At a Glance: MHSAA State Championships

Nanih Waiya running back Chris Smith. Photo by Rocky Higginbotham/Winston Co. Journal.


PEARL (15-0) vs. STARKVILLE (13-2)

Kickoff: Friday, 7 p.m.

Pirates at a Glance

Coach: John Perry

State Championships: None.

State Championship Appearances: 1985, 2016.

Players to Watch: QB Jake Smithhart; RB/DB Tylan Knight; WR Johnquarise Patterson (Mississippi State commit); WR Dylan Kelly; LB Willie Brown; RB Johnny Winston; DE Jordan Bailey.

How they got here: def. St. Martin 55-14; def. Hancock 41-3; def. Meridian 52-12.

Coach Speak: “Being there last year and losing it definitely fueled us to get to this point,” said Pearl coach John Perry. “Starkville is a traditional powerhouse. They are just as fast as we are on defense and it’s going to be a tight four quarter game I promise you that.”

Yellowjackets at a Glance

Coach: Chris Jones

State Championships: 2015, 2012, 2001, 1995, 1994, 1984.

State Championship Appearances: 2015, 2012, 2011, 2001, 1995, 1994, 1985, 1984, 1983, 1981.

Players to Watch: QB Malik Brown; RB Rodrigues Clark; RB Andrues Swanigan; WR Cameron Hines; WR Cameron Gardner; DB Natrone Brooks (Memphis commit); DE Zach Edwards.

How they got here: def. Southaven 6-0; def. Horn Lake 35-7; def. Madison Central 27-24.

Coach Speak: I feel like we matchup really well each other,” Chris Jones said. “You got to be able to run the ball and play good defense at this point and we got that. Thing with us is we are going to have to contain their playmakers in space because that is what Pearl does best.”


Buzz: Starkville is seeking its second 6A state title in the last three years, while Pearl is in the title for the second year in a row and still seeking first state title in school history. This two teams are identical. Starkville is averaging 187 yards per game rushing led by Malik Brown, Andreus Swanigan and Rodrigues Clark. Defensively, the Yellowjackets only allow 11.2 points per game led by promising defensive end Zach Edwards along with defensive back and Memphis commit Natrone Brooks. Pearl is more balanced offensively averaging 182 yards per game passing and 139 yards per game rushing led by Jake Smithhart, Johnny Winston, Mississippi State commit Johnquarise Patterson, Dylan Kelly and Tylan Knight. Defensively, Pearl only gives up just 9.5 points per game led by Jordan Bailey and Willie Brown. Pirates get job done in a close one.

Pick: Pearl 28-24



HATTIESBURG (14-0) vs. WEST POINT (14-0)

Kickoff: Saturday, 7 p.m.

Tigers at a Glance

Coach: Tony Vance

State Championships: None.

State Championship Appearances: 1998, 1995, 1992, 1989.

Players to Watch: QB Jarod Conner; RB Fabian Franklin (Mississippi State commit); RB Drexlan Allen; WR D’Andre Humbles; WR Darius Ruffin; LB Will Robinson (Southern Miss commit); DE Letrelle Johnson.

How they got here: def. South Jones 50-0; def. Stone 49-9; def. Laurel 33-22.

Coach Speak: “We’ve got our hands full with West Point. They got that two-headed monster at running backs and defensively you can’t find a weakness,” said Hattiesburg coach Tony Vance. “We got the Quick 6 motto on offense and we just got to get our guys in space and try to get in the end zone.”

Green Wave at a Glance

Coach: Chris Chambless

State Championships: 2016, 2010, 2009, 2005, 1989, 1988, 1987, 1982.

State Championship Appearances: 2016, 2010, 2009, 2005, 2002, 1989, 1988, 1987, 1984, 1982.

Players to Watch: RB Marcus Murphy (Mississippi State commit); RB Chris Calvert; QB Jake Chambless; WR/DB Jason Brownlee; DE Ladarius Glover; LB Xavier Fair; DL Terrence Cherry; DB Ryan Melton.

How they got here: def. Callaway 56-0; def. Grenada 32-13; def. Olive Branch 39-6.

Coach Speak: “It’s going to be a hard-fought game with two teams playing with a lot of passion,” said West Point coach Chris Chambless. ““We got guys that run the ball extremely hard and run with a lot of passion. These guys are willing to win and you have to have that to get this far.”


Buzz: West Point is seeking back to back 5A state championships, while Hattiesburg is seeking its first state title in school history. It’s the game a lot of people have been wanting to see. The main topic of this game will be the Hattiesburg high-potent offense against the West Point stingy defense. The tradition rich Green Wave, who has the state’s second longest winning streak at 27 games, have always been led by fierce rushing game that averages 325 yards per game led by running backs Chris Calvert and Marcus Murphy. Quarterback Jake Chambless and wide receiver Jason Brownlee gives West Point a good passing attack. West Point averages 46.1 points per game offensively. The Green Wave only allows 6.3 points per game on defense led by Ladarius Glover, Terrence Cherry and Ryan Melton. The Hattiesburg offense averages 48.2 points per game and is very balanced averaging 233 yards rushing and 197 yards passing led by Jarod Conner, Fabian Franklin, Drexlan Allen, Darius Ruffin and D’Andre Humbles. Will Robinson and Letrelle Johnson anchor the Tiger defense that allows 18.8 points per game. Green Wave repeat

Pick: West Point 31-21




Kickoff: Saturday, 3 p.m.

Hornets at a Glance

Coach: Seth Smith

State Championships: None.

State Championship Appearances: First appearance.

Players to Watch: QB Rylee Brown; RB Tony Brown; TE Brad Cumbest (Mississippi State commit); RB Ryan Evans; LB Avery White; DB Andrew Seward; DB Trenton Baldock.

How they got here: def. Lanier 63-16; def. West Lauderdale 52-6; def. South Pike 77-32; def. Poplarville 52-45.

Coach Speak: “We are like rookies walking into a veteran locking room when it comes to state championships,” Seth Smith said. “They don’t have a weakness on offense and defense. With us it starts up front with the offensive line and they got a tremendous task at hand, so they’ll be up for the challenge.”

Tigers at a Glance

Coach: Tyrone Shorter

State Championships: 2015, 2014, 2012, 2008.

State Championship Appearances: 2015, 2014, 2012, 2008, 2007.

Players to Watch: QB Armoni Clark; WR Maliek Stallings; RB/DB Jaqualyn Smith; RB/LB L.C. Clemmons; WR Rashad Eades; WR Kyziah Pruitt; LB Terry Joiner.

How they got here: def. Amory 48-26; def. Yazoo City 39-0; def. Corinth 43-13; def. Louisville 35-28.

Coach Speak: “This is their first time, but they got a great running back, tight end, good offense line. The type of offense they run is challenge in itself to prepare for just because you don’t see it often,” Tyrone Shorter said. “Armoni has done a great job at quarterback and move Maliek to receiver has helped our offense tremendously. We got to be disciplined, fast and physical in order to be successful.”


Buzz: It’s a David vs. Goliath type of game. Noxubee County is seeking third state title in the last four years, while East Central is playing for state title for the first time ever. East Central is led by a potent running game that is averaging 365 yards per game led by Tony Brown (42 rushing touchdowns), Dylan Grinsteinner, Ryan Evans and Cameron Gray. Tight end and Mississippi State commit Brad Cumbest gives the Hornest an outside threat at receiver. Offensively, East Central averages 47.5 points per game while defensively they only give up 12.6 points per game led by Avery White, Trenton Baldock and Andrew Seward. Tigers are led by a potent passing attack that averages 194 yards per game led by quarterback Armoni Clark and three big receivers in Maleik Stallings, Kyziah Pruitt and Rashad Eades. Noxubee County averages 146 yards per game rushing led by Jaqualyn Smith and L.C. Clemmons. Clemmons along with Terry Joiner anchor the defense for the Tigers that give up 22.4 points per game. Hornets rushing attack too much to handle.

Pick: East Central 28-26




Kickoff: Saturday, 11 a.m.

Jaguars at a Glance

Coach: Lance Mancuso

State Championships: None.

State Championship Appearances: First appearance.

Players to Watch: QB Lyric Hall; FB/LB Demazie Mikell; RB/DB Jafharis McKines; RB/DB Kyser Booth; WR/DB Ronald Baker; DB Malik Shorts (Southern Miss commit); DB Deandre Shorts.

How they got here: def. St. Andrew’s 79-38; def. Kemper County 64-30; def. Port Gibson 42-13; def. Hazlehurst 26-16.

Coach Speak: “Defensively we have to contain the quarterback and running backs. We got to limit their explosive plays,” Lance Mancuso said. “We got eliminate their possessions meaning we got to control the line of scrimmage, control the football and we’ve got to score when we’ve got opportunities and not waste chances to put points on the board.”

Panthers at a Glance

Coach: Robert Dobbs

State Championships: None.

State Championship Appearances: First appearance.

Players to Watch: QB Kenny Gainwell (Memphis commit); RB Cherokee Edwards; RB Devarrio Sanders; WR Dontrell Green; LB Kenderian Dixon; LB Ben Luckett; DB Kory Gainwell.

How they got here: def. Booneville 42-7; def. Water Valley 35-7; def. Houston 26-20; def. North Panola 59-26.

Coach Speak: “Wanted to establish a good ground game and we’ve had success doing it and need to do that Saturday,” Robert Dobbs said. “It’s going to be a very difficult at first with emotions and all that, but we got to execute and sometimes we’ve came out flat and we can’t do that this week.”

Buzz: Both Yazoo County and Jefferson Davis County are in the state title game for the first time ever and seeking its first state championship. It’s going to be a battle of two run-heavy teams. Panthers are averaging 297 yards per game rushing led by a dynamic trio in quarterback and Memphis commit Kenny Gainwell along with running backs Cherokee Edwards and Devarrio Sanders. Yazoo County is averaging 41.9 points per game offensively. Jaguars are averaging 352 yards per game rushing led by Demazie Mikell, Lyric Hall, Kyser Booth and Jafharis McKines. Southern Miss commit Malik Shorts, Deandre Shorts and Ronald Baker anchor a defense for Jefferson Davis County that allows 17.9 points per game. There will be points scored in this one, but the Jaguar defense makes a couple of stops and is the difference.

Pick: Jefferson Davis County 32-26



TAYLORSVILLE (14-1) vs. WINONA (11-3)

Kickoff: Friday, 3 p.m.

Tartars at a Glance

Coach: Chuck Robertson

State Championships: 2002, 1998, 1995, 1994, 1991.

State Championship Appearances: 2007, 2002, 1998, 1995, 1994, 1993, 1991, 1982, 1981.

Players to Watch: QB Ty Keyes; RB/DB Tycarius Roberts; WR/DB Perry Keyes; WR/DB Letreal Jones; WR/DB Malik Strickland; RB/LB C.J. Williams; DB Beron Keyes.

How they got here: def. Bogue Chitto 47-7; def. Perry Central 24-19; def. North Forrest 49-14; def. Collins 48-32.

Coach Speak: “The guys around him (Ty Keyes) have been playing real well and help take the pressure off him. For him being just 15 years old he makes amazing plays,” Chuck Robertson said. “Winona is just fun to watch because they play fast, hard and play the game the right way. We got a big challenge ahead of us.”

Tigers at a Glance

Coach: Joey Tompkins

State Championships: None.

State Championship Appearances: First appearance.

Players to Watch: QB JaTyler Moore; RB/DB D.J. Ringo; RB/LB Jalen Campbell; WR/DB Jay Lofton; WR/DB Chris Olton; LB Kaleb Hicks; DB Andarius Coffey.

How they got here: def. Newton 29-28; def. West Tallahatchie 62-22; def. Scott Central 22-15; def. Calhoun City 22-14.

Coach Speak: “Their freshmen quarterback looks like a senior that could play junior college ball right now,” Joey Tompkins said. “They can throw it and we’ve got problems defending the pass and we will definitely have to do a better job of that. We just got to go out and do we what we do and see what happens.”

Buzz: Taylorsville is back in the 2A state title game for the first time in 10 years and seeking first state championship since 2002, while Winona is in the state title game for the first time ever. The Tartars are led by a potent offense that is averaging 36.5 points per game that is led by freshmen quarterback Ty Keyes, who has tossed for 4,226 yards with 42 touchdowns. Taylorsville is averaging 287 yards per game passing with the top receivers being Perry Keyes, Letreal Jones and Malik Strickland. Defensively, the Tartars only give up 19.1 points per game ld by C.J. Williams and Beron Keyes. Winona is led by a rushing attack that averages 234 yards per game led by quarterback JaTyler Moore along with running backs Jalen Campbell and D.J. Ringo. The Tigers are averaging 134 yards per game passing with Jay Lofton and Chris Olton being top receivers. The Tartar passing game just too much.

Pick: Taylorsville 34-24




Kickoff: Friday, 11 a.m.

Warriors at a Glance

Coach: Ryan Keeton

State Championships: None.

State Championship Appearances: 1991.

Player to Watch: QB/DB Bryce Stanton; RB/DB Chris Smith (Louisiana-Lafayette commit); RB/LB Taemaus Glass; WR/DB Deon Hickman; LB Dalton Luke; DE Shia Moore; LB Charner Estes.

How they got here: def. East Marion 51-12; def. Stringer 42-18; def. Resurrection 36-32.

Coach Speak: “Taemaus and Chris have done what a lot of people have expected them to do and they are definitely our two biggest threats,” Ryan Keeton said. “We and Simmons are very similar. Very explosive in the run game, but on defense they are so fast and hopefully our guys can adjust to it.”

Blue Devils at a Glance

Coach: Wade Tackett

State Championships: 2016, 2015.

State Championship Appearances: 2016, 2015, 2005.

Players to Watch: QB Tyderius Gipson; RB/DB Marquez Pam; RB Demarrius Turner; TE/LB Amos Robinson; OL/DL Tyrenn Altman; OL/DE Tyus Levy; WR/DB Fred Smith.

How they got here: def. Tupelo Christian 46-0; def. Shaw 34-0; def. Okolona 20-14.

Coach Speak: “They are very good well-rounded team on both offense and defense and just play real hard,” Wade Tackett said. “Those two running backs that they have are studs. Just trying to contain them two and the quarterback is a big challenge for us.”

Buzz: Simmons is on a quest for a third straight Class 1A state championship and has the state’s longest active winning streak at 39 games. On the other hand, Nanih Waiya is in the state title game for the first time since 1991 and seeking first state title. Both teams are very similar as they lean on a heavy running game and good defense. The Warriors are averaging 285 yards per game and is led by the duo of “Thunder and Lightning” in Taemaus Glass and Louisiana-Lafayette commit Chris Smith. The Nanih Waiya defense only gives up 10.9 points per game led by Dalton Luke, Shia Moore and Charner Estes. Blue Devils are averaging 276 yards per game on the ground led by do-it-all ATH Marquez Pam, Tyderius Gipson and Demarrius Turner. The Simmons defense has only allowed 56 points all season (4 points per game) led by Amos Robinson, Tyrenn Altman and Tyus Levy. Blue Devils make it three in a row in a close one.

Pick: Hollandale Simmons 27-26