TEN GAMES TO WATCH — WEEK 1
Noxubee County at Starkville
Fifth-ranked Tigers make the short trip up to Starkville to face the top-ranked Yellowjackets in what will be a battle of favorites in Class 6A and 4A. Starkville will have a more balanced offense with Luke Altmyer taking over at quarterback and has plethora of weapons to spread the ball around to in running back Rodrigues Clark and receivers Rufus Harvey and Malik Brown. Jalil Clemons and Zach Edwards are back to wrech havoc on defense. Noxubee will be breaking in a new quarterback and will lean heavily on the veterans in running back Jaqualyn Smith along with receivers Kyziah Pruitt and Maleik Stallings. The Tiger defense will also be ready to wreck havoc with Eldrick Hopkins and Chaokang Brooks back at linebacker. Jackets in a nail biter at home.
Pick: Starkville 21-16
Madison Central at Brandon
Jaguars make the short trip to Brandon to face the Bulldogs in a huge metro area opener. Madison Central will be breaking in some new faces at some key positions but do have Jimmy Holiday back at quarterback and his top weapon at wide receiver in Myles Hopson. The Bulldogs will be aiming for revenge after falling to the Jaguars last year and will be looking at quarterback Will Rogers and receiver Jonathan Mingo to make big plays. Jay Stanley, Zihenryon Perry and Dakara Shoto will lead a veteran defense. Seventh-ranked Dogs get revenge at home.
Pick: Brandon 24-21
Tupelo at Meridian
Third-ranked Golden Wave make the long trip down Highway 45 to Ray Stadium to face the ninth-ranked Wildcats in a huge opener of two top 10 teams. Tupelo will lean on an explosive offense led by Stephon McGlaun, Jaquerrious Williams and Jordan Jernigan. Meridian will also lean on an experience offense with Tevarrius Adams, Rodriguz Mosley and Kendrick Brown. Meridian will have the advantage on defense with eight starters back, but it’ll be hard to slow down the Tupelo offense. Wave escapes Ray Stadium with a close win.
Pick: Tupelo 31-28
Clinton at South Panola, Thursday
Arrows make the long trip up to Batesville to face the Tigers in a Thursday night special clash of Class 6A teams who are both looking for rebound seasons. Clinton will be the more experienced team coming into this one led by quarterback Hunter Hulsey, wide receiver Dez Baker on offense and defensively led by linebacker DeLawrence Butler. South Panola used up to three different quarterbacks in fall camp, so that’ll be one to watch along with running back Quin Bradford. Defense will be what the Tigers lean on early. Arrows get the job done on the road.
Pick: Clinton 31-21
Oxford vs. Warren Central (at Vicksburg)
Chargers head down to the River City to face the Vikings in the first game of the Red Carpet Bowl. Oxford can make a big impact early in 6A with a win on the road. Warren Central will like always lean on a heavy ground game led by running backs Corey Wilson, Jr. and Jerrious Stovall. Malik Sims and Vertez are back to anchor a defense that has six starters back. Oxford will have John Meagher now as its full-time starter at quarterback and does have some weapons to spread the ball too in Dede Pegues and Derrius Pegues. It’ll be close, but the Viking running game just too much in this one.
Pick: Warren Central 28-21
Petal at Hattiesburg, Saturday
Panthers make the short six-mile trip to D.I. Patrick Stadium to face the No. 2-ranked Tigers in a battle of Pine Belt rivals. Hattiesburg will lean on an explosive offense led by Jarod Conner, Drexlan Allen and Darius Ruffin. Jaren Handy and Hakeem Vance will help lead a defense with new faces in key spots. Decarlos Nicholson or Jeremiah Robinson will be the starter at quarterback for Petal, but the Panthers will be leaning on a ground attack with Micah McGowan, Semaj Silas and J’lin Jones. Defensively, Kobe Windham and Michael Windham will lead the defense. Tiger offense just too much.
Pick: Hattiesburg 34-20
Wayne County at West Jones
One of the state’s biggest rivalries will take place in Soso as the War Eagles make the short trip on Highway 84 to face the Mustangs. West Jones will lean on a running game by using three different backs in Jasper Jones, Londarrius McRunnels and Michael Neal. Byron Young is back at defensive end to lead a veteran Mustang defense. The Shelton Gandy era begins for Wayne County as Gandy returns to his alma mater. War Eagles will be very youthful on offense with quarterback Zhakerreun Wesley, while Braxton Lee and Riley Revon will lead the defense. Mustansg get job done at home.
Pick: West Jones 31-20
Poplarville at Picayune
If you like old school smash mouth football, then this game is for you as the Hornets make the short trip down Interstate 59 to face the Maroon Tide in a Pearl River County rivalry. Poplarville will be the more veteran group in this one with quarterback Antonio Barnes back to lead the run-heavy offense with Tyson Holston, Ross Barnett and Cory Knight. Barnett will also lead a veteran defense. Picayune will be breaking in a new quarterback in Jakail Myers to lead the rushing attack along with Jortin Raine. Hornets get the job done for second year in a row.
Pick: Poplarville 27-24
Houston at Pontotoc
Hilltoppers head over to Pontotoc to face the Warriors in an early key contest of Class 4A and 3A contenders. Pontotoc will be able score early and often with a big explosive offense led by quarterback Justin Carter along with running backs Gabe Harmon and Immanuel Vance. Houston will be breaking in a new quarterback in either Gage Arrington or Kevin Diaz but keep an eye on wide out Jalen May. Defensively the Hilltoppers have Rish Alford and Allen Robertson back to anchor the front seven. Warriors hard to beat at home.
Pick: Pontotoc 28-21
Starkville Academy at Lamar School
The Volunteers head down Highway 45 to Meridian to face the Raiders in a battle of defending MAIS state champions. Lamar will be led by fierce passing attack in quarterback Joseph Hutchinson along with wide outs Jacob Partridge and Jake Ransier. On the other hand, Starkville Academy will lean on a heavy rushing attack led by Taylor Arnold and Garrett Lewis will now be the full-time starter at quarterback. Vols will have the edge defensively with nine starters back led by Howell Archer at defensive back and a veteran front seven. The Volunteer running game just too much and get job done on the road.
Pick: Starkville Academy 20-17