The top teams of Region 3-5A are set to do battle Friday night in what likely will be the de facto region championship game Between the Bricks when West Jones squares off against Laurel.
It also could be the deciding game in the annual Battle for the Belt championship quest. Laurel has already beaten South Jones and, with a win over the Mustangs, would reclaim the belt after its one-year stay in Soso.
The belt, introduced in 2013, belonged to Laurel for the first four years.
If the Mustangs win, then they would have to beat South Jones next week to claim the belt.
But more importantly, whichever team finishes first in the region would avoid a potential matchup with the state’s top-ranked team — Hattiesburg — until the South State championship game.
Friday night’s matchup will feature an ever-improving Laurel offense against a West Jones defense that has been downright nasty.
The Mustangs have not allowed a point in the last 13 quarters, including three shutouts in the first three region games.
West Jones has recorded 50 tackles for loss on the year, led by Alabama commit Byron Young’s 14 1/2 tackles for loss and 8 1/2 sacks. Damion Cunningham and Londarius McRunnells each have 5 1/2 sacks. Senior Antonie Kirk leads the defense with five interceptions.
The defense is allowing an average of five points per game. But West Jones coach Scott Pierson knows that the defense will see a challenge from Laurel that it hasn’t seen so far.
“Playing Laurel, a shutout will almost be impossible because they have playmakers and are going to make plays,” Pierson said.
The Naders are coming off a 49-6 thumping of Wingfield on the road last Thursday and are riding a three-game winning streak after starting the season 1-3.
In the past three games, the Naders’ defense has allowed an average of a touchdown per game — including a 20-0 shutout of Brookhaven on Sept. 28.
Levi Walker, a senior, leads the team with 61 tackles and had an interception return for a touchdown against South Jones. He also returns punts and kicks and is fourth on the team in scoring.
Laurel is led on offensively by running back Zias Perryman, who has scored nine touchdowns, and the return of Xavier Evans at quarterback has provided the Naders with an instant spark.