(PHOTO: Oak Grove tight end Logan Scott) We’ve finally reached the last week of the high school football season with twelve teams battling for coveted State Championship trophies. I wish all of them could walk away with it, but only six will be crowned. Here are our picks for this weekend’s games. Good luck to everyone. All games air live on Mississippi Public Broadcasting, as well as online at www.misshsaa.tv.
Tupelo (13-1) vs Oak Grove (13-1) / 7:30 PM
Oak Grove is back in the title game for the first time since 2009, chasing their first state championship. The offense has scored 564 points, 99 points more than any other 6A team and almost 200 points more than Tupelo. An underrated defense has been overshadowed all year by the offensive firepower, but 34 forced turnovers lead all of 6A including 23 interceptions. Tupelo reached the state title game for the first time since 1992 in Trent Hammond’s first season at the helm. The offensive numbers aren’t staggering, but they’ve scored enough to win. Senior athlete Quinn Tiggs is a versatile offensive weapon with 1,400 yards rushing and 15 total touchdowns. Sophomore quarterback Daniel Bristow has been solid all season. The defense has been nothing short of dominant, exhibited last week when they held South Panola to 169 yards of total offense. The weather will impact an Oak Grove offense that has piled up passing yards, but the Warriors’ don’t have to throw the ball down the field to be effective. Warren Central and Madison Central both had some success throwing the ball against Tupelo. Oak Grove has the talented skill players necessary to attack Tupelo’s defense.
Oxford (14-0) vs Picayune (11-2) / 7:30 PM
Oxford dominated a very talented Callaway team last week in a 23-7 win, earning a chance at their first state championship. After seeing the Chargers in action last week, it’s easy to see how they were so successful this year. The roster is incredibly young, but also can match up with any 5A team in the state in terms of pure talent. Particularly on offense where skill players are plentiful, led by sophomore quarterback Jack Abraham and his 3,310 passing yards. But Picayune will be the best team Oxford has played all season. The Maroon Tide can run the football with any team in the state, with senior tailback Preston Dedeaux needing just 149 yards to top 2,000 yards for the season. Weather conditions could affect this game as much as any, with poor weather favoring a Picayune team that would love to play smash-mouth football.
Lafayette (10-5) vs Forrest County (12-2) / 3:00 PM
Lafayette is making their fourth trip to the title game in five years and could win their third championship in four years. This Commodore team doesn’t have as much pure talent as previous championships teams, but they have found ways to win down the stretch. D. K. Buford and Tyrell Price have both rushed for over 1,000 yards. Forrest County, on the other hand, is making their first championship game in school history. Mississippi State commit Dontavian Lee has rushed for 1,590 yards, but quarterback Carter Hankins is the offensive MVP after accounting for 34 touchdowns. The Aggies are averaging 38 points per game in the playoffs.
Louisville (15-0) vs Hazlehurst (14-1) / 11:00 AM
Louisville has been the overwhelming 3A favorite since the start of the season. They’ve outscored opponents 598-86, led by quarterback Wyatt Roberts and his 2,827 passing yards. Roberts and linebacker Jeremy Sangster both will play in the Mississippi-Alabama All-Star Classic. If there is a team that can match Louisville’s talent, it’s Hazlehurst. The Indians are the defending state champs, with their only loss coming against 2A favorite Bassfield by a 21-20 score. Toriaun Samuels also earned a spot on the MS-AL All-Star team, and has helped the offense rush for 3,779 yards and 70 touchdowns.
Calhoun City (11-3) vs Bassfield (14-1) / 3:00 PM
Bassfield’s state championship team last year was lauded as one of the best small school teams in Mississippi history. That team scored 639 points, but this year’s Yellowjacket team has rolled up 660 points and again are undefeated against MHSAA teams. Bassfield is loaded with four Division 1 commitments and one of the nation’s top juniors. Calhoun City has championship experience with four state title appearances in eight years. The Wildcats rushed for 3,143 yards as a team with 79 touchdowns, but Bassfield’s talent is just too much to overcome.
Smithville (11-3) vs French Camp (10-5) / 11:00 AM
French Camp got this far last season in their inaugural state championship appearance before losing to Stringer. The Panthers lost their first four games this season, but faced a brutal early schedule. They’ve scored 498 points as 1A’s second-most potent offense. Jesse Hoskett has thrown 25 touchdowns and has rushed for 14 more. Smithville is chasing their first title since the 1998 season. Tyler Hood rushed for 189 yards and four scores last week to beat St. Aloysius. The Seminoles have enjoyed a great season but French Camp’s experience last year, along with Jesse Hoskett should give the Panthers an edge.