MHSAA North/South State Preview

Columbia running back Kentrel Bullock. Photo by Chris Brooks

CLASS 6A

North State: Starkville (12-2) at Oxford (12-1)

It’s the Little Egg Bowl Part two as the Yellowjackets make the trip over to Bobby Holcomb Field to face the Chargers. Starkville won the regular season matchup 45-17 in Starkville, but this one will be much closer. This is the second time in the last three seasons that the Yellowjackets have reached the North State title, while Oxford’s last time was 2015. Starkville is led by a passing game that is averaging 253.6 yards per game with junior quarterback Luke Altmyer (2,747 yards passing, 33 touchdowns) driving the offense. Receivers Rufus Harvey, Jatavious Lucious, Joshua Aka and Orien Thompson form a great trio. Running back Amariyon Howard leads the rushing attack for the Jackets that averages 116.3 yards per game. The Jacket defense only allows 13.9 points per game and last week held Olive Branch to just one yard passing. Oxford is more balanced on offense averaging 175.2 yards per game rushing and 119.6 yards per game passing anchored by quarterback John Meagher (1,484 yards passing, 14 touchdowns, 10 rushing touchdowns). J.J. Pegues (12 rushing touchdowns, 4 receiving touchdowns) is a definite mismatch on the outside and Kelvin Wadley also helps lead the ground game for the Chargers. The Jacket defense comes up big.

Pick: Starkville 27-20

 

South State: Oak Grove (10-3) at Petal (12-1)

This is a matchup that a lot of people have been waiting for as the Warriors make the short trip over to Petal to face the rival Panthers in a matchup of Region 3-6A foes. Oak Grove is seeking their second straight trip to the state championship game, while Petal is looking for their first trip since 2015. The Panthers won the regular season matchup 21-7 at Oak Grove. Petal is anchored by a solid rushing attack averaging 235.5 yards per game led by quarterback Decarlos Nicholson along with running backs Micah McGowan (1,689 yards rushing, 20 touchdowns) and Rashad Handford. Nicholson has thrown for 1,857 yards with 17 touchdowns to lead the passing game that averages 141 yards per game. The Warriors have been clicking on all cylinders and are very balanced on offense averaging 205.8 yards per game passing and 180.2 yards per game rushing anchored by quarterback Damon Stewart (2,559 yards passing, 32 touchdowns, 10 rushing touchdowns), running back Nick Milsap (1,242 yards rushing, 9 touchdowns) along with receivers Brandon Hayes (10 receiving touchdowns), Jordan Coleman, Liam Breithaupt and Tavion Smith (11 receiving touchdowns). Panthers tough to beat at home.

Pick: Petal 24-21

 

CLASS 5A

North State: Neshoba Central (10-3) at West Point (13-1)

The Rockets head up to West Point to face the Green Wave in a matchup of two heavy run teams. West Point is seeking their fourth straight trip to the state championship game, while Neshoba Central is playing for North State for the first time since 1993. The Green Wave offense is averaging 267.8 yards per game on the ground led by Brandon Harris (1,048 yards rushing, 18 touchdowns), Jimothy Mays (11 rushing touchdowns) and Dantariyus Cannon (11 rushing touchdowns). Neshoba Central is led by a rushing attack that averages 296.2 yards per game anchored by running back Jarquez Hunter (2,014 yards rushing, 28 touchdowns) along with Tyler Mathis and Austin Day. The Green Wave defense only allows 14.4 points per game and comes up big and move on.

Pick: West Point 27-14

 

South State: Picayune (13-0) at West Jones (13-0)

This is a matchup everyone was expecting as the Maroon Tide will head up to Soso to face the West Jones in a rematch of last year’s South State title game that saw West Jones winning 21-13. The Picayune offense averages 437.3 yards per game rushing that is anchored by quarterback Jakail Myers along with running backs Cameron Thomas (2,805 yards, 39 touchdowns), Austin Samples, Jalen Hall and Kade Turnage. The Maroon Tide defense only allows 14.7 points per game. West Jones is a more balanced offense averaging 180.8 yards per game rushing and 129.3 yards per game passing led by quarterback Alan Follis (1,639 yards passing, 21 touchdowns) along with running backs Jasper Jones, Kentrel Pruitt (16 rushing touchdowns) and Joshua McDonald. The Tide get revenge on the road.

Pick: Picayune 28-17

 

CLASS 4A

North State: Greenwood (13-0) at Corinth (12-1)

For the second year in a row the Bulldogs will head up to Corinth to face the Warriors. Greenwood won a thriller last year in Corinth 40-38 in the third round of the playoffs and are making their second straight trip to the North State finals, while this is Corinth’s first trip to North State since 2007. This will be a matchup of Greenwood’s passing attack against the Corinth ground game. The Bulldogs are very explosive on offense averaging 38.7 points per game, 212.8 yards per game passing, 173.4 yards rushing per game. Quarterback Deandre Smith (2,335 yards passing, 26 touchdowns; 12 rushing touchdowns) is a crucial part of those numbers, along with running back Jamarion Addison (18 rushing touchdowns) and receivers Kobe Chambers (14 receiving touchdowns) and Daylin Metcalf. Corinth’s ground game that’s averaging 298 yards per game led by quarterback D.T. Sheffield (643 yards rushing, 12 touchdowns; 1,173 yards passing, 17 touchdowns) along with running backs Tameron Patterson (1,174 yards rushing, 18 touchdowns), Cayden Betts and Will Agnew. Both teams have really good defenses, so this could be a low scoring game. Greenwood survives and moves on.

Pick: Greenwood 30-21

 

South State: Lawrence County (9-5) at Poplarville (8-5)

Cougars make the trip down to Poplarville to face the Hornets in a matchup of two heavy run teams. Lawrence County is in the South State title game for the first time since 2015, while Poplarville is in it for the fourth straight year. Poplarville is averaging 280.9 yards per game led by quarterback Blaise Breerwood along with running backs Chase Shears (11 rushing touchdowns), Gregory Swann (1,013 yards rushing, 10 touchdowns) and Ethan Taylor. Lawrence County is averaging 305.4 yards per game on the ground anchored by Kylan Cooper (2,080 yards rushing, 24 touchdowns) along with Antwan Pittman, Perez Tyler along with quarterback Haden Mullins. Hornets tough to beat at home.

Pick: Poplarville 30-20

 

 

CLASS 3A

North State: Noxubee County (9-5) at Choctaw County (11-3)

For the second time this season the Tigers will make the trip over to Ackerman to face the Chargers in battle of Region 4-3A foes. Choctaw County won the regular season matchup 28-18, so the Tigers are aiming for pay back. This is Noxubee County’s fourth time in the last six seasons to reach the North State title game, while this is Choctaw County’s first. Quarterback Marlon Windham (2,354 yards passing, 13 touchdowns) leads the Noxubee offense that averages 172.1 yards per game passing along with receivers Jaylon Barnett and Coby Luckett. Running backs Bobby Shanklin and Travorus Hatcher lead the ground game that averages 129.4 yards per game. Choctaw County is anchored by a potent rushing attack that averages 271.1 yards per game anchored by quarterback Tylan Carter (1,061 yards rushing, 12 touchdowns) and running back Dicenzo Miller (1,425 yards, 15 touchdowns) along with Antonio Kennedy. Chargers in a close one at home.

Pick: Choctaw County 24-22

 

South State: Jefferson Davis County (8-6) at Columbia (13-0)

Jaguars make the short trip down Highway 35 to Walter Peyton Field to face the Wildcats in a battle of Region 8-3A foes. Columbia won the regular season matchup 36-22 in Bassfield. The Jaguars are in the South State title game for the third year in a row, while this is Columbia’s first time since 2001. Columbia is led by a rushing attack that averages 330 yards per game anchored by running backs in Ole Miss commit Kentrel Bullock (1,917 yards rushing, 30 touchdowns) along with Omar Johnson (1,233 yards rushing, 12 touchdowns) and quarterback Josh Brown. The Jaguars are led by the always potent ground game that is anchored quarterback Michael Carraway along with running backs Kyser Booth, Lyric Hall, Markis Middleton and Deandre Shorts. The Wildcat defense only allows 9.7 points per game anchored by Jordan Aaron and Jamison Kelly and come up big at home.

Pick: Columbia 35-21

 

 

CLASS 2A

North State: Charleston (10-4) at Northside (13-0)

Tigers make the trip over to Shelby to face the Gators in a matchup of Region 3-2A teams. Northside won the regular season matchup 22-8 in Charleston. This is the Tigers seventh trip in the last nine seasons to the North State title game, while this is the Gators first ever trip. Charleston is led by a ground game that averages 188.6 yards per game led by quarterback Chris Bradford along with running backs Keyshun Cashaw, Mook Prince and Kristian Gammage. Northside is a balanced team offensively averaging 187.4 yards per game rushing and 134.6 yards per game passing led by quarterback Jaterrance Moore, running backs Semaj Daniels and Thaddeus Latham along with receiver Karl Burrage. The Gator defense has allowed just four touchdowns all season and will be able to contain the Tiger ground game at home.

Pick: North Side 21-10

 

South State: Scott Central (11-2) at Taylorsville (13-1)

For the third time in the calendar year the Rebels will be facing the Tartars this time it’s in Taylorsville. This is a rematch of last year’s 2A state championship game that Scott Central won 21-7, while Taylorsville won the season opener at Scott Central 32-12. The Tartars are led by a dynamic offense that is averaging 38.6 points per game, 264.1 yards passing, and 191.8 yards rushing led by quarterback Ty Keyes (3,550 yards passing, 41 touchdowns), running backs Jeffrey Pittman (1,208 yards rushing, 18 touchdowns) and Travis Keyes along with receivers Jabez Griffith (10 receiving touchdowns), Tyrese Keyes (12 receiving touchdowns), Arterrious Miller and Cedrick Beavers. Scott Central is led by a rushing attack that’s averaging 211.6 yards per game. Quarterback Treyon Wash and running backs Elijah Robinson, Jackie Donald and Jabrelynn Vivians make the offense go. Wash has thrown for 1,263 yards with 13 touchdowns to lead the passing game that averages 102.2 yards per game. Both teams have great defenses, but Ty Keyes is the difference.

Pick: Taylorsville 32-20

 

CLASS 1A

North State: Noxapater (12-2) at Nanih Waiya (12-1)

It’s an all-Winston County semifinal matchup as the Tigers make the short trip over to Nanih Waiya to face the rival Warriors in a battle of Region 2-1A foes. Nanih Waiya won the regular season matchup 14-2 at Noxapater. The Warriors are in the semifinals for the fourth straight season and seeking third straight trip to the state championship game. The last time Noxapater was in the semifinals was in 2011, the year they won state championship. It’ll be a matchup of two heavy run teams. Noxapater is averaging 268 yards per game on the ground led by quarterback K.D. Carter (1,812 yards rushing, 26 touchdowns) and backs Raheem Hathorn (1,047 yards rushing, 13 touchdowns) and Chase Ray. Nanih Waiya is averaging 260 yards per game rushing. The offense is led by quarterback Donovan Turner (16 rushing touchdowns) along with running backs Shia Moore, Devean Turner and speedster Austin Sanders (1,083 yards rushing, 16 touchdowns). Donovan Turner has thrown for 1,178 yards with 12 touchdowns. With both teams having good defenses, it could be a low scoring game, but going with defending state champs at home.

Pick: Nanih Waiya 20-12

 

South State: Richton (8-5) at Lumberton (11-3)

Rebels make the trip down to Lumberton to face the Panthers in a battle of Region 4-1A teams. Lumberton won the regular season game 43-6 at Richton. This is Richton’s first ever trip to South State, while Lumberton is back in the semifinals for the first time since 2016. Richton has been one of the biggest surprises of the postseason and is also led by a rushing attack that averages 169.8 yards per game that is anchored by Dylan Farve (1,193 yards rushing, 24 touchdowns; 1,098 yards passing, 10 touchdowns) along with Malcolm Hinton. Lumberton is led by a rushing attack that’s averaging 254.6 yards per game led by running back Robert Henry (1,688 yards rushing, 27 touchdowns; 10 passing touchdowns) along with Shavante Toney (11 touchdowns) and Trevon Jessie. The Panther ground game just too much.

Pick: Lumberton 37-23