Thursday night opens the 2016 high school football season for the majority of the state. Here is a look at ten of the biggest games.
Clinton at South Panola, Thursday
We can finally put all the preseason hype to rest as the Arrows and Tigers will go head to head in Batesville in a battle of Top 10 teams. Clinton will go out for revenge after the 10-point loss at home last year and will lean on highly talented ATH Cam Akers along with running back Darius Maberry and ATH Kam White. South Panola will be breaking in some new players in key spots including possibly a two quarterback system. Memphis commit O’Bryan Goodson will lead the defense. Arrows get the job done on the road and end the small 2-game losing streak to the Tigers.
Pick: Clinton 24-21
Meridian at Madison Central
The debut for head coaches for Madison Central’s Anthony Hart and Meridian’s Calvin Hampton. Jaguars are led by quarterback Jack Walker who will be looking to more targets to spread the ball to in Braden Boykin, Gabe Short and Quentin Euells. Meridian will be breaking in a new quarterback, but have a talented running back in junior Jaquaris Dean. Southern Miss commit Santrell Latham will anchor the defense. Jags take care of business in the jungle.
Pick: Madison Central 27-20
Oak Grove vs. Warren Central (at Vicksburg)
Warriors and Vikings will meet in the annual Red Carpet Classic with the game scheduled for 6 p.m. This game will feature lots and lots of offense. Oak Grove will have plenty of fire power led by Aaron Abram and Charles Hartfield. Warren Central brings back three of its top four offensive players from last year led by quarterback Jesse Wilson and running back Demarcus Jones. Warriors edges one in a shootout.
Pick: Oak Grove 40-35
Brandon at Ocean Springs
Last year this game ended in the final seconds with Brandon prevailing on a field goal to edge the Greyhounds 27-24. This year the Bulldogs return most of last year’s team, while Ocean Springs will be going through growing pains to start the season. Bulldogs are led by QB Brady Anderson and promising WR/DB Schdarren Archie, while Greyhounds will lean heavily on Mississippi State commit and wide receiver Austin Williams. Dogs on the road.
Pick: Brandon 35-24
Noxubee County at Starkville
The defending Class 6A and 4A state champions will go head to head in a huge season opener in Starkville. Both teams will be breaking in a new quarterback. Andreus Swanigan will lead the Starkville running game, while Willie Gay will anchor the always stingy Yellowjacket defense. MSU commit Kymbotric Mason will lead a young offense for Noxubee. Tigers did win in double overtime last season at home. Going with the road team in this one
Pick: Noxubee County 19-16
Petal at Hattiesburg, Saturday
Pine Belt rivals located by just 10 miles apart will meet on a Saturday evening to start the 2016 season. Hattiesburg snapped a seven game losing streak to Petal, winning for the first time since 2007. Panthers will have Tanner Estill as the new quarterback and will have Stephon Huderson a long in the back field to make a very potent tandem. Hattiesburg might have the best trio of offensive of players in Mississippi in Fabian Franklin, Jordan Murphy and Julian Conner. Panthers avenge last year’s loss in a close one.
Pick: Petal 21-20
Northwest Rankin at Germantown
One of the metro areas newest rivals will meet in Gluckstadt as the Cougars will make the short trip up the Natchez Trace to face the Mavericks. Braden Smith will look to have a strong start and will have a big target in tight end and Jackson Prep transfer Nik Hogan. Germantown will be breaking in a new quarterback for the third year in a row, look for Nic Patterson to have a breakout year at running back for Mavericks. Cougars just too explosive on offense.
Pick: NW Rankin 28-20
Columbus at Kemper County
Falcons and Wildcats will go head to head in DeKalb in a contest between a 6A sleeper and a contender in 3A. Columbus will lean heavily on MSU commit and running back Kylin Hill along with quarterback C.J. Gholar. Kemper County returns a lot of fire power on an offense that can put up points in a hurry led by Eric Clark Jr. and D.J. Clayton. Last year’s game was a shootout won by Columbus, so don’t expect anything different this year.
Pick: Columbus 35-31
Forest at Morton
There is nothing like The Battle For The Golden Chicken Trophy when the Bearcats make the short seven mile trip to face the Panthers. Morton hasn’t beaten Forest in the Scott County rivalry game in nine years, last win was a 34-13 victory in 2007. Behind Ole Miss commit and ATH D.D. Bowie and Southern Miss commit and linebacker Freddie Hartz the Panthers could have a chance to snap the streak. Forest has its top two rushers back in juniors Tre’Shun Alexander and Ranauldrick Murrell that will lead the potent Bearcat rushing attack. Steven Means, who led Forest in tackles last year, will lead a very experienced defense. Cats make it 10 in a row in a close one.
Pick: Forest 13-10
Bay Springs at Taylorsville, Thursday
A potential playoff matchup between two 2A will take place in a special Thursday night matchup between the Bulldogs and Tartars. Bay Springs reached the 2A South State title game before falling to Bassfield and have the nucleus back led by Jaylin Jones and Caderius Lee. Tucker Boykin will lead the way for Taylorsville. Bulldogs get it done on the road.
Pick: Bay Springs 27-14