(PHOTO: Tupelo athlete Quinn Tiggs by Thomas Wells / Daily Journal) Here is a late edition of picks for the semifinal playoff games. Plenty of great games to see but I’ll be in Oxford to see them face off against Callaway in a game that could feature the most talent on any field tonight.
Nov 29 Playoff Matchups
South Panola (13-1) at Tupelo (12-1)
The numbers that Tupelo’s defense has put up this year catch your attention. They’re allowing just over 10 points per game, tops in 6A by a fairly wide margin. Tupelo has lost 12 straight to South Panola, but were more than competitive in a 14-8 loss in Batesville earlier this season. Overall, the Golden Wave is 7-20 vs South Panola with their last win coming in 2001. The Tigers are chasing their ninth state championship since 2001. Junior running back Darrell Henderson needs just 34 yards to top the 2,000-yard rushing mark. He rushed for 229 yards in the earlier game against Tupelo. Senior quarterback Rip Kirk has thrown 15 touchdowns and has passed for 1,777 yards. Tupelo has made huge strides this year but every time I think a team is ready to challenge South Panola, it usually ends in a convincing Tiger win.
Meridian (10-3) at Oak Grove (12-1)
It’s no surprise two region 3 teams are meeting for a trip to Jackson, but a month ago Meridian looked like the fourth best team in the region. But after a 5-3 start, five straight wins now have them in position to reach their third title game in six years. They’ve scored at least 30 points in all five of those wins, including a 30-28 win over Brandon last week. Junior quarterback J’Mar Smith passed for 252 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the win. Oak Grove was impressive in a 38-28 win over Petal last week. Senior quarterback Kirk McCarty passed for 234 yards and three scores with no picks. Jordan Mitchell had his third 100-yard receiving game of the year, finishing with four receptions for 106 yards and a touchdown.
Callaway (14-0) at Oxford (13-0)
This matchup could feature as much on-field talent as any game in the state Friday night. Callaway’s four Ole Miss commits have a chance to lead Callaway to their first title game appearance since 1984. They improved to 14-0 with a dominating 51-7 win over Clarksdale last week. Carlos Ransburgh rushed for 148 yards and Dayall Harris had 113 receiving yards in the win. Oxford was equally impressive in their 39-21 win over Pearl. Sophomore Jack Abraham topped 300 yards passing for the third time in four games, finishing with 315 yards and four touchdowns. Oxford is looking for their first trip to the championship game in ten years.
Picayune (10-2) at Laurel (12-1)
It’s difficult to pick against Picayune, who captured the 5A title two years ago. This year’s Maroon Tide has scored 560 total points, the most of any 5A team. As a team, Picayune has rushed for 4,145 yards led by Preston Dedeaux’s 1,701 yards. Laurel’s only loss came against Wayne County four weeks ago, but the Tornadoes have won four straight since that defeat. Sophomore Keon Howard has thrown for 2,594 yards and 23 scores.
Lafayette (9-5) at Cleveland (9-5)
Lafayette has gone on an improbable playoff run based on the first half of their season, but it shouldn’t come as a shock for a program with two state championships and three appearances in the North State finals in the last four years. The Commodores have made the playoffs each of the last 13 seasons. Cleveland picked off two passes and forced a fumble to get passed Rosa Fort 22-17 last week. Junior Anadonte Maxie leads the offense with 1,225 rushing yards.
Quitman (9-4) at Forrest County (11-2)
Forrest Couty entered the year as a 4A favorite and played like it last week in a 49-42 win over previous unbeaten St. Stanislaus. Senior Carter Hankins completed 18-23 passes for 364 yards in the win. Quitman was also a 4A favorite in the preseason but dropped their first four games. But those four games came against top talent in Meridian, Laurel, Wayne County and Taylorsville, preparing the Panthers for nine straight wins. Included in that win streak was a 35-32 win over Forrest County. Senior Toyell ball is one of the state’s leaders with six interceptions.
Louisville (14-0) at Charleston (12-1)
Louisville’s 14-0 season has faced little opposition with every win by double digits including a 43 point winning margin in three playoff games. Charleston does have the tradition and depth of talent to compete. They also had similar results against common opponents in Water Valley and Aberdeen. Senior Calwaun Street has rushed for 1,243 yards and 15 touchdowns to lead the Tiger offense.
Hazlehurst (13-1) at Wilkinson County (11-3)
The defending 3A champs are motivated by a potential third straight trip to the state championship game, and made a quality Tylertown team look ordinary last week in a 34-12 win. Wilkinson County features LSU commit Devin Voorhies. Recruited as an athlete, Voorhies has been a show at quarterback for the Wildcats with 2,112 passing yards and 1,788 rushing yards. He’s accounted for 30 touchdowns.
Calhoun City (10-3) at Baldwyn (11-3)
Baldwyn made their 13th straight trip to the playoffs this year, searching for their first state title since 2008. Senior quarterback Corbin Scott has enjoyed a great year with 25 touchdown passes, but overall this is a relatively young Bearcat team. Calhoun City hasn’t won a state title since 1989, dropping all five of their championship game appearances since then. Junior Chakel Gates has thrown for more than 1,600 yards and 15 touchdowns. They have cruised through three playoff opponents, winning by a combined score of 112-20.
East Marion (12-2) at Bassfield (13-1)
Bassfield and East Marion met late in the regular season in a game that looked great on paper, only to see Bassfield come away with a 48-6 win. Bassfield has outscored opponents 612-149 and is unbeaten against MHSAA opponents. East Marion gets a second shot at Yellowjackets following a great season. The Eagles are in their eighth straight playoffs and have been in the postseason in 12 of the last 13 seasons. Junior Johnathan Abram has thrown 17 touchdowns to just five interceptions.
Smithville (10-3) at St. Aloysius (9-4)
St. Aloysius has knocked off back-to-back favorites in Coffeeville and Hamilton, winning by a combined four points. Barrett Teller powered last week’s win with 141 rushing yards on just 11 carries. Smithville has knocked off favorites in Shaw and Broad Street the last two weeks.
French Camp (9-5) at Stringer (12-1)
These two teams met last season in the championship with Stringer earning the title. Tevin Moore provided the offense in that win and has been even better this season with 2,248 yards and 29 touchdowns. French Camp quarterback Jesse Hoskett is a solid college prospect after throwing for 1,986 yards and 23 touchdowns. He’s also rushed for 445 yards and nine scores.