MAIS 5A Preview: Deep Class Is Wide Open

Lamar School running back Daulton Nelson. Photo by Chris Brooks.

Lamar School’s Mac Barnes finds himself in a very unfamiliar situation.

“I’ve never coached a team that’s won three state championships in a row, so now guys have a lot of confidence,” Barnes said. “It’s not easy to get to the state title game four years in a row and that’s my concern. We will not talk about winning four in a row.”

With the Raiders returning 11 starters, they are once again the favorite to win the MAIS Class 5A state championship. Class 5A is now most of the schools that competed in Class AAAA, Division II and Class AAA last year.

Talented quarterback Joseph Hutchinson leaves some huge shoes to fill. Will Morris and Zavier Cooper will battle for the job.

Daulton Nelson is back at running back after rushing for 815 yards with six touchdowns. Three starters are back on the offensive line as well.

Jacob Partridge returns as the only receiver with experience. Last season he caught 66 passes for 838 yards with eight touchdowns.

“The two quarterbacks we have now are more runners than passers, but both have good size and a different technique,” Barnes said. “Concern is depth at wide receiver, but I really like this team. We also have a few ninth graders that’ll see playing time.”

Two of those freshmen will be playing on the defensive line in Christian Chambers and Montahj Law.

Tim Seymour and Ben Bryan are also back on the defensive line to lead that group, while Austin Wilkinson will lead the linebacking core.

John Houston Gordy and NE Lauderdale transfer Brandrick Thomas will anchor the secondary.

“We have a lot of leadership on the side of the ball and that’s exciting,” Barnes said. “This year in 5A there’s not just two teams thinking state championship, there’s a bunch of teams thinking state championship.”

NEXT IN LINE

Heritage Academy: It’s been seven seasons since the Patriots last won a state championship (2012), but this year there are high hopes of ending that drought. Heritage returns eight starters on both offense and defense and are a serious contender to hoist the 5A state championship trophy in November. Quarterback Carter Putt returns to lead the offense after passing for 2,381 yards with 31 touchdowns last season. Putt will have a veteran offensive line in front of him led by Ole Miss commit Eli Acker along with Ethan Bumgarner and Brantley Prescott. The Patriots have their top receiver back in Jared Long. A key part of the offense this year will be a more consistent running game. Defensively the Patriots will rely on overall speed, especially in the secondary led by Long and defensive back Banks Hyde.

Simpson Academy: The Cougars have been so close the last two years before falling to Lamar in the AAAA, Division II state championship game. Simpson brings back the nucleus of its offense in running backs Caleb Garner and Michael Winstead to lead the run-heavy split back veer offense. Mason Kennedy will be the starting quarterback for the Cougars after missing all of last year with an ACL injury. The backfield is rock solid, again. Defensively, Simpson lost its entire defensive line but will lean heavily on the linebacking core to lead the front seven led by Garner. Carter Cockrell returns to lead a very experienced secondary.

Pillow Academy: The Mustangs saw their season end a year ago on a sour note, coming up short on a fourth down play. They also had to battle the injury bug all season long. Some coaches believe this is the best team Pillow has had since Tripp McCarty took over the program as head coach. The Mustangs bring back a lot of firepower on offense led by quarterback Shane Houston Stephens along with all four receivers in Jack Reichle, Jaden Simcox, Alex Lindsey and Gavin Lessley. A concern on offense is finding a running back. Defensively the Mustangs should feature a lot of speed, especially in the secondary. Linebackers Sam Harris and Seth Hollis return to lead the front seven.

Other 5A sleepers could be Magnolia Heights and Adams County Christian, the AAA champion from a year ago.

Top 5

  1. Lamar School
  2. Heritage Academy
  3. Simpson Academy
  4. Pillow Academy
  5. Magnolia Heights

GAMES TO WATCH

Sept. 6: Heritage Academy at Magnolia Heights

Sept. 27: Pillow Academy at Heritage Academy

Sept. 27: Lamar School at Simpson Academy

Oct. 11: Lamar School at Heritage Academy

Oct. 18: Magnolia Heights at Pillow Academy

Oct. 19: Simpson Academy at Lamar School

Oct. 26: Jackson Prep at Parklane Academy