Top Story lines heading into High School Football Playoffs

Tupelo receiver Jordan Jernigan. Keith Warren/MHSAA

Its playoff time, so here’s a few headlines heading into the playoffs that start this week for teams in Class 6A, 5A and 1A. Teams in Class 4A, 3A, 2A and MAIS have already started.

CLASS 6A

Whose gonna stop Tupelo and Pearl?

Well the Golden Wave (11-0) and Pirates (12-0) went through the regular season undefeated, and have a mind set of meeting on Dec. 1 for the Class 6A state championship at Ole Miss’ Vaught Hemingway Stadium.

Pearl’s defense only allows 9.4 points per game that is led by Tylan Knight, Willie Brown and the most points the Pirates have allowed in game is 27 twice (Parkway, La. and Brandon). Offensively, the Pirates have been rolling behind Jake Smithhart, Mississippi State commit Johnquarise Patterson, Johnny Winston and Tylan Knight.

Tupelo is more physical defensively that allows 9.9 points per game that is led by a duo of linebackers in Mississippi State commit Jett Johnson and UTSA commit Peter Gray along with safety Tavario Standifer. Tupelo is led offensively by the duo of quarterback Stephon McGlaun and running back Jaquerrious Williams, who have been virtually unstoppable in the running game that averages 242 yards per game.

So who can stop either of these two teams? Let’s start in the North 6A.

Behind quarterback Patrick Shegog and a bend but don’t break defense, South Panola is always in the mix. The Tigers lost to Tupelo 31-21 last month and if they want a rematch at home with the Golden Wave they first have to get through Madison Central in first round Friday.

The Madison Central defense only gives up 12.5 points per game led by Cam White, Kirkland Trahan, Kobe Cole and Truett Bourne. With Jimmy Holiday now at quarterback since mid-season has opened up the playbook for the Jaguars and have two running backs go along with Holiday in Cam White and Cedric Beal. If Madison Central can get past South Panola the Jaguars will get that chance in the second round at Tupelo.

Starkville is more than likely the most balanced team that could give Tupelo problems. The Yellowjackets average 187 yards per game rushing led by Rodrigues Clark, Andreus Swanigan and K.J. Lawrence. Quarterback Malik Brown anchors the passing attack that averages 145 yards per game and his top targets are Cameron Gardner, Rufus Harvey and Cameron Hines.

Horn Lake and Northwest Rankin is very capable of making noise in North 6A.

As for South 6A there’s two teams that give Pearl problems and those are Petal and Brandon.

Petal lost to Pearl 14-3 in the division opener back on Sept. 22. The Panthers had to win its regular season finale to get into the playoffs and have become more balanced offensively with Nataurean Watts moving from wide receiver to running back. Petal is averaging 166 yards per game on the ground, but average 222 yards per game passing led by Jordan Wilson, Natorian Watts, Marquise Bridges and Trent Williams.

Brandon would want nothing more than a rematch with the Pirates after falling in overtime 28-27 and would happen in the second round at Brandon if the Bulldogs can get past Hancock on the road Friday. Brandon is led by a fierce passing attack that averages 178 yards per game led by Will Rogers, Jonathan Mingo, Matt Stowers, Bo Whatley and Reed Tyler. Javarous Spann has came along at running back for the Bulldogs.

Can Region 4-6A get a team past the first round?

It has been a while since a team from the Coast got past the first round of the Class 6A playoffs.

The last time a team from 4-6A got to the second round was D’Iberville in 2012.

T.Q. Newsome and a running game that averages 207 yards a game has Gulfport eyeing a deep run in the playoffs, but the Admirals have a very confident Meridian team coming to Milner Stadium Friday.

 

CLASS 5A

Its West Point and everyone else

Lets be honest West Point has been the most dominating team in Mississippi this year.

The Green Wave (11-0) is currently on a 24-game winning streak, the third active longest winning streak in the state behind Hollandale Simmons and Indianola Academy.

West Point is averaging 47.1 points per game offensively and has been led by a rushing attack that averages 342 yards per game led by Mississippi State commit Marcus Murphy and Chris Calvert.

Defense is what West Point is built around. The Green Wave have only given up 69 points all year (6.3 points per game) led by Jason Brownlee, Ledarius Glover, Xavier Fair and Terence Cherry.

In two of West Point’s biggest wins the Green Wave held Starkville to just 137 yards of offense and nine first downs. Against Olive Branch, West Point held the Conquistadors to 105 yards of offense and three first downs.

The Green Wave begins its quest for back to back 5A state titles Friday vs. Callaway.

Cleveland Central making big things in year one

It didn’t take long for Cleveland Central to start making themselves into a contender in 5A.

In the first year of the schools existence the Wolves (12-0) went undefeated in the regular and clinched the Region 2-5A title. Cleveland Central hosts Lake Cormorant in first round of 5A playoffs on Friday.

Cleveland Central has been led by a high powered offense that averages 31.2 points per game. Quarterback Kamarian Williams, who is 6-foot-9 and one of the state’s top basketball prospects, anchors the offense that averages 224 yards per game passing and 166 yards per game rushing.

Keveon Wade, Larry Tyler and Alfred Weir lead the rushing attack, while Traveyon Craig, Peyton Taylor and Demontavius King are the top receivers for the Wolves.

Defensively, Cleveland Central only allows 13.8 points per game and is led by Nicholas Smith, Montavious Thomas, Cameron Howard and Shamar Sanders.

Who will come out of the South?

There’s three teams. Hattiesburg, Brookhaven and Picayune.

Hattiesburg is once again led by a offense that can score quickly. The Tigers are averaging 220 yards per game rushing and 199 yards passing and is led by first year starting quarterback Jarod Conner.

Hattiesburg has a plethora of running backs to lead the ground game in Mississippi State commit Fabian Franklin, Drexlan Allen and Jamal Donaldson.

D’Andre Humbles, Raheem Willis and Darius Ruffin are the top receivers for the Tigers.

Brookhaven is led by a ground game and defense.

The Panthers average 265 yards per game rushing and is led by a dynamic duo at running back in Damarrell Leggett and Jaquarius Edwards, who have rushed for over 1,000 yards a piece.

The Brookhaven defense gives up 19.5 points per game that is led by Jeffery Johnson, D.J. Durr and Jemaurian Jones.

With Picayune it is all about the ground game.

The Maroon Tide averages 377 yards per game that is led by Shaun Anderson, David Baker, Jairice Travis and V.J. Holt.

The Picayune defense allows 19 points per game that is led by Brian Taylor, Jacob Brumley and Rashard Johnson.

CLASS 4A

Who is going to come out of the North?

The favorite right now would be Pontotoc. The Warriors are led by stingy running game that averages just under 200 yards per game led by Immanuel Vance, Gabe Harmon and Jemarkus Whitefield. Austin Morphis gives Pontotoc a home run threat at wide receiver.

The Warrior defense only allows 11.6 points per game led by Ben Zinn, Whitefield and Morgan Huey.

Other teams in 4A North that could make a deep run is tradition rich Noxubee County, Louisville and Greenwood.

East Central and Poplarville on a collision course

As far as South 4A goes there are two teams that have been nothing short of dominating so far.

Poplarville and East Central are on a course to meet in the 4A South state title game for the right to play for the 4A state championship.

Both teams lean a lot on the running game. Poplarville, the defending 4A South State champs, are averaging 410 yards per game on the ground led by Austin Bolton, Roosevelt Raine, Cory Knight, Tyson Holston and Antonio Barnes.

East Central is averaging 350 yards per game that is led by Tony Brown, Ryan Evans, Dylan Grinsteinner and Louis Morgan.

Tight end and Mississippi State commit Brad Cumbest gives the Hornets a passing threat outside.

CLASS 3A

Who will come out of the North?

North Panola is the slight favorite to come out of the North in 3A with their speed and athleticism.

The Cougars are as balanced as you can be on offense averaging 252 yards per game rushing and 237 yards per game passing led by K.J. Jefferson, Sylvonta Oliver, Jonathan Harris and Jamarvis Echols.

North Panola faces Charleston in second round on Friday, a team that has had their number for the last several years.

Yazoo County is led by quarterback and Memphis commit Kenny Gainwell to anchor the ground game that averages 297 yards per game. Cherokee Edwards and Devarrio Sanders are the top backs in the ground game for Panthers.

Speaking of ground games, Houston leans on that a lot. The Hilltoppers are averaging 378 yards per game led by dual-threat quarterback Urriah Shephard, Quenton May, Bobby Townsend and Jalen May.

Choctaw County has been kind of quietly having a great season. The Chargers, under new coach Ben Ashley, are averaging 295 yards per game rushing led by Amerious Brown, Laterrion McBride, Austin Telano and Isaiah Hannah.

Charleston is seeking to play in its fourth straight state championship game, but will have a challenge this week at North Panola. As mentioned above the Tigers have had the Cougars number. Charleston, as always, lean on heavy ground game that averages 191 yards per game and a defense that only allows 14.4 points per game.

Jefferson Davis County favorite in South 3A

Some people still refer Jefferson Davis County to Bassfield. Things haven’t change even with it being the first year of the school.

The Jaguars are led by a potent ground attack led by Lyric Hall, Malik Shorts, Quentin Herring and Kenterio Smith. Defensively, the Jaguars are giving up 17.5 points per game.

Hazlehurst, who averages 308 yards per game rushing, is a team that could give a team like Jefferson Davis County problems.

Led by a ground attack and one the top junior prospects in the state in Diwun Black, Forest is always in contention.

CLASS 2A

Scott Central and Philadelphia teams to beat in the North

So far it seems like the Rebels and Tornadoes are on a collision course to meet in the Class 2A North State title game.

Tornadoes won the regular season 32-26 where they had use a goal line stand at the 1-yard line in the final seconds to win it.

Philadelphia is led by a strong rushing attack that averages 285 yards per game led by Cortney Smith, Malik Hickman, Ahyunte Crosby and Deiondre Fox.

Scott Central’s rushing attack is averaging 254 yards per game led by T.J. Wash, Vontae McDonald and Ken Butler. The Rebel defense only allows 8.8 points per game.

Other teams that could challenge Philadelphia and Scott Central in the North are defending 2A champion Calhoun City, Winona and South Delta.

Who will come out of the South?

Collins has found themselves as one of the top favorites after clinching the Region 8-2A title. The Tigers, who dropped from 3A to 2A, is led by pass happy offense that’s averaging just less than 200 yards per game. Quarterback Hershey McLaurin anchors the attack along with his top targets in Markel McLaurin, Cyril Graves, Tavarian McCullum and Zyrion Thompson.

Behind the tandem of McKail Sumrall and Tijuane Bolton, Perry Central always has chance. Like Collins, the Bulldogs also dropped from 3A to 2A.

Power house Taylorsville is averaging 286 yards per game passing that is led by freshman quarterback Ty Keyes. His top targets are Perry Keyes, Malik Strickland, Raven Arrington and Letreal Jones.

Behind one of the top players in 2A in running back Don Ragsdale, Pisgah will also have a chance.

CLASS 1A

Simmons on mission for three peat

New year, new coach, same situation for the Simmons Blue Devils.

Simmons, who has the state’s longest active winning streak at 36 games, has been dominating to say the least as the Blue Devils make a quest for three straight Class 1A state championships this week when they hosts Tupelo Christian in the first round Friday.

It has been once again the running game and defense that leads the Blue Devils.

Simmons is averaging 260 yards per game rushing led by Marquez Pam, Demarrius Turner, Tyderius Gipson and Aaron Davis.

The Blue Devil defense has suffocating to say the least and has only given up 42 points all season (3.8 points per game).

Who comes out of the South?

Its once again between Lumberton and Nanih Waiya.

Nanih Waiya (12-0) rolled through its schedule on its way to the Region 3-1A title behind a stingy defense and potent rushing attack.

The Warriors are averaging 290 yards per game led by dynamic duo at running back in Chris Smith and Taemaus Glass.

Nanih Waiya’s defense only allows 8.4 points per game.

Lumberton, the defending 1A South State champs, is once again led by a ground game that averages 224 yards per game led by plethora of running backs in Robert Henry, Davion Edwards, Jared Tribett and Krishaun Fairley.

Tupelo Christian makes history

To say the last six years has been a process is a understatement to Tupelo Christian coach Shaune Holiday.

The Eagles made the MHSAA playoffs for the first time in the school’s five year history of having football. TCPS (7-3) travels to two-time defending 1A Hollandale Simmons (11-0) Friday.

TCPS football program started out playing an independent schedule. First year was 2012 and they went 0-10, did not have a team in 2013, 2-5 in 2014, 8-1 in 2015 and 7-2 last year.

The Eagles have been led by a rushing attack that averages 192 yards per game led by Bryce Hawkins, Cody Coggins and Tashawn Corbitt.

“This is truly a great opportunity for TCPS. Our first ever playoff game against a such a traditional program such as Simmons,” Holiday said. “I just want to thank God for blessing these young men who have been apart this rebuilding process and this playoff game is in honor of those guys who helped keep this program going.”

MAIS

Jackson Prep chasing history

Jackson Prep and South Panola are the only two programs in Mississippi High School football history to ever win five straight state championships in their respective classifications.

The Patriots can go for the historic six in a row MAIS Class AAAA, Division I state title if they can get past MRA on Friday and then the winner of Jackson Academy-Parklane Academy game next Friday night at Mississippi College’s Robinson-Hale Stadium.

Jackson Prep has been led offensively by the tandem of quarterback Chance Lovertich and do-it-all running back Jerrion Ealy. Patriots are balanced offensively averaging 183 yards rushing and 182 yards passing.

The Patriot defense is only giving up 10.5 points per game.

More teams look to repeat

Jackson Prep isn’t the only team looking to repeat as state championships this year in the MAIS.

Behind a potent passing attack Lamar School is aiming to repeat as the Class AAAA, Division II state champion.

Behind the tandem of T.K. Bolden, Sebastian Harris, Will Davis and a defense that only allows 13.4 points per game Indianola Academy is aiming to go back to back Class AAA state champions.

There will be a new state champion in the rest of the MAIS classifications. That is Class AA, A and 8-Man.

The Unbeatens

Heading into the playoffs there are now 13 teams that remain unbeaten.

Here is the list of teams that are unbeaten by class.

Class 6A – 2 (Pearl, Tupelo).

Class 5A — 3 (Cleveland Central, Hattiesburg, West Point).

Class 4A — 2 (East Central, Poplarville).

Class 3A — 2 (North Panola, Yazoo County).

Class 2A — 0.

Class 1A — 2 (Nanih Waiya, Simmons).

Class AAAA — 1 (Jackson Prep).

Class AAA — 1 (Indianola Academy).

Class AA — 0.

Class A — 0.

8-Man — 1 (Humphreys Academy).