Gulfport and Ocean Springs are on the Gulf, along U.S. 90, much further south than the traditional state powers, which hailed from the Jackson suburbs and the likes of Brandon and Tupelo. Now, the 6A powers seem concentrated near the Gulf Bay, just south of I-10 -- which runs from Jacksonville, Fla., to Houston, Texas. Gulfport has now won two titles in a row, and Ocean Springs girls finally delivered a breakthrough season.
It wasn't long ago that soccer in the stretch of I-10 just west of Tallahasee, Fla., to New Orleans, La., was a virtual wasteland. Sure some teams would emerge with gaudy records only to be quickly humbled come playoff time when those squads had to play programs from more established soccer areas.
Now, the entire I-10 is becoming a bit of a hotbed.
Three Jacksonville-area teams are ranked in the Florida girls Top 10 this week. Leon (Tallahasee, Fla.) is up to No. 3 in the Florida boys rankings, and Niceville's boys and girls teams are regionally ranked. Even in the small sliver of Alabama through which I-10 runs, Daphne, Fairhope and Spanish Fork have become state title contenders in that spring-playing state. Once I-10 runs into Mississippi, it's not long before Ocean Springs and Gulfport appear. After exiting Mississippi, I-10 heads toward New Orleans, where longtime FAB 50 Top 25 boys power New Orleans Jesuit hails. I-10 makes a northward turn and ultimately runs right into the Houston beltway, and currently a combined 10 Houston-area boys and girls teams are in the winter FAB 50.
There's already an I-10 girls showcase that caters to the Texas programs in early January, and an I-10/I-20 boys event that features many of the top Louisiana and Mississippi tems. But it seems the time might be right for a more significant, centrally located, I-10 competition that could pull regionally and nationally ranked boys and girls teams from Florida to Texas.
Now, on with the rankings.
CLICK BELOW FOR THE WINTER HIGH SCHOOL STATE, REGIONAL RANKINGS