To say West Marion and Collins are familiar with each other is an understatement.
Two of the titans of Class 3A met in the South State title game last year. Collins won the game 50-28, and eventually won the State Championship the next week.
This season, the Tigers and Trojans are in the same region (8-3A) and appear to be on a collision course for another epic postseason battle. But first things first – West Marion travels to Collins on Oct. 16, in a meeting that will go a long way toward determining the region championship and which team earns the right to host a first-round playoff game.
“Whoever wins this one has the inside track to home-field advantage,” West Marion head coach Brad Duncan said. “There’s still some very tough games left for us, but if we can find our way to the No. 1 seed, that will be humongous for us.”
Both Collins and West Marion have been their usual strong selves this season, with only one loss between the two. Collins (7-1, 2-0) dropped a heartbreaker to Hattiesburg, 28-26, but has won five straight, including triumphs over Bassfield and Tylertown.
West Marion is 8-0 this season and 2-0 in region play, and has outscored its opponents on average 40.5-18.8.
“We are familiar with (West Marion), for sure,” Collins head coach Ryan Earnest said. “We beat them last year in South State and I’m sure they haven’t forgotten about that. We’re going to need to play flawless to win.”
Collins quarterback Detric Hawthorn has been a major factor in the Tigers’ success, but Earnest said they will need more than just Hawthorn against West Marion.
“We will need everyone to step up,” Earnest said. “We need everyone to play well. We need to establish the run to sustain long drives and not turn it over.”
“They frustrate you because they don’t just have that quarterback,” Duncan said. “They have so many guys that can beat you that you don’t know who to focus on. They have a couple of guys that are going to the Mississippi/Alabama All-Star Game.”
The Trojans are undefeated after eight games for the first time since 2012, and are led by do-it-all quarterback Josh Miller and versatile tailback Caleb Batie. Miller has accounted for 1,400 yards passing and a dozen touchdowns, while Batie has racked up 600 yards rushing and 13 total touchdowns.
Batie and Miller are the machine that drives the West Marion offense and will look for that to continue versus Collins.
“Those two guys just stand out on film, they are unreal,” Earnest said. “It’s almost looking at a mirror image of our own offense. We both run the spread and they have a great quarterback just like we do.”
In addition, Duncan said he expects Jack Bailey Stadium to be a factor in the game.
“That’s one of the toughest places to play in 3A, in my opinion,” Duncan said. “Last year’s South State game was unbelievable and I expect the same thing this year.”
“It’s always great playing at home,” Earnest said. “Being able to have your friends and family cheer you on is great. But we also get to be in our routine and relax and not have to worry about traveling.”
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.