currently on a 39-game losing streak in region play.

“We’re 1-6,” Boyles said. “I hope we don’t overlook anybody, so that’s what we’ll talk to them about. We’re 1-6 and 0-3, we’re not good enough to overlook anybody right now.”

Despite the record, the Panthers have been in most of their games. They played Oak Grove to the wire and they weren’t too far behind at the half against Pearl and Brandon. The Hattiesburg and Gulfport games were decently close, too, so it’s not like Petal is getting blown out every week.

The same issues keep rearing its ugly head, though.

“We played really well in the first half, but in the second half we missed opportunities to get off the field on defense and extend drives on offense,” Boyles said of last week’s 38-21 loss to Brandon. “It has kind of been the storyline of our season. (Brandon receiver Jonathan Mingo) made a couple of big plays in the second half that put the game out of reach.”

Even though Jim Hill has just one more loss than Petal, most of its games haven’t been close. The Tigers have been shutout by Forest Hill, Murrah and Terry, and they’ve been blown out by Meridian, Canton and Provine.

Jim Hill’s lone win came against Wingfield, and it lost a high-scoring game with George County 46-34. The Rebels aren’t known for their offense either.

The Tigers are a balanced team, but the statistics don’t jump off the page.

“They’re a mix of run and pass,” Boyles said. “They have some good-looking athletes and they come out playing really hard at the beginning of the game. If you get ahead of them, you can control the game.” 

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