South Panola (12-1) at Oxford (11-1)
South Panola makes the short over to Bobby Holcomb Field to face Oxford. Oxford is balanced on offense averaging 178.2 yards per game rushing and 122.7 yards per game passing anchored by quarterback John Meagher. J.J. Pegues is a definite mismatch on the outside and Kelvin Wadley also helps lead the ground game for the Chargers. South Panola is led by a rushing attack that averages 286 yards per game anchored by running back Janari Dean (1,305 yards, 12 touchdowns) and quarterback Anterrio Draper (526 yards, 7 touchdowns). Dean has been nothing short of great since coming back from injury. Draper also has thrown 21 touchdown passes. The Tiger defense only allows 13.8 points per game and is the difference.
Pick: South Panola 27-17
Olive Branch (9-3) at Starkville (11-2)
Olive Branch heads down to Starkville to face the Yellowjackets. This is a matchup of two really good defenses as Starkville allows just 14.7 points per game, while Olive Branch allows only 13.6 points per game. Olive Branch has a ground game that averages 201.3 yards per game led by running backs Gary Banks (1,410 yards rushing, 15 touchdowns) and Preston Jeffries (700 yards, 10 touchdowns). Starkville is led by a passing game that is averaging 252 yards per game with junior quarterback Luke Altmyer (2,475 yards passing, 30 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. Starkville is tough to beat at home.
Pick: Starkville 35-20
Brandon (9-4) at Petal (11-1)
For the second time this year, Brandon travels to Petal to face the Panthers in a matchup of Region 3-6A foes. Petal won the regular season game 27-24 on a last second field goal. The question again is how well the Petal secondary matches up against the Brandon passing game. The Bulldogs are averaging 257.3 yards per game through the air led by quarterback Will Rogers along with receivers Ashton Nickelberry and Ladarius Moore. Petal is anchored by a solid rushing attack averaging 247.4 yards per game led by quarterback Decarlos Nicholson along with running backs Micah McGowan and Rashad Handford. Once again this will be a close one and the Panthers get the job done at home.
Pick: Petal 24-21
Oak Grove (9-3) at Gulfport (10-2)
Also for the second time this year, Oak Grove is headed to Milner Stadium to face Gulfport. Oak Grove won the regular season matchup 37-13. The Warriors are very balanced on offense averaging 204.7 yards per game passing and 178.9 yards per game rushing anchored by quarterback Damon Stewart, running back Nick Milsap along with receivers Brandon Hayes, Jordan Coleman, Liam Breithaupt and Tavion Smith. Gulfport is averaging 193.7 yards per game passing and 128.3 yards rushing per game led by a quarterback Cade Crosby, running back Tyran Gable along with receivers Deshun Shields and Tommie Johnson. The Warriors have been rolling as late and they move on.
Pick: Oak Grove 28-17
Lafayette (9-3) at West Point (12-1)
Lafayette is on the road at West Point in a matchup of Region 1-5A foes. This will be a battle of two power running teams. West Point won in a thriller in the regular season 28-24. The West Point offense is averaging 269.3 yards per game on the ground led by Brandon Harris, Tae Gibbs and Dantariyus Cannon. Lafayette is averaging 249.4 yards per game on the ground led by quarterback Randy Anderson along with running backs Tyrus Williams and Xzavious Stokes. This game is always close but I’m going with the three-time defending champs at home.
Pick: West Point 27-20
Lake Cormorant (8-4) at Neshoba Central (9-3)
Lake Cormorant makes the trip down to Philadelphia to face the Rockets. Lake Cormorant is balanced on offense averaging 145.8 yards per game rushing led by quarterback Telvin Amos along with running back Jadelldrien Maggett. The Gators also average 127 yards per game passing with Amos throwing for 1,458 yards with 15 touchdowns. J.J. Daniels (946 yards receiving, 9 touchdowns). Neshoba Central is led by a rushing attack that averages 297.6 yards per game anchored by running back Jarquez Hunter (1,689 yards rushing, 22 touchdowns) along with Tyler Mathis and Austin Day. Hunter had two interceptions, including a pick six last week in the win over Grenada. This should be a tight one, but the Rocket ground game ends up too much at home.
Pick: Neshoba Central 26-21
Wayne County (9-3) at West Jones (12-0)
It’s one of the state’s biggest rivalries as Wayne County hits Highway 84 to face West Jones for the second time this season. West Jones won the regular season contest 31-10 and has never beaten Wayne County twice in the same season. West Jones is a more balanced offense averaging 179.3 yards per game rushing and 137.6 yards per game passing led by quarterback Alan Follis (1,472 yards passing, 17 touchdowns) along with running backs Jasper Jones, Kentrel Pruitt and Joshua McDonald. Wayne County is averaging 253.1 yards per game rushing led by quarterback Zhakerrean Wesley (1,309 yards rushing, 16 touchdowns) along with running backs Shadamien Williamson and Kelnevious Walley. The Mustang defense is the difference.
Pick: West Jones 28-20
Laurel (10-2) at Picayune (12-0)
Laurel travels down I-59 to face possibly the state’s top overall team in Picayune. Laurel is led by a rushing attack that averages 208.5 yards per game led by quarterback Xavier Evans and running backs Amir Smith and Kiron Benjamin. Kanarius Johnson is one to watch at receiver to help lead the Golden Tornado passing game that averages 157.2 yards per game. The Picayune offense averages 435.5 yards per game will be anchored by quarterback Jakail Myers along with running backs Cameron Thomas (2,542 yards, 34 touchdowns), Austin Samples, Jalen Hall and Kade Turnage. The Picayune defense comes through for the win.
Pick: Picayune 31-17
Itawamba AHS (13-0) at Corinth (11-1)
Itawamba AHS makes the trip up Highway 45 to face Corinth. The Indians are led by a rushing attack that is averaging 306.8 yards led by quarterback Daeveon Sistrunk and running back Ike Chandler (2,299 yards rushing, 28 touchdowns), the Mr. Football award winner for Class 4A. Corinth is led by a ground game that’s averaging 270.8 yards per game led by quarterback D.T. Sheffield along with running backs Tameron Patterson (18 rushing touchdowns), Cayden Betts and Will Agnew. Linebacker Carter Bonds and the Warrior defense comes up big at home.
Pick: Corinth 27-14
Louisville (11-2) at Greenwood (12-0)
This is a game a lot of people have been looking forward too as Louisville travels up to Greenwood to face the Bulldogs in a rematch of last year’s 4A North State title game. It’ll be a matchup of two great defenses as Greenwood allows just 7.3 points per game, while Louisville gives up just 9.2 points per game. Greenwood is very explosive on offense averaging 40.8 points per game, 207.2 yards per game passing, 173.7 yards rushing per game. Quarterback Deandre Smith (2,063 yards passing, 23 touchdowns) is a crucial part of those numbers, along with running back Jamarion Addison (16 rushing touchdowns) and receivers Kobe Chambers (13 receiving touchdowns) and Daylin Metcalf. Louisville is also very balanced on offense averaging 190.3 yards per game rushing that is anchored by running back Michael Foster (1,192 yards rushing, 14 touchdowns). Quarterback Bryandrea Shumaker (1,837 yards passing, 14 touchdowns) leads the passing attack that averages 163.7 yards per game. Receivers Kaleb Mosley and Niselbyion Kirk are the top targets. The key to this game will be the Louisville defense led by linebacker Kristian Hopkins and defensive tackle Laquerrious Taylor against the potent Greenwood passing attack. The Bulldogs get revenge at home.
Pick: Greenwood 20-17
South Pike (13-0) at Poplarville (7-5)
For the second consecutive season, South Pike faces Poplarville in the third round of the playoffs. Poplarville is led by a ground game that averages 277.1 yards per game led by quarterback Blaise Breerwood along with running backs Chase Shears, Gregory Swann and Ethan Taylor. South Pike is led by a very explosive offense that averages 40.3 points per game led by quarterback Dontavious Turner (1,535 yards passing, 22 TD’s; 1,334 yards rushing, 17 TD’s). Watch for running backs Kam Reynolds and Brandon Johnson that lead the rushing attack that averages 285.5 yards per game. Receiver Alex Adams (9 receiving touchdowns) is one to watch. The Eagle offense is just too much.
Pick: South Pike 30-20
Lawrence County (8-5) at Newton County (8-5)
This is the matchup no one saw coming as Lawrence County faces Newton County. Both teams are No. 3 seeds and like to run the ball. Lawrence County is averaging 323.5 yards per game on the ground anchored by Kylan Cooper (1,923 yards rushing, 23 touchdowns) along with Antwan Pittman, Perez Tyler along with quarterback Haden Mullins. Newton County is averaging 180.1 yards per game rushing led by running back Carlois Walker (1,528 yards rushing, 18 touchdowns). The Cougars have won five in a row and move to the semifinals for the third time in school history.
Pick: Newton County 22-21
Houston (9-3) at Noxubee County (8-5)
For the second time this season, Houston travels to Macon to face Noxubee County in a battle for Regio 4-3A foes. Noxubee won the regular season matchup 19-12. Houston is averaging 240.5 yards per game rushing led by quarterback Martravius Parker along with running backs Bobby Townsend, Allen Robertson and a plethora of others. Marlon Windham leads the Noxubee offense that averages 177.5 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 131.3. The Tigers survive another close defensive battle at home.
Pick: Noxubee County 16-14
Choctaw County (10-3) at Amanda Elzy (9-3)
Choctaw County is on the road at Amanda Elzy. It’ll be a matchup of two heavy run teams. Choctaw County is anchored by a potent rushing attack that averages 267.7 yards per game anchored by quarterback Tylan Carter (1,058 yards rushing, 12 touchdowns) and running back Dicenzo Miller (1,268 yards, 15 touchdowns) along with Antonio Kennedy. Amanda Elzy is led by running back Dephabian Fant (2,233 yards rushing, 26 touchdowns) to lead the rushing attack that averages 283.8 yards per game. The Charger defense does give up 17.9 points per game but comes up big late in this one.
Pick: Choctaw County 21-18
Jefferson Davis County (7-6) at West Marion (12-1)
Jefferson Davis County makes the trip down Highway 35 to Foxworth to face West Marion in a matchup of Region 8-3A foes. West Marion won the regular season contest 16-6 in Bassfield. The Trojans are averaging 135.6 yards passing per game and 184.9 yards rushing per game led by quarterback Jeremiah Holmes (19 passing touchdowns), running backs Octavious Harvey and Jartavious Martin. Receiver Omarion Husband can be a threat as well. 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 Trojan defense allows just 7 points per game and comes up big in this one.
Pick: West Marion 17-7
Magee (10-3) at Columbia (12-0)
Magee heads down to Walter Payton Field to face Columbia in a battle of Region 8-3A foes. Columbia won the regular season matchup 24-14 in the last game of the season. Magee is averaging 43.9 points per game, 219.9 yards passing, and 207.7 yards rushing. Junior quarterback Chandler Pittman (2,849 yards passing, 26 touchdowns; 1,307 yards rushing, 19 touchdowns) already has SEC offers. Running back Jawon Shaw and receiver Xavier Franks have been solid. Columbia is led by a rushing attack that averages 329.1 yards per game anchored by running backs in Ole Miss commit Kentrel Bullock (1,845 yards rushing, 30 touchdowns) along with Omar Johnson and quarterback Josh Brown. The Wildcat defense anchored by Jordan Aaron and Jamison Kelly are the difference.
Pick: Columbia 28-20
Calhoun City (9-3) at Charleston (9-4)
Calhoun City makes the trip over to Charleston to face the Tigers. This one will be a matchup of two heavy run teams. Charleston is led by a ground game that averages 180.9 yards per game led by quarterback Chris Bradford along with running backs Keyshun Cashaw, Mook Prince and Kristian Gammage. Calhoun City is also led by a fierce ground game that averages 211.5 yards per game led by quarterback Chardarius Hill along with running backs Hayden Goodson and Kody Townsend. The Wildcat defense has been hard to score on all season, only allowing 10 points per game, and that’s the difference.
Pick: Calhoun City 13-12
East Webster (11-1) at Northside (12-0)
East Webster makes the trip over to Shelby to face Northside. Northside is a balanced team offensively averaging 184.9 yards per game rushing and 133.5 yards per game passing led by quarterback Jaterrance Moore, running backs Semaj Daniels (1,022 yards, 11 touchdowns) and Thaddeus Latham along with receiver Karl Burrage. The Gator defense has allowed just three touchdowns all season. East Webster is averaging 250.8 yards per game rushing anchored by quarterback Steven Betts (1,544 yards rushing, 18q rushing touchdowns) along with running backs Tyrik Pittman and Debo Patterson. Betts has thrown 14 touchdown passes, so East Webster is not one-dimensional. The Gator defense will be able to contain the Wolverine ground game at home.
Pick: Northside 23-14
Philadelphia (12-1) at Taylorsville (12-1)
This is a matchup a lot of people have been aiming for as Philadelphia squares off against Taylorsville. The Tornadoes are led by quarterback Asher Morgan, running back Raedarius Triplett along with receivers Kadarius Calloway and MSU commit Lideatrick Griffin. The Philadelphia defense only allows 14.5 points per game anchored by Deiondre Fox, Griffin and Tanner Boler. Taylorsville is led by a dynamic offense that is averaging 37.9 points per game, 265.4 yards passing, and 191.9 yards rushing led by quarterback Ty Keyes (3,302 yards passing, 39 touchdowns), running backs Jeffrey Pittman and Travis Keyes along with receivers Jabez Griffith, Tyrese Keyes, Arterrious Miller and Cedrick Beavers. The Tartar defense only allows 9.5 points per game, so this one could be a low scoring affair. The Tartars are tough to beat at home.
Pick: Taylorsville 20-18
Scott Central (10-2) at Enterprise-Clarke (11-1)
Defending 2A state champion Scott Central travels to Enterprise to face the Bulldogs. Enterprise-Clarke has been a big time surprise this season and is led by a rushing attack that is averaging 270.7 yards per game anchored by quarterback Derryon Gray along with running backs Kristian Milsap (1,143 yards rushing, 19 touchdowns), John Campbell and Ridge Kidd. Scott Central is led by a rushing attack that’s averaging 185.8 yards per game. Quarterback Treyon Wash and running backs Elijah Robinson, Jackie Donald and Jabrelynn Vivians make the offense go. The Rebel defense allows just 11.6 points per game and is the difference.
Pick: Scott Central 18-12
Noxapater (11-2) at Biggersville (10-1)
Noxapater makes the trip up to Biggersville to face the Lions. This will be a matchup of two heavy run teams and two teams with good defenses. Noxapater is giving up 10.8 points per game defensively, while Biggersville only allows just 11.5 points per game. 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. Biggersville is led by a ground game that averages 219.1 yards per game led by quarterback Quinton Knight along with running backs Jarell Jones and Goldman Butler (1,379 yards rushing, 26 touchdowns). It’ll be close, but the Tiger speed is the difference.
Pick: Noxapater 18-14
Baldwyn (8-4) at Nanih Waiya (11-2)
Baldwyn matches up against Nanih Waiya to face the defending 1A state champion Warriors. Nanih Waiya is averaging 257.5 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 (959 yards rushing, 14 touchdowns). Baldwyn is also very balanced offensively averaging 207.2 yards passing per game and 132.6 rushing led by quarterback Maddux Richey (2,400 yards passing, 29 touchdowns), running back Kevrick Richey along with receivers Tim Scales and Jacolby Williams. The Warrior defense allows 16.6 points per game and comes up with a big stop late.
Pick: Nanih Waiya 26-20
Richton (7-5) at Resurrection (9-2)
For the second time this season, Richton travels down to Pascagoula to face the Eagles in a matchup of Region 4-1A foes. Resurrection won the regular season matchup 25-8. Resurrection is averaging 217.2 yards per game rushing led by quarterback Riley Mathews along with running backs Zack Switzer (1,096 yards rushing, 14 touchdowns) and Elijah Watts. Richton has been one of the biggest surprises of the postseason and is also led by a rushing attack that averages 169.6 yards per game that is anchored by Dylan Farve (1,068 yards rushing, 22 touchdowns; 1,086 yards passing, 10 touchdowns) along with Malcolm Hinton. The Eagles are tough to beat at home.
Pick: Resurrection 21-14
Leflore County (8-3) at Lumberton (10-3)
Leflore County makes the trip down to Lumberton to face the Panthers. Lumberton is led by a rushing attack that’s averaging 257.7 yards per game led by running back Robert Henry (1,567 yards rushing, 25 touchdowns; 8 passing touchdowns) along with Shavante Toney (11 touchdowns) and Trevon Jessie. Leflore County is led by a defense that allows just 14.4 points per game. Henry and company is just too much.
Pick: Lumberton 30-20