Starkville: The Yellowjackets fell short to Pearl in the 6A state title game last year and head into 2018 as the clear-cut favorite to make another trip to the state championship game and win it.
Starkville has five starters back on offense but will have Luke Altmyer as the full-time starter at quarterback after moving last year’s QB Malik Brown to wide receiver. Running back Rodrigues Clark returns after rushing for 1,705 yards with 17 touchdowns to lead a potent rushing attack along with K.J. Lawrence. Rufus Harvey is the top receiver returning for Starkville.
Defensively is where Starkville is the strongest. The Jackets return seven starters, including its two top sack leaders back in defensive end Jalil Clemons and linebacker Zach Edwards (both had 11 sacks each last year). Defensive tackle Jaylan Ware is one to keep an eye on as well.
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Tupelo: The key in 2018 for the Golden Wave is to stay healthy. Tupelo had an early exit in the first round of the playoffs last year but will have enough offensive firepower to have a bounce back year in 2018. Quarterback Stephon McGlaun is back after throwing for 1,630 yards with 12 touchdowns and also rushing for 811 yards with nine touchdowns. Running back Jaquerrious Williams returns to anchor a potent running game with McGlaun and the Wave’s top two receiver are back in Jordan Jernigan and Peyton Puckett. Defensively linebacker Keaton Cager and defensive lineman Jacquess White return to anchor a young but fast defensive unit for the Wave.
Meridian: The Wildcats started the 2017 campaign 2-6 but ended the season 7-7 and in the Class 6A South State title game. Quarterback Tevarrius Adams is back after tossing for 2,701 yards with 22 touchdowns and also rushing for 988 yards with 10 touchdowns to lead the offense along with top wide out Kendrick Brown. Rodriguez Mosley returns at running back after suffering a midseason injury last year. Auburn commit and defensive end Jamond Gordon, along with linebacker Xavier Curry, will anchor a defense that returns eight starters. Antonio Siliman, Kaderrius Smith and Jalen Jennings will anchor the secondary.
Horn Lake: The Eagles were a big surprise last season, reaching the second round of the Class 6A playoffs. With a veteran group back, they are aiming to make a deeper run in 2018. Horn Lake returns quarterback Raydarious Jones who tossed for 923 yards with four touchdowns while rushing for 842 yards with 12 touchdowns. The big key for Horn Lake is replacing Tyler Grim at running back. Octavius Williams and Jakivuan Brown will be the top wideouts. Defense is where the Eagles lean a lot on early with eight starters back and most are in the front seven led by linebacker Nakobe Dean (147 tackles in 2017). Defensive back Tony Washington returns to anchor the secondary after recording six interceptions last season.
Warren Central: The Vikings have reached the second round of the Class 6A playoffs each of the last three years and are aiming to get over the hump in 2018. Warren Central have six starters back on offense but will be breaking in a new quarterback for the third year in a row. The top two running backs return in Jerrious Stovall and Corey Wilson, Jr. Three of the offensive lineman are returning including Reed Buys. Buys has a chance to be among the state’s top linemen. the Vikings also have six starters back on a defense that’ll be led by a veteran front seven in defensive linemen Tyrel Smith and Vertez Shorter along with linebacker Malik Sims.
Madison Central: Never count out the Jaguars. Madison Central is coming off back-to-back trips to the Class 6A North State Championship game but must replace a lot of playmakers in 2018. Jimmy Holiday returns at quarterback after tossing for 969 yards with 12 touchdowns and rushing for 710 yards with 12 scores. Myles Hopson will be the top target for Holiday at wide receiver. Replacing Cam White at running back will be something to watch. The Jaguars must replace a lot in the front seven, but has Peyton Rea, Tyrese Swan and Zachary Causey back to lead that group. Shacobia Luckett (five interceptions in 2017) is back to anchor the secondary.
Brandon: The Bulldogs return 14 starters and will look to bounce back in 2018 after a 2017 season that featured inconsistency at times. Will Rogers returns at quarterback to lead the offense after tossing for 2,476 yards with 18 touchdowns. Wide receiver Jonathan Mingo had 775 receiving yards with 6 touchdowns. He’s one of the best in the state. Greenwood transfer Jay Stanley will be the anchor of the secondary at strong safety along with Tyler Proctor, while Dakara Shoto and Zihenryon Perry return at linebacker to lead the front seven. Shoto is one of the state’s most underrated players and is primed for a big year.
Oak Grove: The Warriors have missed the playoffs each of the last two seasons and are eager to end that drought. Georgia commit John Rhys Plumlee returns at quarterback after throwing for 1,759 yards with 14 touchdowns and also rushed for 599 yards with eight touchdowns. Kevin Barnett (989 yards receiving, 7 touchdowns) returns as the top wide out for Oak Grove. Mississippi State commit and defensive end Jack Harris (101 tackles, 12 sacks) returns to anchor the front seven. Free safety Jarius Reimonenq will back to anchor the secondary after recording 55 tackles and five interceptions last year.
Northwest Rankin: The Cougars have a lot of firepower returning, especially on offense, to make a playoff run and be a factor in the rugged region 2-6A. Jamari Jones is back at quarterback after passing for 1,535 yards with 14 touchdowns. His top three targets are back to lead the offense. Dee Baker returns at running back after rushing for 788 yards with 10 touchdowns. His speed can be a game-changer for the Cougars. Dandy Dozen wideout Jarrian Jones (641 yards receiving, 8 touchdowns in 2017) and Montel Gladney (368 yards, 3 touchdowns) are back at receiver. Linebacker Harrison Tharpe (85 tackles in 2017) and Jackson Prep transfer Hayden Hill (127 tackles last year) will lead the front seven on defense, while Jaeden Webb (75 tackles, 4 interceptions last year) will lead the secondary.
Petal: Never count out Petal even if the Panthers have to replace a lot on offense. Petal will have a quarterback battle heading into the season with Decarlos Nicholson and Jeremiah Robinson competing for the job. Whoever comes up short will fill one of the wide receiver positions. With only four starters back on offense the strength will be at running back with three backs returning that all saw playing time last year in Micah McGowan, Semaj Silas and J’lin Jones. Defense is where Petal will have the most experience back with six starters returning led by linebackers Kobe Windham and Zy Magee, along with defensive lineman Michael Windham.
Hancock: The Hawks were the biggest surprise in 2017 after reaching the second round of the Class 6A playoffs under first year head coach Neil Lollar and have hopes to get back in 2018. Caleb Garcia is back at quarterback after throwing for 2,001 yards with 16 touchdowns. Running back Blake Comeaux (743 yards rushing, 12 touchdowns) returns along with receiver Brooks Rayburn (652 yards receiving, 10 touchdowns) to lead the offense. Linebacker Trenton Ladner (176 tackles) is back to anchor the defense.
- Horn Lake
- Northwest Rankin
- Madison Central
- Oak Grove
- Warren Central
GAMES TO WATCH
Aug. 16: Clinton at South Panola
Aug. 17: Tupelo at Meridian
Aug. 17: Madison Central at Brandon
Aug. 17: Oxford vs. Warren Central (at Vicksburg)
Aug. 24: Pearl at Warren Central
Sept. 7: Brandon at Tupelo
Sept. 7: Madison Central at Pearl
Sept. 14: Northwest Rankin at Brandon
Sept. 28: Pearl at Meridian
Sept. 28: Starkville at Northwest Rankin
Oct. 5: Gulfport at Hancock
Oct. 5: Meridian at Oak Grove
Oct. 12: Starkville at Madison Central
Oct. 19: Brandon at Oak Grove
Oct. 26: Horn Lake at Tupelo
Oct. 26: Warren Central at Starkville
Oct. 26: Northwest Rankin at Madison Central
Nov. 2: Brandon at Pearl