• John Macon Gillespie

GoW: Through The Air

Though Picayune(6-0, 2-0) has put up a bunch of points this season - including 56 points or more in three games and a 43 points per game average - it hasn’t been due to the passing game. However, their opponent this week, Hattiesburg(5-2, 2-0), has been one of the most state’s most balanced offenses averaging 264 yards through the air and 257 yards on the ground, per game.

However, in this match-up the team with more passing yardage is likely to be the team who comes out on the losing end. In fact, in the two games that Julian Conner amassed has 300-plus yards through the air, the Tigers lost. Hattiesburg’s highest offensive output came last week against Long Beach when they scored 63 points, despite just 85 passing yards from Conner.

Meanwhile, the Maroon Tide haven’t even hardly fooled around putting the ball in the air. They average just under 50 passing yards per game and have only attempted 28 passes this season. Although, just 13 completions have netted them 296 yards this season, good for 22.8 yards per reception.

All in all this season, Conner has totaled 1,751 yards, 20 touchdowns and just three interceptions. Additionally, he averages 250 yards through the air per game. On the other side, Skylar Bowman brings experience and leadership to Picayune. He has tallied 294 yards and three scores passing, with a long of 70 yards and 46-yard completion, as well.

While Julian Conner is second for Hattiesburg with five rushing scores and adds great presence with his feet, Bowman does not. That is an angle that could also factor into the passing equation this week. If Picayune were to fall behind, that could the Tigers get to pin their ears back and rush him. That, however, would not be a wise strategy to implore against Conner Hattiesburg falls behind.

Jordan Murphy, D’Andre Humbles and Shakeenen West will also greatly impact this situation on Friday night. The trio of talented receivers has combined to catch 73 passes for 1,419 yards and 15 touchdowns. For perspective Hattiesburg’s team totals in those respective categories are 103 receptions, 1,853 yards and 20 scores. Murphy leads the team in all three categories with 36 catches for 776 yards and 10 touchdown receptions.

Expect Picayune to maintain the status quo and run the ball with great frequency in this contest. Do not doubt, though, their ability to make a big play or two in the passing game. After all, an effective running game brings defenders to the box.

For Hattiesburg, the key is balance. When there is nearly equal balance between rushing and passing yardage at the end of the game for the Tigers, there is usually a favorable result. Expect them to run to help the pass and vice-versa. They will need splash plays, but not too many of them. Picayune’s offense could punish the talented Tiger defense is they are on the field the whole game.

**Photo by Mark Magee.

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