Starkville (11-1) at Horn Lake (12-0)
Starkville faces Horn Lake in a matchup of two outstanding defenses. Starkville beat Horn Lake 20-6 in the second round of the playoffs last year. The Yellowjackets are only allowing 10 points per game on defense led by linebacker Zach Edwards, defensive end Jalil Clemons and defensive back Myles Stone. Starkville has a very balanced offense that averages 199.6 yards passing per game and 188.5 yards per game rushing. It is anchored by quarterback Luke Altmyer, receiver Rufus Harvey and running backs Rodrigues Clark and K.J. Lawrence. The Eagle defense only gives up 9.9 points per game led by linebacker Nakobe Dean, defensive back Tony Washington and defensive line Omar Pew. Horn Lake offensively is led by a potent rushing attack that averages 265.7 yards per game. Quarterback Raydarious Jones is a big-play threat and running back Patrick Gilliam has been solid all season. This should be a great game but the Jackets get job done on the road.
Pick: Starkville 24-21
Madison Central (9-3) at Northwest Rankin (11-1)
Madison Central makes the short trip to Flowood to face rival and Region 2-6A foe Northwest Rankin. The Cougars won 32-28 in the final minutes back on Oct. 26 in Madison to snap a 10-game losing streak to the Jaguars. Northwest Rankin is averaging 40.1 points per game, 218.3 yards per game passing and 146.2 yards per game rushing. Quarterback Jamari Jones has been as good as any in the state this year with 29 touchdown passes. MSU receiver commit Jarrian Jones is a major talent out wide with running backs Dee Baker and P.J. Lindsey also enjoying big seasons. The Jaguar defense has been huge all season, allowing just 12 points per game. It is led by defensive tackle Tyrese Swan and defensive back Shacobia Luckett. The Madison Central offense is led by a rushing attack that averages 210.8 yards per game. Quarterback Jimmy Holiday is as dynamic as any signal-caller in the state, capable from scoring from anywhere on the field. Running back Duke Arnold has ground out yards all year. Cougars survive in a thriller at home.
Pick: Northwest Rankin 31-28
Pearl (8-4) at Brandon (12-1)
It’s ‘Eat Dirt’ playoff style as Pearl is on the road this time to play Brandon. Two weeks ago Brandon came away with a 14-10 win over the Pirates in Ray Rogers Stadium. The Bulldogs feature a stingy defense that only allows 13.2 points per game and is led by Ole Miss defensive back commit Jay Stanley, along with linebackers Zihenryon Perry and Dakara Shoto. The Brandon offense is fairly balanced averaging 180.3 yards per game passing and 154.7 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. Pearl is also led by a defense that only gives up 15.6 points per game led by defensive end Jordan Bailey. Bailey is the leader and has been huge all season. Linebacker Sam Brumfield also fills a leadership role. The Pirate offense is led by rushing attack that averages 164.4 yards per game led by running back Kenyatta Harrell. Only junior, he is a name to watch next year. Running backs Jerry Johnson and Elijah Harris need big games. Expect the Dogs to win a close one at home.
Pick: Brandon 17-14
Petal (6-6) at Oak Grove (10-2)
Petal faces rival and Region 3-6A foe Oak Grove. The Warriors won the regular season matchup 26-19 back on Sept. 28 in Petal. Oak Grove is led by an offense that averages 34.7 points per game, 220.8 yards rushing per game and 188 yards per game passing. Georgia quarterback commit John Rhys Plumlee is a big-time athlete. Running back Nick Milsap and receivers Kevin Barnett, Tavion Smith and Tyson Keys add to the talent pool. Petal is riding a five-game winning streak and is coming off a 34-0 shutout over Gulfport last week. The Panthers are led by a ground game that is averaging 201.8 yards per game, featuring quarterback Decarlos Nicholson and running backs Micah McGowan and Rashad Handford. The Warrior offense is just too explosive.
Pick: Oak Grove 35-28
Lafayette (9-3) at West Point (11-1)
For the second time this season Lafayette will make the trip over to Hamblin Stadium to face Region 1-5A foe West Point. The Green Wave won a close one back on Sept. 21 beating the Commodores 14-13. West Point is led by a stingy defense that allows just 12.9 points per game and the always potent running game that averages 260.8 yards per game led by Brandon Harris, Kameron Martin and Jimothy Mays. Lafayette is also lead by a rushing attack that averages 327.7 yards per game led by quarterback Randy Anderson and running back Lance Stewart. The Commodore defense led by linebacker Eric Jeffries and defensive back Brandon Turnage only allow 14.1 points per game. The back to back 5A state champs gets it done in a close one at home.
Pick: West Point 17-14
Olive Branch (11-1) at Holmes Central (11-1)
Olive Branch makes the trip down to Lexington to face Holmes Central in what could be a defensive slugfest. The Conquistadors only allow 13.3 points per game, while the Jaguars give up 19.7 points per game. Olive Branch averages 218.5 yards per game on the ground and is anchored by quarterback Cole Catledge. Running backs Dakota Braswell and Gary Banks are threats. The Holmes Central running game is averaging 351.4 yards per game with quarterback Justin Smith having a big year. Running backs Quo’Darious Crigler and Robert Jackson have piled up the yardage all season. The Jaguar defensive line features a talented group in Montra Edwards, Jedrus Watts and J’Dawon Grant. That’s the difference in this one.
Pick: Holmes Central 22-21
Picayune (9-3) at Laurel (9-3)
Picayune makes the trip up Interstate 59 to face Laurel in historic Watkins Stadium, also know as “Between the Bricks.” Both teams are powerful running teams. The Golden Tornadoes are averaging 221.5 yards per game on the ground led by the duo of running backs in Zias Perryman and Michael Terrell. Perryman is an absolute workhorse in the backfield. Laurel also uses a two-quarterback system with Sinclair Ulmer and Xavier Evans. The Maroon Tide is averaging 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. The Tornadoe defense comes up with one big stop.
Pick: Laurel 34-30
West Jones (10-2) at Hattiesburg (12-0)
West Jones is at D.I. Patrick Stadium to face Hattiesburg. The Hattiesburg offense averages 49.9 points per game and has been near impossible to stop all season. The West Jones defense only allows eight points per game. The explosive Tiger offense is averaging 266.6 yards per game rushing and 174.2 yards per game passing led by quarterback Jarod Conner, the 5A Mr. Football. Running back Drexlan Allen and receivers Darius Ruffin and Jairus McFarland have had solid seasons. The Mustang offense is averaging 146.3 yards per game passing and 132.9 yards per game rushing led by quarterback Alan Follis, running back Jasper Jones and receiver Jalen Graham. Alabama defensive end commit Byron Young can be a terror to block. The Tiger offense has a big night to get the win.
Pick: Hattiesburg 35-21
Louisville (12-1) at Pontotoc (11-2)
Louisville heads to “The Hollow” to face Pontotoc. This could be a low scoring, defensive slugfest as the Wildcats defense only allows 6.3 points per game and the Warrior defense only gives up 13.2 points per game. Louisville offensively is averaging 180.7 yards per game rushing and 153.2 yards per game passing led by quarterback Drea Shumaker, running back Kevon Jackson and receiver Alvius Haynes. The Pontotoc offense is averaging 32.7 points per game, 187 yards passing a game and 163.5 yards per game led by quarterback Justin Carter, receivers Tres Vaughn and Caleb Hobson, along with running backs Gabe Harmon and Immanuel Vance. The Wildcat defense, anchored by Charles Moore and Ashanti Cistrunk, comes up big.
Pick: Louisville 24-17
Greenwood (10-2) at Corinth (11-2)
Two power running teams square off as Greenwood heads up to face Corinth. The Warriors are averaging 340.9 yards per game on the ground led by quarterback D.T. Sheffield. Running backs in Zach Patterson and Tameron Patterson are also keys to the offense. The Bulldog rushing attack is led by quarterback Kobe Chamber along with running backs Walter Ivory and Tyler Pitts. The Warrior running game makes the difference.
Pick: Corinth 35-21
West Lauderdale (12-1) at East Central (11-0)
West Lauderdale will face East Central in maybe the top 4A game of the night. The Hornet defense is allowing 8.6 points per game led by linebacker Avery White. White is a tackling machine. The Knights are only giving up 10.5 points per game. The East Central rushing attack is averaging 314.8 points per game led by quarterback Will Young and running backs Dylan Grinsteinner and Cameron Gray. West Lauderdale is averaging 208.7 yards per game rushing led by running backs Taylor Turnage and Eli Bryan. Quarterback Austin Davidson has thrown for 21 touchdowns this year to lead the Knight passing attack. The Hornet defense keeps East Central undefeated.
Pick: East Central 28-20
South Pike (11-2) at Poplarville (11-1)
South Pike heads down to face Poplarville in a matchup of a high-powered offense and a stifling defense. The Hornet defense only gives up 13.7 points per game, while the Eagle offense is averaging 45.7 points per game. Poplarville’s offense is averaging 42.9 points per game and is led by an always potent rushing attack that averages 332.8 yards per game. It’s anchored by quarterback Antonio Barnes and running backs Ethan Taylor, Amahd Bolton, Cory Knight and Chase Shears. The South Pike ground game is averaging 340.5 yards per game led by quarterback Dontavious Turner along with running backs Deldrionn Amos and Kadarius Jackson. The Hornets get the job done at home.
Pick: Poplarville 28-24
Water Valley (11-2) at Houston (11-1)
Water Valley will face Houston it what could be a low scoring affair between two good defenses. The Blue Devils only allow 10.9 points per game, while the Hilltoppers only give up 15.8 points per game. Houston is led by a running game that averages 340.6 yards per game led by do-it-all athlete Jalen May and running back Lajarvis Ewing. Water Valley is also led by a running game that is averaging 166.7 yards per game with running backs Kenterrious Rucker and Jacob Truss. Wide receiver Bud Tolbert is one to watch for the Blue Devils. Toppers survive in a close one at home.
Pick: Houston 17-14
North Panola (11-1) at Charleston (11-2)
North Panola will make the short trip down to face Charleston. This game will come down to the battle of a Cougar defense that only gives up 10.1 points per game against a Tiger rushing attack that averages 237 yards per game led by quarterback Jay Brown and running back Quynn Crawford. Ole Miss commit DeAntre Prince is one to watch for the Tigers at defensive back. North Panola also has a very explosive offense that averages 42.9 points per game, 304.9 yards per game passing and 299.4 yards per game rushing. Quarterback K.J. Jefferson is committed to Arkansas following a huge season season. Running back Clarence Taylor and receiver Tyler Shorter are playmakers. The Cougar offense continues to roll.
Pick: North Panola 36-26
Winona (13-0) at Seminary (10-3)
Unbeaten Winona will make a long trip down Highway 49 to face Seminary. The Tigers are led by a potent rushing attack that is averaging 277.9 yards per game anchored by quarterback An’Darius Coffey and running back Jay Lofton. The Bulldogs are also led by a ground game that is averaging 266.7 yards per game led by the duo of running backs in Jordan Barrett and Marquis Crosby. The Bulldog defense is anchored by a major talent in Mississippi State defensive tackle commit Nathan Pickering. He’s the difference at home.
Pick: Seminary 21-20
Jefferson Davis County (9-4) at Columbia (10-2)
Jefferson Davis County faces Region 8-3A rival Columbia. The Wildcats won the regular season matchup 14-12 in Bassfield back on Oct. 12. This one will be a battle of running games. Columbia is averaging 283.5 yards per game on the ground led by running backs Omar Johnson and Kentrel Bullock. The Jaguars are averaging 275.2 yards per game on the ground anchored by quarterback Michael Carraway and a trio of running backs in Kyser Booth, Justin Berry and Ricky Griffith. Expect a great game but the Wildcats will get it done at home.
Pick: Columbia 21-18
Scott Central (12-1) at Eupora (8-4)
Scott Central faces Eupora as both teams are coming off shutouts in the second round of the playoffs. The Rebels are led by a defense that only allows 8.7 points per game led by linebackers Navonteque Strong and Vontae McDonald. The Scott Central offense is led by a rushing attack that averages 235 yards game anchored by quarterback Treyon Wash and running backs Jabrelynn Vivians, Hydee Barlow and McDonald. The Eagles are led by ground game that averages 189.5 yards per game led by quarterback Edwin Herard along with running backs Preston Perkins and Tra McComb. The Rebel defense is just too much.
Pick: Scott Central 34-20
Philadelphia (8-4) at Calhoun City (9-4)
For the second time this season Philadelphia heads up to face Calhoun City. The Wildcats defeated the Tornadoes 15-7 on Sept. 27. The bad news for Philadelphia is promising wide receiver Lideatrick Griffin is out after suffering a broken leg in last week’s game against East Webster. The Tornadoes are still a very balanced offense averaging 184.8 yards per game rushing and 179.2 yards passing. Quarterback Asher Morgan, receiver Kadarius Calloway and running backs Raedarius Triplett, Deiondre Fox and Kornelious Triplett provide a ton of offense. Calhoun City is led by an always potent ground game that is averaging 222.1 yards per game led by quarterback Chardarius Hill and running back Anfernee Campbell. The Wildcat defense only allows 9 points a game and makes the difference.
Pick: Calhoun City 14-10
Taylorsville (13-0) at Collins (11-1)
This is a matchup a lot of people have been waiting for as Taylorsville makes the short trip down to face Collins. The Tartars beat the Tigers in the 2A South State title game last year. Taylorsville is averaging 38.5 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. Collins is averaging 168.2 yards per game passing led by quarterback Hershey McLaurin and receivers Markel McLaurin and Zyrion Thompson. The Tartar defense only allows 9.2 points per game and comes up with one big stop late.
Pick: Taylorsville 35-30
Bay Springs (10-3) at Richton (9-3)
Bay Springs is coming off a huge road win over Pelahatchie last week and now must go on the road again as they head to Richton. The Bulldogs are led by a rushing attack that averages 280.8 yards per game and features running backs Jamarius Hosey and Anson Windham. The Rebels have made a surprise run into the quarterfinal round under first year coach Stephen Rice and is also led by a rushing attack that averages 222.1 yards per game led by quarterback Dylan Farve and running back D.D. Griffin. The Bulldog ground game is too much in this one.
Pick: Bay Springs 35-24
Okolona (9-3) at Smithville (10-3)
For the second time this year Okolona will travel to face Smithville in a battle of Region 1-1A foes. The Seminoles edged the Chieftains 27-22 on Sept. 28. Okolona is led by a ground game that is averaging 253.5 yards per game. Running back Jacorrius Standfield is hard to stop and Deonte Hampton adds to the talented backfield. Smithville is averaging 210.3 yards per game rushing led by quarterback Octavion Miller and running back Jabril Smith. The Seminole defense allows 18.7 points per game but comes up big in this one late.
Pick: Smithville 23-20
Biggersville (12-1) at Hollandale Simmons (12-0)
Biggersville heads over to the Delta to face Simmons in Hollandale. The Lions are anchored by a rushing attack that is averaging 312.8 yards per game led by quarterback Quinton Knight and running backs Quonn Crump-Mayes and Quamon Davis. The Blue Devils are coming in with the nation’s third longest active winning streak at 52 games and is anchored by a defense that only gives up 4.8 points per game. Simmons is very balanced on offense averaging 245.1 yards per game rushing and 210.8 yards per game passing. They are led by quarterback Tyderius Gipson, running back Demarrius Turner and receivers C.J. Williams and Antavius Rounds. The three-time defending 1A state champs move on.
Pick: Simmons 36-22
Stringer (11-2) at Nanih Waiya (12-1)
Stringer will travel to Winston County to face Nanih Waiya. The Warriors are led by a defense that only allows seven points a game and a rushing attack that averages 317.2 yards per game anchored by quarterback Donovan Turner and running backs Shia Moore and Devean Turner. The Red Devils are also led by a ground game that is averaging 247.1 yards per game led by running back Anthony Thomas. Quarterback Cayleb Dyess can be a difference-maker for Stringer. Warriors get it done at home.
Pick: Nanih Waiya 31-21
East Marion (7-5) at Lumberton (11-1)
East Marion will head back down to Lumberton for the second time this year in a battle of Region 4-1A foes. The Panthers won the regular season matchup over the Eagles 34-8 back on Sept. 28. Lumberton is led by a defense only allows 11 points per game and a ground game that is averaging 307.3 yards per game. It’s led by running backs Robert Henry and Davion Edwards. East Marion is coming off a shutout road win at Noxapater last week and is a more balanced offense averaging 171.4 yards per game rushing and 137.9 yards per game passing. Quarterback Devin Daniels, running back Wanya Cook and receiver Flenard McLin are capable of a big night. The Panthers move on to South State.
Pick: Lumberton 32-20