MHSAA North/South State Championship Preview

Photo by Keith Warren


North State: Madison Central (10-3-1) at Clinton (12-1)

One of the state’s biggest rivalries will go at it in Arrow Stadium with a spot in the 6A state championship on the line. The Arrows beat the Jaguars 30-21 back on Sept. 23 in the regular season matchup of Region 2-6A foes. Just like last year, Madison Central is hot at the right time and is rolling on offense behind quarterback and FAU commit Jack Walker (1,918 yards passing, 15 touchdowns) along with wide receiver Braden Boykin (504 yards receiving, three touchdowns) and running back Gabe Short (952 yards rushing, eight touchdowns). But can the Jags defense slow down Cam Akers and company? Akers passed for 205 yards with a touchdown and rushed for 203 yards with two touchdowns, Southern Miss commit Darius Maberry had 141 yards rushing with two touchdowns for the Arrows in the regular season matchup.  Offensively, Clinton just too explosive.

Pick: Clinton 35-27


South State: Petal (9-4) at Pearl (10-3)

Pearl is by far the hottest team in the state and have rolled off eight straight wins by a defense who hasn’t given up more than two touchdowns during this winning streak and an offense that has been rolling behind juniors Jake Smithhart (2,100 yards passing, 27 touchdowns) and Johnny Winston (1,203 yards rushing, 20 touchdowns). The last team to beat Pearl? Petal. The Panthers defeated the Pirates 28-14 back on Sept. 23 to start Region 3-6A play, so Pearl will be seeking revenge. Petal has been rolling since the switch to Jordan Wilson at quarterback and have become more balanced. Wilson has started six games and has passed for 937 yards with eight touchdowns. The Petal potent rushing attack is averaging 257.4 yards per game with Tulane commit Stephon Huderson (1,436 yards, 15 touchdowns) and Xavier Yancey (771 yards, 11 touchdowns). Pirates keep on rolling to first state championship appearance since 1985.

Pick: Pearl 27-20



North State: Lake Cormorant (10-4) at West Point (12-1)

It’ll be a tale of two offenses when the pass happy Gators head to West Point to face the potent Green Wave rushing attack. West Point won the regular matchup of Region 1-5A foes 39-17. Lake Cormorant is averaging 202.7 and is led by quarterback Ben Rohrbacher (2,219 yards passing, 22 touchdowns) and wide receiver and Iowa commit Brandon Smith (1,439 yards rushing, 19 touchdowns). The Gators do average 164.3 yards rushing and is led by running back Brian Jackson (1,333 yards rushing, 10 touchdowns). West Point’s potent rushing attack is averaging 240.7 yards per game that is anchored by MSU commit Marcus Murphy (1,571 yards, 21 touchdowns) and Andre Lane (696 yards rushing, eight touchdowns). West Point quarterback Clayton Knight has tossed for 15 touchdowns to help the Green Wave become more balanced. West Point defense only gives up 12.2 points per game and makes a difference.

Pick: West Point 27-14


South State: Laurel (12-1) at Picayune (12-1)

Laurel has one of the state’s most dynamic offenses and will get put to the test has the Tornadoes will down I-59 to Picayune to face the Maroon Tide’s heavy rushing attack. Laurel is averaging 254.8 yards per game passing has a dynamic duo that is hard to stop in quarterback Tyquan Ulmer (2,925 yards passing, 37 touchdowns) and receiver Donatario Drummond (1,429 yards, 15 touchdowns). Also look out for receiver Je’vah Jones (841 yards receiving, 13 touchdowns) and running back Michael Terrell (788 yards rushing, 14 touchdowns). Picayune has one of the state’s most potent running games that is averaging 402.2 yards per game that is anchored by Josh Littles (2,271 yards rushing, 24 touchdowns), David Baker (537 yards, 11 touchdowns) and Shaun Anderson (1,078 yards rushing, eight touchdowns). Maroon Tide will look to control the clock and keep the potent Laurel offense off the field. Laurel’s offense just too much in a shootout.

Pick: Laurel 42-35



North State: Pontotoc (13-1) at Lafayette (11-2)

Pontotoc is one of the hottest teams in the state after knocking the two-time defending 4A state champion Noxubee County last week, but will be facing a Lafayette that is stout defensively. Warriors are very balanced on offense averaging 209.5 yards rushing and 205.1 yards passing. Quarterback Jacob Carter has passed for 2,537 yards with 30 touchdowns and has several weapons at receiver in Austin Morphis, Jerrick Ray, and Darryl Dilworth. Running back Gabe Harmon has rushed for 1,677 yards with 19 touchdowns. Lafayette is led by a potent rushing attack that is averaging 228.6 yards per game that is led by Jamarcus Quarles (1,871 yards rushing, 15 touchdowns) and Jamie Shaw (406 yards, eight touchdowns). The Commodore defense is only allowing 11.5 points per game and keeps the Warrior offense in check.

Pick: Lafayette 34-24


South State: Florence (12-2) at Poplarville (11-1)

It will be a battle of heavy rushing attacks when the Eagles will head to Poplarville to face the Hornets. Florence is in the South state championship for the first time ever, while Poplarville is in for the first time since 1981. Florence is averaging 309.2 yards per game on the ground that is anchored by running back DeGerrick Lee (2,149 yards, 22 touchdowns) and quarterback Brad Dennis (1,497 yards rushing, 20 touchdowns). Dennis has also tossed for 1,597 yards with 11 touchdowns. Poplarville is averaging 367.9 yards per game rushing and is led by a duo of running backs in Jesse Pernell (1,485 yards rushing, 25 touchdowns) and Austin Bolton (1,477 yards rushing, 18 touchdowns). Hornets get job done at home.

Pick: Poplarville 28-24



North State: Charleston (12-2) at Velma Jackson (12-1)

It’ll be a battle of heavy rushing attacks when the Tigers make the long trip down to Camden to face the Falcons. Charleston is averaging 197.6 yards per game rushing and is led by the dynamic duo of running back Billy Kimble (1,477 yards, 18 touchdowns) and quarterback Tre Truly (472 yards rushing, 11 touchdowns). Truly has also tossed for 1,057 yards. The Tiger defense is only allowing 11.4 points per game. Velma Jackson is averaging 284.9 yards per game rushing that is anchored by running backs James Smith (1,664 yards, 17 touchdowns), Robert Stewart (506 yards, seven touchdowns) and quarterback Antavius Willis (967 yards, 20 touchdowns). Willis has also passed for 1,207 yards with 10 touchdowns. Falcons defense only allows 16 points per game. Charleston gets back to 3A state title game for third year in a row.

Pick: Charleston 27-20


South State: Raleigh (13-1) at Kemper County (13-1)

Raleigh has been on a roll since the playoffs have started defeating undefeated teams in the second round and quarterfinals (Tylertown and Hazlehurst, respectively). The Lions are anchored by a potent rushing attack that’s averaging 397.9 yards per game that is led by Kris Moncrief (1,921 yards rushing, 26 touchdowns) and Julian Keyes (1,182 yards rushing, 11 touchdowns). Kemper County is very balanced offensively averaging 250.9 yards per game passing and 177.1 yards per game rushing. Quarterback Eric Clark has tossed for 2,893 yards with 42 touchdowns and has rushed for 786 yards with eight touchdowns. Receiver D.J. Clayton has 1,769 yards receiving with 25 touchdowns. There will be a bunch of points scored, but Wildcats tough to beat at home.

Pick: Kemper County 37-31



North State: Baldwyn (10-4) at Calhoun City (13-1)

A rematch of last year’s 2A quarterfinal round that saw Baldwyn winning 30-16, so expect Calhoun City to come out and seek revenge. Bearcats are very balanced offensively averaging 211.3 yards rushing per game and 168.6 yards per game passing. John Swinney has tossed for 2,141 yards with 21 touchdowns and has two big targets in Felix Hayes and Calvin Harris, while Jalon Clark, Ovurton Gates and Johndrix Robinson anchor the rushing attack. Calhoun City is anchored by the always potent rushing attack that averages 288 yards per game that is led by Jesse Nabors (1,181 yards rushing, 22 touchdowns), Keshun Parker (896 yards rushing, 16 touchdowns) and Jojo Gray (745 yards, nine touchdowns). Wildcats move on to 2A state game for the third time in four years.

Pick: Calhoun City 30-22


South State: Bay Springs (11-3) at Bassfield (12-2)

Bulldogs will head down to Bassfield to face the Yellow Jackets in a rematch of last year’s 2A South state championship game that saw Bassfield winning 43-28. Yellow Jackets are led by the always heavy rushing attack that is averaging 328.3 yards per game that is anchored by running back Ron Thompson (1,789 yards rushing, 38 touchdowns) and quarterback Malik Shorts (368 yards rushing, nine touchdowns). Bay Springs is also led by a rushing attack that is averaging 270.7 yards per game that is led by Jaylin Jones (1,776 yards rushing, 23 touchdowns) and Damerious Jones (950 yards rushing, 14 touchdowns). Bassfield gets back to 2A state title game for fifth year in a row.

Pick: Bassfield 40-30



North State: Smithville (11-2) at Hollandale Simmons (11-0)

It will be a battle of two stout defenses when the Seminoles make the long drive to the Delta to face the Blue Devils in a rematch of last year’s 1A North state title game. Simmons’ defense is only giving up 8.2 points per game, while Smithville’s gives up 20.2 points a game. Both teams lean on rushing attacks as well. Smithville is averaging 247 yards per game, but is without running back Dee Moore who broke his hand in a pickup game of basketball at church, so quarterback Heath Noe is going to have to pick up the slack. Simmons is averaging 321.4 yards per game and is led by do-it-all athlete Marquez Pam (1,875 yards rushing, 27 touchdowns). Simmons just too much for short-handed Seminoles.

Pick: Simmons 30-18


South State: Nanih Waiya (13-1) at Lumberton (11-2)

Warriors will make the long drive from Louisville down to Lumberton to face the Panthers in a battle of two heavy rushing teams. Nanih Waiya is averaging 228.9 yards per game rushing that is anchored by the duo of running backs in Chris Smith (952 yards rushing, 21 touchdowns) and Taemaus Glass (1,495 yards, 26 touchdowns). Quarterback Ben Cumberland has tossed for 1,359 yards with 14 touchdowns. Lumberton is averaging 306.4 points per game that is by its dynamic duo of backs in Dre Coleman (2,158 yards, 28 touchdowns) and Rodriqus Coleman (829 yards, six touchdowns). Quarterback Jared Tribett has passed for 1,446 yards with 21 touchdowns. he Warrior defense is only given up 90 points total all season (6.4 points per game) and gets job done.

Pick: Nanih Waiya 20-10