MHSAA 5A Preview: West Point Eyes Four In A Row

Will the dynasty continue?

Can they make it four in a row? We’ll have to wait and see but West Point has reached a point where expectations are always to get back to the state championship game and win it in December.

“Last year nobody expected us to have the year like we did,” said West Point coach Chris Chambless. “A lot of people are expecting us not to do much this year and that just motivates the guys.”

The rushing attack is always dominant and averaged 272.3 yards per game last year. Brandon Harris rushed for 1,225 of those yards with 20 touchdowns last year and will also see time at quarterback along with newcomer Gray Berry. Dantariyus Cannon and Jimothy Mays also return at running back to help lead the run game.

“Brandon is the face of our program and is the natural leader of the team,” Chambliss said. “We have other guys back that’ll be significant for us and can do special things for us on offense.”

Defensively the Green Wave will lean heavily on linebackers Tyron Orr and Keon Cunningham along with defensive end Donta Smith. The defense is young but talented.

“One thing about our defense is our guys love to step up and make plays in big moments,” Chambless said. “We will improve each game and one thing is for sure. Expect 5A North to be a physical brand of football this year.”

NEXT IN LINE

Holmes County Central: The Jaguars were very successful in year one under Marcus Rogers, winning 11 games and claiming the Region 2-5A title. They also reached the second round of the Class 5A playoffs. Justin Smith returns at quarterback for Holmes County after passing for 1,730 yards with 18 touchdowns while also rushing for 676 yards with three scores last year to lead the offense. The Jaguars must replace two 1,000-yard backs. Reko Walden will step in at running back with Earnest Wade and promising junior Cory Ellington stepping in at receiver. Three-star defensive tackle Montra Edwards (107 tackles, 13 sacks in 2018) returns to help anchor the defense for Holmes County. Edwards is one of the better defensive linemen in this state. Strong safety Jodie Williams, who led the team last year with 138 tackles, is also back. Jedrus Watts led all of 5A in sacks with 14. Khamauri Rogers is back at defensive back to help lead the secondary.

Lafayette: Lafeyette enjoyed a successful 2018 campaign and is in a great position to make another deep playoff run in 2019. Dual-threat quarterback Randy Anderson is back to after throwing for 1,319 yards with nine touchdowns. Anderson also rushed for 1,508 yards with 15 touchdowns. The entire offensive line is returning but expect to see some new faces in the backfield with Xavion Stokes and Tyrus Williams moving into larger roles. Lafayette will have the entire defensive line back led by Keeton Hunter-McIntosh and Tavion Prather. That should be the strength of the defense and will be leaned on heavily early on. The linebacking core and secondary will be inexperienced but very athletic.

Picayune: Picayune returns six starters on offense and seven on defense off a 2018 team that reached the 5A South State championship game and is eager to make more noise in 2019. The Maroon Tide has as good a shot at a 5A title as anyone in the state. Jakail Myers returns at quarterback after throwing for 405 yards with four touchdowns. He ran for another 13 touchdowns to lead an offense that always features the running game. Kade Turnage and Cameron Thomas are expected to fill the shoes of Jortin Raine who rushed for 2,898 last season. Seniors Timothy Mickle and Deonta Reed should be one of the state’s best offensive tackle duos. Elijah Jenkins returns at defensive end along with Lawrence Hopkins at linebacker to lead the front seven on defense. The entire secondary is back for the Maroon Tide.

West Jones: West Jones comes off the best season in school history after going 12-3 and reaching the Class 5A State Championship game. West Jones does return enough firepower on offense to make a run in Region 3-5A and in the playoffs. Quarterback Alan Follis returns after throwing for 1,864 yards with 15 touchdowns. Jasper Jones and Michael Neal are back at running back to lead the rushing attack for the Mustangs. Tajrick Randolph (four receiving touchdowns) is the top returning wide receiver. Defense is where West Jones lost major talent with just three starters returning, all linebackers. Londarrius McRunnels (106 tackles), Kendorean Russell (94 tackles) and Colin Maggard (61 tackles) return to anchor the defense. Defensive tackle Detorurean Crosby will lead the defensive line. The entire secondary will be new this year for the Mustangs.

Neshoba Central: Neshoba Central reached the Class 5A playoffs for the first time since 2011 and the goal this year is to host a 5A playoff game. On offense Neshoba Central returns seven starters, including the entire backfield with Austin Day, Jarquez Hunter and Tyler Mathis. Hunter led last year’s offense that averaged 372.2 yards per game rushing. Zane Lilly and Eli Anderson are battling for the starting quarterback job. Defensively the Rockets return six starters but must try to find replacements for Christian Spears and Colin Hunt at linebacker. Hunter, Ray Gibson, Jaharon Griffin and Kelbee Holmes will be at linebacker. Promising sophomore defensive tackle Maxton Woodward is the anchor of the defensive front. Ty Matthews and Austin Day will lead the secondary.

SLEEPER

Wayne County: In his first year as head coach at his alma mater, Shelton Gandy went 7-6 and reached the first round of the playoffs. This year the War Eagles are aiming to make a big step with Zhakerreun Wesley returning at quarterback after throwing for 554 yards with six touchdowns and also rushing for 1,564 yards with 22 touchdowns. Shadamien Williamson and Kelnevious Walley are also back to help anchor the rushing attack that averaged 282.8 yards per game. Defensively, Mississippi State commit Armondous Cooley (52 tackles) is back at linebacker and Christopher Walley returns at defensive end to lead the front seven. Free safety Tydarion Holley returns to anchor the secondary.

Grenada: For the first time since 2012, the Chargers didn’t make the Class 5A playoffs last year. Josh Phillips will lead the offense at quarterback. Running back Demarquese Gibson returns to lead the rushing attack after running for 1,195 yards with 10 touchdowns last year. Mississippi State commit Emmanuel Forbes along with Christian Wortham are back as the top targets at wide receiver and will both anchor the secondary. Linebacker Joshua Everett returns to anchor the front seven.

TOP 5

  1. West Point
  2. Holmes County Central
  3. Lafayette
  4. Picayune
  5. West Jones

GAMES TO WATCH

Aug. 23: Grenada at Neshoba Central

Sept. 13: Wayne County at West Jones

Sept. 27: West Point at Lafayette

Sept. 27: Neshoba Central at Holmes County Central

Sept. 27: Picayune at East Central

Oct. 4: Lafayette at Grenada

Oct. 18: Grenada at West Point

Oct. 18: Laurel at West Jones

Nov. 8: Picayune at Wayne County