MHSAA North/South State Preview

Madison Central quarterback Jimmy Holiday and running back Duke Arnold.


North State: Madison Central (10-3) at Horn Lake (13-0)
Madison Central travels to DeSoto County to face Horn Lake. This is Madison Central’s fourth straight trip to the North State title game, while this is Horn Lake’s first ever appearance. Horn Lake offensively is averaging 40.5 points per game, powered by 262.6 yards rushing per game. Quarterback Raydarious Jones is a big-play threat and running back Patrick Gilliam has been solid all season. Jones will likely be in the SEC next season. The Eagles are averaging 121.6 yards per game passing with Octavius Williams being top receiver. The Horn Lake stingy defense only gives up 10.3 points per game led by one of the nation’s best linebackers in Nakobe Dean. Defensive back Tony Washington and defensive tackles Josaih Hayes and Omar Pew have been big. The Madison Central offense is averaging 28.8 points per game led by a rushing attack that averages 225.3 yards per game. Quarterback Jimmy Holiday is as dynamic as any signal-caller in the state, capable from scoring from anywhere on the field. He’s turned in huge games late in the season. Running back Duke Arnold has ground out yards all year with over 1,400 yards rushing and 17 TD’s. The Jaguars are averaging 110.8 yards per game passing with Myles Hopson being the top receiver. The Jaguar defense has been huge all season, allowing just 11.8 points per game. It is led by Peyton Rea who has made big plays all year. Defensive tackle Tyrese Swan and defensive back Shacobia Luckett are difference-makers. The Jaguars have had a great run but Horn Lake is arguably the state’s most talented and that talent comes up big in this one at home.

Pick: Horn Lake 24-21


South State: Oak Grove (11-2) at Brandon (13-1)
Oak Grove travels to Brandon for Region 3-6A rematch. The Bulldogs won the regular season match-up 31-21 at Oak Grove in a game the Warriors were up for most of the game. Brandon scored 10 unanswered points in the final 24 seconds to pull out the win. The Brandon offense is averaging 31.4 points per game and is balanced averaging 197.9 yards per game passing and 157.5 rushing per game. Quarterback Will Rogers has been really good late in the season. Running back Dallas Smith is a punishing runner and Ole Miss wide receiver commit Jonathan Mingo is arguably the best in the state.  The Bulldogs feature a stingy defense that only allows 14.6 points per game and is led by Ole Miss defensive back commit Jay Stanley. Stanley might be the state’s most underrated player who has dominated on both sides of the ball in the playoffs.  Linebackers Zihenryon Perry and Dakara Shoto are about as good as any out there. Oak Grove is led by an offense that averages 35.7 points per game, 230.2 yards rushing per game and 186.2 yards per game passing. Georgia quarterback commit John Rhys Plumlee is a big-time athlete and has piled up the yardage all year running and passing. Running back Nick Milsap and receivers Kevin Barnett, Tavion Smith and Tyson Keys add to the talent pool. The Warrior defense does allow 19.5 points per game. Mississippi State commit Jack Harris is hard to block up front. Defensive back Jarius Reimonenq and linebackers Javarian Jenkins and Joey Griffith are leaders.  It is always close when these two teams play but home field advantage helps the Bulldogs pull it out.

Pick: Brandon 35-34



North State: Olive Branch (12-1) at West Point (12-1)
Olive Branch will head to Hamblin Stadium to face West Point. The Green Wave won a thriller over the Conquistadors in the regular season 34-33 at Olive Branch in a game that the Conquistadors were up by as much as 12 points, but West Point scored with 27 seconds left to win. The Green Wave have been a 5A favorite all year and averages 34.9 points per game offensively. They always potent running game averages 261.8 yards per game led by Brandon Harris, Kameron Martin and Jimothy Mays. West Point is led by a defense that allows just 13.5 points per game led by linebackers Brentt Cunningham and Brandon Lairy. Olive Branch averages 27.8 points per game on offense led by a ground game that averages 218.5 yards per game. They’re anchored by quarterback Cole Catledge. Running backs Dakota Braswell and Gary Banks are threats. The Conquistadors do average 117.5 yards per game passing with Josh Stevenson and Hunter Riley as top receivers. The Olive Branch defense only allow 12.2 points per game behind linebackers Jevon Banks, Latarius Carr, Caden Burse and safety Javien Adams. The back-to-back 5A state champion Green Wave is hard to beat at home.

Pick: West Point 27-20


South State: West Jones (11-2) at Picayune (10-3)
This is a matchup not a lot of people expected, but West Jones will make the trip down I-59 to face Picayune. The Mustangs are coming off a huge statement playoff win on the road at Hattiesburg last week in a game West Jones recorded 11 sacks, five by Alabama commit Byron Young, and forced four turnovers, including a fumble and an interception returned for a touchdown. The Mustang defense only allows 8.5 points per game, while the offense averages 29.7 points per game. They stress balance, averaging 143.5 yards per game passing and 134.3 yards per game rushing. Quarterback Alan Follis, running back Jasper Jones and receiver Jalen Graham are the leaders. Picayune is also coming a statement road win at Laurel last week. The Maroon Tide offense is averaging 43.8 points per game behind a rushing attack that averages 371.1 yards per game rushing led by quarterback Jakail Myers. A plethora of running backs have powered the offense all year in Jortin Raine, Jairice Travis, Kaleb Hart and Kade Turnage. West Jones is 0-6 all-time in South State Championship games but behind that defense the streak comes to an end.

Pick: West Jones 31-21



North State: Greenwood (11-2) at Louisville (13-1)
For the second time this season Greenwood will face Louisville. The Wildcats shut out the Bulldogs back Sept. 21 21-0. Louisville offensively is averaging 39.6 points per game led by a balanced offense that averages 189.3 yards per game rushing and 149.6 yards per game passing. Quarterback Drea Shumaker, running back Kevon Jackson and receiver Alvius Haynes are solid. The Wildcat defense has been nothing short of dominant, only allowing 6.4 points per game with Mississippi State defensive tackle commit Charles Moore getting better each week as he’s gotten more healthy from a knee injury. Linebacker and Ole Miss commit Ashanti Cistrunk has battled injury as well but can be dominant. Greenwood is coming off a shutout win over Noxubee County last week and is aiming for some serious revenge. The Bulldog offense is averaging 32.6 points per game led by a rushing attack featuring quarterback Kobe Chamber and running backs Walter Ivory and Tyler Pitts. Defensively, Greenwood only gives up 14.2 points per game. The Wildcats march on to the state title game for first time since 2013.

Pick: Louisville 21-14


South State: Poplarville (12-1) at East Central (12-0)
It’s Hornet Bowl Part Two as Poplarville will travel to Hurley to face East Central. East Central won a classic in Poplarville last year 52-45 in the 4A South State championship. Poplarville’s offense is averaging 43.4 points per game and is led by a rushing attack that averages 338.2 yards per game. It’s anchored by quarterback Antonio Barnes and running backs Ethan Taylor, Amahd Bolton, Cory Knight and Chase Shears. The Poplarville defense only gives up 14.8 points per game led by linebacker Ross Barnett. The East Central rushing attack is averaging 314.8 points per game and features quarterback Will Young and running backs Dylan Grinsteinner and Cameron Gray. The Hornet defense is allowing 8.4 points per game led by linebacker and tackling machine Avery White. Poplarville gets revenge.

Pick: Poplarville 28-27



North State: Water Valley (12-2) at North Panola (12-1)
For the second time this year Water Valley will head up to Sardis to face North Panola in a matchup of Region 2-3A foes. The Cougars beat the Blue Devils 52-19 back on Oct. 26. North Panola also has a very explosive offense that averages 40.7 points per game, 228.7 yards per game passing and 224.6 yards per game rushing. Quarterback K.J. Jefferson is committed to Arkansas following a huge season and will play in the Mississippi-Alabama All-Star Classic. Running back Clarence Taylor and receiver Tyler Shorter are playmakers. The Cougar defense only allows 9.3 points per game led by defensive ends Alex Gross and Eric Williams. Water Valley is averaging 35.8 points per game offensive led by a running game that is averaging 180.7 yards per game with running backs Kenterrious Rucker and Jacob Truss. Wide receiver Bud Tolbert is one to watch for the Blue Devils. The Blue Devil defense can be the difference in this one only giving up 10.6 points per game led by linebackers Javarius Benson and Grant Burress. The Cougar offense just too explosive.

Pick: North Panola 30-21


South State: Jefferson Davis County (10-4) at Seminary (11-3)
Jefferson Davis County makes the short trip over to Seminary in matchup of Region 8-3A teams. The Bulldogs beat the Jaguars in Bassfield 20-14 back on Oct. 19 and are riding a 10-game winning streak. The Bulldogs are averaging 32.5 points per game along with 315.3 yards per game rushing led by a duo of running backs in Jordan Barrett and Marquis Crosby. The Bulldog defense is giving up 21.2 points per game anchored by a major talent in defensive tackle and Mississippi State commit Nathan Pickering. Pickering has taken over games individually all season. The Jaguars are averaging 31.7 points per game along with 275.2 yards per game on the ground. Quarterback Michael Carraway and running backs Kyser Booth, Justin Berry and Ricky Griffith can pile up the yardage. Defensively, Jefferson Davis County is giving up 17.8 points per game led by linebackers Equandric Ross and Markis Middleton. The Jaguar revenge tour continues.

Pick: Jefferson Davis County 26-22



North State: Calhoun City (10-4) at Scott Central (13-1)
Calhoun City makes the trip to Forest to face Scott Central in a battle of two really good defenses. Scott Central allowed just 9.1 points per game led by linebackers Navonteque Strong and Vontae McDonald. The Rebels are averaging 34.8 points per game offensively led by a rushing attack that averages 235.9 yards game. Quarterback Treyon Wash and running backs Jabrelynn Vivians, Hydee Barlow and McDonald do the damage. The Calhoun City defense only allows 8.4 points a game led by linebackers Anfernee Campbell and Davione Hull. The Wildcats offensively are averaging 26.3 points per game led by an always potent ground game that is averaging 222.1 yards per game. Quarterback Chardarius Hill and Campbell at running back need big nights. The Rebel defense is the difference in this one.

Pick: Scott Central 28-19


South State: Bay Springs (11-3) at Taylorsville (14-0)
For the second time this season Bay Springs will take a shot at Taylorsville in a matchup of Region 5-2A foes. The Tartars defeated the Bulldogs 35-14 back on Sept. 27. Taylorsville is averaging 36.7 points per game and 272.5 yards per game passing led by quarterback Ty Keyes, this year’s 2A Mr. Football selection. Receivers Raven Arrington and Jalon Clark have had huge seasons. Running back Keyon Bass is one to watch for the Tartars. The Taylorsville defense has been huge all season only allowing 9.4 points per game, anchored by defensive end Hunter Lee and linebacker C.J. Williams. The Bulldog offense is averaging 39.1 points per game led by a rushing attack that averages 282 yards per game and features running backs Jamarius Hosey and Anson Windham. The Bay Springs defense allows 19.9 points per game led by linebackers Fred Barnes and Dominick Myers. The defending Class 2A state champs head back to the state title game.

Pick: Taylorsville 34-27



North State: Smithville (11-3) at Hollandale Simmons (13-0)
Smithville will face Simmons in Hollandale Friday night. The Blue Devils are coming in with the nation’s second longest active winning streak at 53 games and is anchored by a defense that only gives up 4.4 points per game. Linebackers Stemarion Edwards and Tyren Altman are big-time. Simmons is averaging 46.4 points per game offensively and is very balanced averaging 268.2 yards per game rushing and 225.9 yards per game passing. They are led by quarterback Tyderius Gipson, running back Demarrius Turner and receivers C.J. Williams and Antavius Rounds. Turner is as good as there is in 1A. Smithville is averaging 27.3 points per game led by a rushing attack that averages 207.9 yards per game and is anchored by quarterback Octavion Miller and running back Jabril Smith. The Seminole defense allows 18.2 points per game led by Smith along with linebackers Tucker Hood and Layne Williams. The three-time defending 1A state champs move on.

Pick: Hollandale Simmons 31-20


South State: East Marion (8-5) at Nanih Waiya (13-1)
Red hot East Marion heads to Louisville to face preseason south 1A favorite Nanih Waiya. Nanih Waiya defeated the Eagles 51-12 last year in the first round of the Class 1A playoffs. Nanih Waiya is led by a defense that only allows 7.5 points a game led by linebacker Taylor Higginbotham and defensive end Dewonta Turner. Offensively, the Warriors are averaging 41.1 points per game led by a rushing attack that averages 321.3 yards per game. It is anchored by quarterback Donovan Turner and running backs Shia Moore and Devean Turner. East Marion is coming off a huge road win at Lumberton last week and is a more balanced offense averaging 172.1 yards per game rushing and 133.8 yards per game passing. Quarterback Devin Daniels, running back Wanya Cook and receiver Flenard McLin are capable of a big night. The Eagles averaging 31.1 points per game on offense. Defensively, East Marion gives up 18.2 points per game led by linebackers Jaquarius Jones and Martez Mikell. Warriors advance to Class 1A state title for second straight year.

Pick: Nanih Waiya 30-20