It’s finally Thanksgiving week which means family, friend’s, way too much eating and Mississippi high school football at its finest.
It’s been a fantastic 2014 high school football season in the State of Mississippi and the playoffs have been everything we thought they would be up to this point, but now we are dialing in on the mountain top this Friday night as twelve teams will punch their ticket to Starkville, MS for a chance to play for a state championship at Davis Wade Stadium on December 5th and 6th.
There are 12- championship games this Friday night (north and south); 1A -6A and it all begins with the heavy hitters in the state’s biggest classification.
No game is bigger than South Panola (13-0) traveling to Starkville (12-0) for the north-6A championship.
These two have been on a crash course since the beginning of the year and this has been THE game people have been waiting for. Many are calling it the “defacto” 6A State Championship (more on that later), as these two giants clash in Starkville Friday night.
It’s the history and prestige of South Panola verses Starkville’s “ShowTime” football team.
You couldn’t have more contrasting styles in this one, as one team loves to grind you out and physically beat you up , while the other loves to sit back and throw it down the field.
Starkville’s Brady Davis leads the way in this ballgame as he’s accounted for 3,127-passing yards to go along with 39-touchdowns and only six interceptions. His top targets, Raphael Leonard and AJ Brown have accounted for over 1,000 receiving-yards a piece and 30 of Davis’s touchdowns.
South Panola on the other hand is led by Dandy Dozen and potential All-State running back Darrell Henderson. Henderson has accounted for 1,964-rushing yards and 28-touchdowns. He, along with Oluwain Hoskins (1,092-rushing yards and 10-touchdowns), give the Tigers of South Panola their usual home run threat in the ground game.
It will truly be a contrast in styles on Friday night and a heck of a ballgame.
Way south of Starkille, down in Rankin County, Oak Grove (12-1) will be visiting Louis Gene Strickland Field and Brad Peterson’s 12-1 Bulldog football team.
While Panola and Starkville have gotten all the love in 6A this year, it’s the Warriors who are the defending champions and Bulldogs who might have the most complete team in this state.
These two tie it on for the second time this year as Brandon and Oak Grove met back on October 24th down in the Pine Belt, with the Bulldogs getting the victory 39-31.
It was Oak Grove’s first loss since losing to this same Brandon team back last year, 42-23. Oak Grove is an astonishing 26-2 the last two years and has the Championship Trophy sitting in their club house so they still have a say in this year’s results.
Their opponent, the Brandon Bulldogs have been fantastic under Brad Peterson and senior quarterback Gardner Minshew (over 3,200 passing-yards, 27-touchdowns and 3-interceptions) is arguably the best quarterback in the state. For the Bulldogs it’s all about getting back to that championship game for another shot at the Gold Ball. The Bulldogs lost to South Panola in 2012 and was upset by Meridian last year in the quarterfinal round, so the town motto this year has been #FINISH. This is the last hooray for these Bulldog Seniors and they would love to finish what they started three years ago.
5A Not Taking a Back Seat to Anyone:
If you can’t make it to Starkville or Brandon this Friday, the 5A Final Four is equally impressive. Pearl travels to Oxford for a big time match-up in the north, while Laurel and Wayne County lock horns in the south.
Oxford is looking to return to the state championship game and finish out on top this year; while Pearl is on fire after a slow start at the beginning of the season.
Laurel and Wayne County will be meeting for the second time this year, as these two played on October 24th with Laurel grabbing the win, 23-17.
New King in 4A:
Forrest County AHS defeated Lafayette last year to claim the 4A State Championship, but this year it’s all about the new.
Greenwood and Noxubee County tangle in the north, while St. Stanislaus and Purvis get down in the south. There may not be two better match-ups in the state this weekend. Both should be very entertaining games in 4A.
Here Comes Charleston – Again:.
After three straight appearances in the State Championship game, the Charleston Tigers are back again, looking to punch their ticket to a fourth straight title game.
The Tigers lost the previous two championships to Louisville and Hazlehurst, but won the State Championship back in 2011. For Charleston to make a fourth straight trip, they have to get by a very good Kemper County team this Friday night.
West Marion and Collins tangle in the south on the other end of the 3A-bracket.
Bassfield versus Calhoun City Part Two?
Bassfield is looking to make it three State Titles in a row, but first they must get past East Marion on the road this Friday night.
In the north, Calhoun City puts their undefeated season on the line against East Webster. The Wildcats of Calhoun City haven’t lost a game since losing to Bassfield last year down in Jackson and would love another shot at Lance Mancuso’s Yellowjackets.
Nanih Waiya Looking to Close the Deal:
Tate Hanna’s Warriors of Nanih Waiya have run through the 2014 football season and have a perfect 13-0 record heading into Friday night. The Warriors are now two wins away from a perfect season, but have their work cut out for them this Friday against Cathedral (12-1).
In the north half of 1A, Coffeeville takes on St. Aloysius in a battle of 12-1 teams. These two met last year in the first round of the playoffs, with St. Aloysius winning 24-21. This should again be another great ballgame between these two clubs.