MHSAA NORTH/SOUTH STATE CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW

Photo courtesy of mhsaa.com

By Brandon Shields:

CLASS 6A

North State: Madison Central (9-5) at Starkville (12-1)

Starkville at a Glance

Coach: Ricky Woods

How they got here: beat Olive Branch 46-24; beat Clinton 45-27

Players to watch: WR A.J. Brown, Sr.; DL Kobe Jones, Sr.; LB Willie Gay, Jr.

Buzz: Starkville is back in the North 6A state title for the second straight season. Last year the Yellowjackets fell to South Panola 36-26, but now with South Panola now out, Starkville is the favorite to make it to the 6A state title game. The Jackets have a very explosive offense led by 4-star wide receiver A.J. Brown and QB Montario Montgomery.  Kobe Jones anchors a very talented defensive front seven for Starkville.

Madison Central at a Glance

Coach: Brad Peterson

How they got here: beat South Panola 14-8; beat Warren Central 21-14

Players to watch: RB Jaylon Uzodinma, Sr.; WR/SS Will Brooks, Sr.; QB Jack Walker, Jr.

Buzz: No question the Jaguars are by far the hottest team in North 6A right now. Madison Central got revenge the first two rounds, and Starkville defeated the Jags 28-10 in the regular season. Will Brooks has been become MC’s biggest deep threat, while Jaylon  Uzodinma leads the running game.

 Pick:  The Starkville defense is just too potent. Starkville 35-21.

South State: Meridian (8-5) at Petal (9-4)

 Petal at a Glance

Coach: Marcus Boyles

How they got here: beat Harrison Central 40-21; beat Brandon 35-30

Players to watch: QB Samuel Hopper, Sr.; RB Stephon Huderson, Jr.; WR/DB Tanner Estill, Jr.

Buzz: The Panthers have been rolling and are on a six-game winning streak. Offensively, Petal is very balanced behind senior QB Samuel Hopper, the Panthers are averaging 209 rushing and 172 yards passing.

Meridian at a Glance

Coach: Larry Weems

How they got here: beat Gulfport 42-6; beat Oak Grove 35-29

Players to watch: WR Daniel Crowell, Sr.; DL Raekwon Davis, Sr.; DB Zaire Jones, Sr.

Buzz: The Wildcats should have enough talent to win the state championship and most have felt that way since the preseason. Meridian has five FBS bound players in Daniel Crowell, Raekwon Davis, Zaire Jones, Julius Turner and Quincy Linton. Quarterback Tray Warren has been elusive in the first two playoff games for the Wildcats. Defensively, Meridian is led by a veteran secondary led by Vanderbilt commit Zaire Jones and Florida commit Quincy Linton.

Pick: Wildcats are aiming for revenge from their 28-27 double overtime loss on Oct. 23. Meridian 35-27.

CLASS 5A

North State: West Point (11-2) at Oxford (11-2)

 Oxford at a Glance

Coach: Johnny Hill

How they got here: beat Vicksburg 35-21; beat Germantown 40-33

Players to watch: QB Jack Abraham, Sr.; WR D.K. Metcalf, Sr.; WR Ken Presley, Sr.

Buzz: The Chargers have dodged a couple of scares in the playoffs, especially last week when Germantown took the lead 33-32 with under 3 minutes left in the game, but the Chargers rallied back to win. Tulane commit Jack Abraham has tossed for 4,322 yards with 50 touchdowns and his top target in Ole Miss commit D.K. Metcalf has 1,229 yards receiving with 19 touchdowns.

West Point at a Glance

Coach: Chris Chambless

How they got here: beat Ridgeland 46-7; beat Grenada 16-9

Players to watch: OL Scott Lashley, Sr.; RB Marcus Murphy, So.; RB Chris Calvert, So.

Buzz: Green Wave are on a eight-game winning streak and will be playing keep away on Friday just to keep the potent Oxford offense off the field. West Point’s running game is averaging 319.7 yards per game. Sophomore running backs Marcus Murphy and Chris Calvert anchor the running game. The stingy West Point defense is giving up just 11.4 points.

Pick: Oxford will get its third chance at a state championship in Johnny Hill’s last year as head coach. Oxford  38-22.

 South State: Wayne County (10-3) at Laurel (10-3)

 Laurel at a Glance

Coach: Todd Breland

How they got here: beat Hattiesburg 34-10; beat Pascagoula 35-0

Players to watch: QB Keon Howard, Sr.; TE Octavius Cooley, Sr.; DE Darius Townsend, Jr.

Buzz: After a shaky 1-3 start the Golden Tornadoes have been on a roll and are currently on a 9-game winning streak. Memphis commit Keon Howard is a big play waiting to happen and he has weapons all over the field to get the ball to led by Ole Miss commit Octavius Cooley.

Wayne County at a Glance

Coach: Todd Mangum

How they got here: beat Picayune 58-28; beat Pearl River Central 37-13

Players to watch: RB Freddy Jordan, Sr.; WR Rameik Wallace, Sr.; DL Benito Jones, Sr.

Buzz: The War Eagles will have revenge on their minds come Friday night. Laurel has defeated them in each of the last three meetings, including last years’ South State title game that saw Laurel winning 34-30. Benito Jones and Tyreke Evans anchor a very disruptive defensive line for Wayne County. Freddy Jordan and Reggie Stewart led the offense.

 Pick: War Eagles get some serious revenge. Wayne County 31-26.

CLASS 4A

North State: Noxubee County (10-4) at Greenwood (12-1)

 Noxubee County at a Glance

Coach: Tyrone Shorter

How they got here: beat Amory 41-10; beat Lafayette 20-13; beat Houston 56-26

Players to watch: DE Jeffrey Simmons, Sr.; QB Timorrius Conner, Sr.; LB Quendarion Barnett, Sr.

Buzz: After suffering a four-game losing streak during the middle part of the season, the Tigers have rolled off eight wins in a row. Timorrius Conner anchors the offense, while Jeffrey Simmons is the most disruptive defensive lineman in the state. Simmons and Qendarion Barnett have combined for 25 and a half tackles for loss.

Greenwood at a Glance

Coach: Clinton Gatewood

How they got here: beat Ripley 19-14; beat Louisville 13-12; beat Kosciusko 23-22

Players to watch: QB Damarius Ray, Sr.; RB Rico Owens, Jr.; DE Marquiss Spencer, Sr.

Buzz: The Bulldogs have won nail biters in each of their playoff games so far. Damarius Ray has thrown 1,513 yards with 19 touchdowns to lead the Greenwood offense. Defensive end Marquiss Spencer has recorded 16 sacks and leads the defense.

Pick: Noxubee County is on a quest to repeat in 4A. Noxubee County 30-20.

 South State: St. Stanislaus (10-3) at Lawrence County (13-1)

 St. Stanislaus at a Glance

Coach: Bill Conides

How they got here: beat Quitman 47-20; beat Poplarville 33-21; beat Moss Point 44-20

Players to watch: QB Myles Brennan, Jr.; WR Chase Rogers, Jr.; LB Mitchell Walk, Sr.

Buzz: The pass happy Rock-a-Chaws are averaging 352.1 yards per game through the air. Promising junior quarterback Myles Brennan has tossed for 4,177 yards with 41 touchdowns. His top target Chase Rogers has 1,244 yards with 16 touchdowns. Mitchell Walk and Mason Favre lead the defense for St. Stanislaus.

Lawrence County at a Glance

Coach: Jaymie Palmer

How they got here: beat Columbia 40-21; beat East Central 26-20; beat Vancleave 35-21

Players to watch: QB Charl’Tez Nunnery, Jr.; RB Quitten Brown, Jr.; LB T-Tez Cole, Sr.

Buzz: The Cougars are one of the least talked about 12-1 teams in the state and are on a 12 game winning streak. Charl’Tez Nunnery and Quitten Brown anchor a rushing attack that is averaging 259.9 yards a game.  T-Tez Cole anchors the defense and is one of the most underrated linebackers in the state.

Pick: St. Stanislaus is aiming for another shot a 4A state title and they’ll get it. St. Stanislaus 45-35

CLASS 3A

North State: Aberdeen (11-3) at Charleston (12-2)

 Charleston at a Glance

Coach: Scott Martin

How they got here: beat Humphreys County 56-8; beat North Pontotoc 49-15; beat Yazoo County 28-0

Players to watch: QB Tre Truly, Jr.; RB Ahmad Alexander, Sr.; TE/DE Tyjour Jones, Sr.

Buzz: As expected the Tigers are once again back in the North 3A championship for the fifth consecutive year. Once again the heavy ground game for Charleston leads the way. The Tigers are averaging 220.4 yards per game on the ground and are led by Ahmad Alexander and Billy Kimble. Defensive end Tyjour Jones, who has 15 sacks, leads the defense.

Aberdeen at a Glance

Coach: Eric Spann

How they got here: beat Belmont 52-6; beat Water Valley 42-13; beat Cleveland East Side 28-6

Players to watch: QB Tramonte Prather, Sr.; WR Jerrick Orr, Sr.; TE/LB Tay Carothers, Sr.

Buzz: The last time Aberdeen got to the 3A North state title game was 2010 and what happened? The Bulldogs went on to play for the state championship against Forest. If the Bulldogs want to end the drought they will have to stop the potent Charleston running game and have Memphis commit Jerrick Orr make explosive plays.

Pick: Charleston has revenge on its mind after falling to Collins in overtime in last year’s state title game. Charleston 28-26.

 South State: West Marion (13-1) at Collins (13-1)

 Collins at a Glance

Coach: Ryan Earnest

 How they got here: beat Philadelphia 66-43; beat Wilkinson County 46-36; beat Kemper County 62-34

Players to watch: QB Detric Hawthorn, Sr.; RB/LB Timothy Durr, Sr.; WR/DB Calvin Keys, Sr.

Buzz: To say the Tigers on a mission to repeat is an understatement. Collins is very explosive on offense, led by quarterback Detric Hawthorn and has viable options in Timothy Durr and Calvin Keys. The Tigers are averaging 48.6 points per game this year, but in the three playoff games the Tiger defense has given up 113 points (37.7 points per game).

West Marion at a Glance

Coach: Brad Duncan

How they got here: beat Choctaw County 32-19; beat Raleigh 36-30; beat Hazlehurst 12-8

Players to watch: QB Josh Miller, Sr.; RB Caleb Batie, Sr.; DL Didravious Henry, Sr.

Buzz: The Trojans will definitely have redemption on their minds. Collins defeated West Marion 38-34 in the regular season and also defeated them last year for the South state championship. Do-it-all quarterback Josh Miller anchors the Trojans offensively.

Pick: Defending 3A state champs get it done at home in a close one. Collins 30-28.

CLASS 2A

North State: East Webster (13-1) at Baldwyn (12-2)

 Baldwyn at a Glance

Coach: Michael Gray

How they got here: beat Eupora 31-8; beat J.Z. George 31-0; beat Calhoun City 30-16

Players to watch: ATH Duke Upshaw, Sr.; RB Marquavious Patterson, Sr.; OL/DL Jimmy Tyes, Jr.

Buzz: The Bearcats are back in the 2A North state title game for the first time since 2008.  Duke Upshaw and Marquavious Patterson anchor a potent rushing attack for Baldwyn that is averaging 291.9 yards per game. The Bearcat defense anchored by Jimmy Tyes is giving up just 8 points per game in the playoffs.

East Webster at a Glance

Coach: Doug Wilson

How they got here: beat Walnut 42-8; beat South Delta 43-22; beat Greenville O’Bannon 37-12

Players to watch: QB Jack Wilson, Sr.; RB Chase Keller, Sr.; FB/LB Luke Wilson, Jr.

Buzz: The Wolverines are the hottest team in 2A, heck they are the only non-No. 1 seed left. Do-it-all quarterback Jack Wilson leads the way offensively for East Webster, while is younger brother Luke Wilson leads the defense.

 Pick: It is battle of two potent running games, but the Bearcats are a tad bit more talented. Baldwyn 24-22.

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

 Bassfield at a Glance

Coach: Lance Mancuso

How they got here: beat Pelahatchie 59-13; beat Union 47-8; beat Taylorsville 42-13

Players to watch: RB Ron Thompson, Jr.; RB Rashaud Green, So.; LB Racheem Booth, Sr.

Buzz: The three-time defending Class 2A state champ Yellow Jackets are on a roll once again. Running backs Ron Thompson and Rashaud Green lead the always potent Bassfield rushing attack that is averaging 293.9 yards per game. Southern Miss commit Racheem Booth anchors the defense.

Bay Springs at a Glance

Coach: Dan Brady

How they got here: beat North Forrest 45-10; beat Amite County 52-0; beat Lake 13-12

Players to watch: QB Caderius Lee, Jr.; RB Jaylin Jones, Jr.; WR/LB Kevin Cole, Sr.

Buzz: The Bulldogs had no problems in their first two playoff games, but won in the final seconds to beat Lake. Now they have to try to beat the three-time 2A state champs. If there is one area the Bulldogs will success, it could be in the passing game, Bay Springs is averaging 273.4 yards a game, led by Caderius Lee.

Pick: Bassfield is on a mission for fourth straight state title. Bassfield 40-27.

CLASS 1A

North State: Hollandale Simmons (10-0) at Smithville (13-1)

 Simmons at a Glance

Coach: Tavares Johnson

How they got here: beat Coldwater 49-0; beat West Lowndes 75-12

Players to watch: ATH Nero Nelson, Sr.; RB/DB Marquez Pam, So.; DB Jamaal Pam, Sr.

Buzz: All the Blue Devils do is run, and run some more. Simmons is averaging close to 300 yards a game on the ground and they are led by Mississippi State commit Nero Nelson. The Blue Devil defense has only given up 30 points all season.

Smithville at a Glance

Coach: Chad Collums

How they got here: beat Mound Bayou JFK 28-0; beat Shaw 14-13

Players to watch: QB Blake Comer, Sr.; RB/LB Dee Moore, Jr.; RB/LB Nate Ward, Sr.

Buzz: Smithville is aiming for its second trip to the 1A state championship in the last three years. Behind a potent rushing that is averaging 228.6 yards a game, Dee Moore and Nate Ward lead the charge for the Seminoles. Joe Freeman anchors the defense for Smithville.

Pick: Blue Devils are just too athletic at the skill position. Simmons 30-20.

South State: Lumberton (8-5) at Resurrection (12-0)

Resurrection at a Glance

Coach: Scott Sisson

How they got here: beat Sebastopol 35-0; beat Stringer 31-0

Players to watch: RB/LB Patrick Watts, Jr.; RB/DB Dillan Jolly, Sr.; RB/LB Justice Sharp, Jr.

Buzz: The Eagles have been nothing short of unstoppable all season. Resurrection is averaging 262.6 yards per game on the ground led by Patrick Watts. Defensively, the Eagles have given up just 32 points all season (2.7 points per game) and have recorded eight shutouts this season –  including three in a row.

Lumberton at a Glance

Coach: Zach Jones

How they got here: beat French Camp 28-13; beat Nanih Waiya 34-27

Players to watch: ATH Daylon Burks, Sr.; RB/LB Drik Coleman, So.; DL Dakota Walters

Buzz: All the Panthers do is run. Lumberton is averaging 310.5 yards a game on the ground and features a 2,000-yard back in Daylon Burks. Dakota Walters has recorded 107 tackles to lead the defense. The Panthers lost to Resurrection 25-8 back on Oct. 30th, so revenge is definitely on their minds.   

 Pick: The Eagles dream season continues. Resurrection 26-19.