JACKSON PREP (10-2) vs. MRA (11-2)
Kickoff: Saturday, 6 p.m., at Mississippi College
Jackson Prep at a Glance
Coach: Ricky Black
State Championships: 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2002, 2000, 1998, 1991, 1990, 1988, 1984, 1983, 1981, 1980, 1979, 1977, 1974, 1972, 1971.
State Championship Appearances: 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1996, 1991, 1990, 1988, 1986, 1984, 1983, 1981, 1980, 1979, 1977, 1974, 1972, 1971.
Players to Watch: QB/SS Riley Maddox; RB Matt Jones; OL/DL Peyton Dunn; OL/DE J.C. Polk; WR/DB Thaxton Berch; LB Braedon Mabry; DE Reed Kellum
How they got here: First Round Bye; def. Jackson Academy 28-14.
Coach Speak: “Seven in a row is unbelievable now we got the possibility of getting eight and that’s just unheard of. This team has overachieved with the way we started out the season and now they have taken it step up by step and since the Taylorsville and JA game this team has shown they are capable of winning a state championship,” Black said. “They are going to score points, but the one thing we have to do is make the drive the length of the field and have field position in our favor. Offensively we got to keep the ball, make first downs and keep the ball away from them and score. First game wasn’t our best game against them and if we can break the line scrimmage against a stacked box, we will have success and make big plays in the run game. We are going to need a complete game in order to win this game.”
MRA at a Glance
Coach: Herbert Davis
State Championships: 2004, 1992.
State Championship Appearances: 2018, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2010, 2008, 2006, 2004, 2003, 2002, 1997, 1992, 1985.
Players to Watch: QB Philip Short; WR/SS Joe Perkins; WR Russ Sceroler; WR Tyler Starnes; WR Justin Williams; LB Stone Blanton; LB Willie Latham
How they got here: First Round Bye; def. Oak Forest (La.) 42-13.
Coach Speak: “This is our fifth time in six years to be playing for a state championship and we just got to win it,” Davis said. “This team has had an attitude all year and they’ve taken it to another level after we had back to back losses in midseason. After the Prep game the first time the kids weren’t satisfied and want to do better and finish. Our key is to block them and not turn the ball over. We put a lot on Philip, and we expect him to make plays and we will have success. Key on defense for us is stopping their run game and play action pass and be ready to play sound football.”
Buzz: It is an all-Patriot match-up once again for the state championship in the MAIS’ highest classification. Jackson Prep is looking for revenge after being whipped 34-22 by MRA back on Oct. 18. They are playing for a historic eighth straight state championship. Jackson Prep is led by a rushing attack that averages 172.5 yards per game is anchored by running backs Matt Jones (1,308 yards rushing, 26 touchdowns, 5 receiving touchdowns) and Seth Cook. Jones has been big-time all year. Quarterback Riley Maddox leads the passing game that averages 122.2 yards per game. MRA is also a very a balanced team offensively averaging 234.5 yards passing and 116.3 rushing. Quarterback Philip Short has put up big numbers passing for 2,952 yards with 26 touchdowns. Running back A.J. Hasley and receivers Russ Sceroler, Justin Williams and Tyler Starnes need big games. MRA strong safety and Colorado commit Joe Perkins and linebacker Stone Blanton could be an x-factor. MRA offense too much in this one and end the Prep streak.
Pick: MRA 31-24
HERITAGE ACADEMY (13-0) vs. STARKVILLE ACADEMY (9=4)
Kickoff: Friday, 7 p.m., at Jackson Academy
Heritage Academy at a Glance
Coach: Sean Harrison
State Championships: 2012, 1986.
State Championship Appearances: 2012, 2005, 2003, 1999, 1994, 1986, 1972.
Players to Watch: QB Carter Putt; WR/LB Jared Long; RB K.J. Smith; OL/DE Eli Acker; OL/DL Brantley Prescott; OL/DL Ethen Bumgarner.
How they got here: First Round Bye; def. Leake Academy 35-0; def. Pillow Academy 47-14.
Coach Speak: “It’s fun to bring this game onto another stage,” Harrison said. “Most fun game I’ve coached in because you get your teams best and you get their teams best. There’s no in between. We just got to continue to be consistent on both sides of the ball and take care of the ball. The one thing is Starkville is playing really well right now and it starts with their run game and we got to tackle the running back and not allow him to break tackles and get into space”
Starkville Academy at a Glance
Coach: Chase Nicholson
State Championships: 2017, 2005, 1985, 1977, 1976, 1975, 1974.
State Championship Appearances: 2017, 2014, 2011, 2005, 1985, 1977, 1976, 1975, 1974.
Players to Watch: QB/LB Matt Miller; RB C.J. Jackson; WR Dylan Starke; WR/SS Sam Clark; WR/FS Garrett Lewis.
How they got here: def. Magnolia Heights 35-30; def. Lamar School 24-22; def. Adams Christian 20-15.
Coach Speak: “The grind. It’s working every day and trying to improve and that has what’s gotten us here. Young to start the season and had to figure some things out and we got things fixed and it’s worked out,” Nicholson said. “The goal for us is to always to get here, and a lot of people have doubted us and here we are. What better stage could you play your rival on then the state championship game on a Friday night. It’s exciting and that’s who you want. Defensively we got to eliminate the big because Heritage is a big play team and play great sound defense. Offensively we got to make big plays and keep the football in our hands and execute. Our culture has always been to run the ball and we hang our hat on that.”
Buzz: Two rivals playing for a state championship. Heritage will be seeking its first state title since 2012, while Starkville Academy is aiming for their second state title in three seasons. The Patriots have been the top-ranked team in MAIS Class 5A and the heavy favorites to get to this game, while the Volunteers have gotten hot at the right time and now found themselves in the state championship game. The Patriots on offense average 37.8 points per game, 200.2 yards passing and 145.5 yards per game rushing. Quarterback Carter Putt has thrown for 2,298 yards with 29 touchdowns, running back K.J. Smith has rushed for 1,349 yards with 21 touchdowns and the top receiver Jared Long has 837 yards receiving with 10 touchdowns. Ole Miss commit Eli Acker is one to watch on the offensive line along with Ethan Bumgarner and Brantley Prescott. Defensively the Patriots only give up 8.3 points per game. For Starkville Academy it will be about the running the ball behind running back C.J. Jackson, who is averaging around 190 yards per game rushing along with Matt Miller at quarterback. Sam Clark, Garrett Lewis and Dylan Starke are the ones to watch at receiver for the Volunteers. Starkville Academy is averaging 21.8 points per game and allowing 19.9 points per game. Patriots finish the job unbeaten.
Pick: Heritage Academy 35-24
RIVERFIELD (LA.) (12-0) vs. TRI-COUNTY ACADEMY (10-2)
Kickoff: Thursday, 7 p.m., at Jackson Academy
Riverfield (La.) at a Glance
Coach: Boyd Cole
State Championships: 1991, 1977.
State Championship Appearances: 2011, 1991, 1977.
Players to Watch: QB/SS Garrett Brakefield; QB/DB Braxton Shelton; RB Hudson Brakefield; LB Jackson Shelton; LB Bailyn Sorensen
How they got here: First Round Bye; def. Columbia Academy 38-26; def. Lee Academy 16-14.
Coach Speak: “Getting back here for the first time since 2011 and it’s been a journey. It’s been a fun run so far just hope we can keep it up,” Cole said. “We played Tri-County earlier in the year and won 50-49 and that was an exceptional great ball game and this one will be no different. We got to stop their quarterback and are operating as high as we can on offense and both teams run a lot of different formations. We got to be able run the football because that’s what we do and that’s why we are here. We just got to stop their running game.”
Tri-County Academy at a Glance
Coach: Philip Wasson
State Championships: 2012, 2011, 1985, 1984.
State Championship Appearances: 2017, 2016, 2015, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2000, 1997, 1996, 1990, 1985, 1984, 1978.
Players to Watch: QB Cade Shepherd; RB Dillon Hendrick; RB Zac Clark; WR Jojo Jones; LB Brayden Presley.
How they got here: First Round Bye; def. Brookhaven Academy 56-7; def. Wayne Academy 35-0.
Coach Speak: “This has been one of those years where we started out playing really well, but not playing the best. We thought had to outscore everyone, but the defense has really stepped up and playing well right now,” Wasson said. “We’ve been consistent about playing for four quarters, tackling and staying physical. Offensively we’ve been balanced on running the ball and if we have to throw it, we will throw it. Riverfield is a very physical team and they have four backs that run at you and can throw it when needed. We weren’t really good on defense the first time and now we are lot better and will tackle a lot better. We’re going to have to be balanced on offense to be successful.”
Buzz: This is a rematch of a game that happened back on Aug. 30 that saw Riverfield winning 50-49. It will be a battle of two heavy run teams. This is Tri-County Academy’s fourth appearance in the state championship in the last five years and are seeking first state title since 2012. Riverfield last appearance was in 2011 and lost to Tri-County 38-14. The Raiders are led by a potent offense that is averaging 44 points per game and play four running backs, but three of those have rushed for over 1,000 yards that is led by Hudson Brakefield and Nicholas Heath. Tri-County is also led by a potent rushing attack that averages 274.9 yards per game that is anchored by quarterback Cade Shepherd along with running backs Zac Clark and Dillon Hendrick. Rebels get revenge.
Pick: Tri-County Academy 35-25
GREENVILLE ST. JOSEPH (12-0) vs. INDIANOLA ACADEMY (9-4)
Kickoff: Friday, 3 p.m., at Jackson Academy
Greenville St. Joseph at a Glance
Coach: John Baker
State Championships: 2018, 2017.
State Championship Appearances: 2018, 2017.
Players to Watch: RB/LB Dillon Johnson; RB/FS Trey Benson; WR/DB Kaleb Lockett; QB Mekhi Norris; WR/SS Rhodrick Gentry
How they got here: First Round Bye; def. Central Holmes 42-27; def. Carroll Academy 20-18.
Coach Speak: “It’s been one of those seasons where everything fell into place and came together at the right time. We knew going into the Pillow game we were going to have to peak and start playing well at the right time and that’s when we started to gel,” Baker said. “Having the duo of Dillon and Trey is a dream especially at a school this small and have athletes with that caliber. We’re on a 23-game winning streak and they were the last team to beat us. They’ve beaten us three times in a row and they’re the hill we are trying to get over. They are well coached, fundmental and physical. Game plan is too put it in our playmakers hands and try to get them in space and go. They say you got to win three in five years to be considered a dynasty so that’s what we’re shooting for.”
Indianola Academy at a Glance
Coach: Tommy Nester
State Championships: 2016, 1976, 1975, 1973.
State Championship Appearances: 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 1982, 1976, 1975, 1974, 1973.
Players to Watch: QB/SS Thomas Putnam; RB/DB Leland Selby; WR/SS Woods Toler; FB/LB Ashton Powell; TE/LB Grant Coleman.
How they got here: def. Tunica Academy 35-6; def. Marshall Academy 27-12; def. Winona Christian 35-28.
Coach Speak: “We very surprised to be here and also tickled to death that we are here. Five years in a row for us to make here and it’s all about having good players and coaches being consistent,” Nester said. “Battle earlier in the year and we had a tough schedule and it prepared us for later on in the season. Kids got to playing and winning, gaining confidence and playing good football. We got four players we rely on that run the football well and that’s what we do. We can big plays in the passing game we needed. First year starting quarterback that’s a senior and has gotten better every week. As he goes, we go. St. Joe is very good football team with a lot of speed and have two SEC caliber players and that’s not all they have. We got to control the football and the clock, and we got our work cut out for us on Friday.”
Buzz: Indianola Academy has reached the state championship game five years in a row and is 1-3 in that stretch. Greenville St. Joe is seeking a three-peat and has been the heavy favorite to get to the state title game all year. It’ll be a matchup of two heavy run teams. The Colonels will lean on fullback Ashton Powell, running back Leland Selby along with quarterback Thomas Putnam. The Irish are a balanced offense that is based off its rushing attack that averages 316.9 yards per game anchored by running backs in MSU commit Dillon Johnson (1,499 yards rushing, 22 touchdowns) and Oregon commit Trey Benson (1,672 yards rushing, 23 touchdowns; 3 interceptions on defense). Quarterback Mekhi Norris (1,250 yards passing, 17 touchdowns) leads the passing game that averages 127.5 yards per game. The Irish make it three in a row.
Pick: Greenville St. Joe 31-21
MANCHESTER ACADEMY (11-0) vs. MARVELL (ARK.) (11-1)
Kickoff: Friday, 11 a.m., at Jackson Academy
Manchester Academy at a Glance
Coach: Bryan Dendy
State Championships: 1984, 1983.
State Championship Appearances: 2018, 2000, 1984, 1983, 1981.
Players to Watch: QB/FS Upton Hitt; TE Ty Kilpatrick; WR/DB Matt Carroll; OL/DL Cade Potter; WR/K Reid Bain.
How they got here: First Round Bye; def. Kemper Academy 60-0; def. Humphreys Academy 40-6.
Coach Speak: “Just blessed to be back and proud of the players and coaches with the hard work they’ve put in. Had great senior leadership all season and that’s been a key and we’ve been consistent on both sides of the ball and in special teams. Just proud of their hard and seeing it pay off,” Dendy said. “Marvell is a well-coached team with a lot of athletes, and it starts with their quarterback. He’s an exceptional player and they can be balanced. Key for us is taking care of the football and tackle in space. We’ve learned from last year, in the first few minutes of the game we were like a deer in head lights and we’ve changed up things and go out and be better composed.”
Marvell (Ark.) at a Glance
Coach: Ben Durham
State Championships: 1986.
State Championship Appearances: 1997, 1986, 1985.
Players to Watch: QB/DB Owen Bartlett; RB/LB Samuel Hall; WR/DB Jagger King; OL/DE Gage Guest
How they got here: First Round Bye; def. Delta Academy 22-20; def. Columbus Christian 34-8.
Coach Speak: “It’s just a tremendous honor for our school and community to represent the state of Arkansas in this game and it’s been a long time coming. We’ve haven’t been in this game since 1997 and looking for the opportunity to coming down to play some ball,” Durham said. “Manchester is a great opponent and they got four running backs that can run, and we got to tackle. We gave up 46 points the first time we played, and I actually thought we played well in that game defensively. We are going to have be more balanced on offense and not be predictable and keep them off balanced.”
Buzz: It’ll be a battle of two run heavy teams with Manchester Academy averaging well over 300 yards a game, while Marvell is averaging 257.3. The Mavericks ground game will led by quarterback Upton Hitt along with Parks Poe, John Riley Poe, Dylan Dendy and Ty Kilpatrick. The Eagle ground game will be anchored by quarterback Owen Bartlett along with Samuel Hall. The Mavericks loss the 8-Man state title game last year and have been on a mission this year to get to the state title game and get the job done.
Pick: Manchester Academy 40-20
BRIARFIELD (LA.) (11-1) vs. PRAIRIE VIEW (LA.) (9-3)
Kickoff: Thursday, 11 a.m., at Jackson Academy
Briarfield (La.) at a Glance
Coach: Beau Travis
State Championships: 2017.
State Championship Appearances: 2017, 2006.
Players to Watch: QB/DB T.J. Baker; WR/DB Undrea Spencer; RB/LB Crews Fortenberry; DE Carter Coullard; DE Nick Hale
How they got here: def. Tensas (La.) 42-6; def. Tallulah (La.) 56-20.
Coach Speak: “It’s great to be back here especially with a young team because we don’t have any seniors on the team. We’ve used the underdog roll all season because no one expected us to get this far,” Travis said. “Prairie View is a good team and have tons of speed. It’s the best matchup for us because its speed against speed and they are a little bigger than us up front. It should be a great game and let the chips fall where they may.”
Prairie View (La.) at a Glance
Coach: Bo Barton
State Championships: None.
State Championship Appearances: First appearance.
Players to Watch: QB Jacob Farer; RB Jaheem Brown; OL/DL Mason King; WR/DE Dre Campbell; WR/DB Skeeter Brooks
How they got here: def. Wilkinson Christian 60-26; def. Desoto (Ark.) 50-48.
Coach Speak: “It’s been a long season and we’ve worked really hard to get to this point. We started the year 7-0 and ended it on a three-game losing streak. We’ve powered through the playoffs due to getting some key players healthy,” Barton said. “Our guys have been playing in three straight semifinal games and now finally in the state championship game. We have to run between the tackles and throw the ball well. In 8-man football you got to hope for some stops and key turnovers and that’s what we are hoping for.”
Buzz: Not a lot expected these two teams making it to the state championship game as both teams went on the road and won. This two teams are in the same division in 4-1A and in the regular season matchup the Rebels were up by four at halftime over the Spartans and ended up winning the game 78-30. It’ll be speed against speed in this one, but Briarfield is averaging 263.5 yards per game rushing led by quarterback T.J. Baker along with running back Crews Fortenberry. Running back Jaheem Brown anchors the ground game for Prairie View. The Rebel ground game is the difference.
Pick: Briarfield (La.) 40-30