Madison Central (8-3) at Oxford (9-2)
Madison Central travels to Bobby Holcomb Field to face Oxford in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs in a showdown of Top 10 teams. The No. 9 Jaguars are led by a ground game that is averaging 223 yards per game. They are led by quarterback Jimmy Holiday and running back Duke Arnold. Receiver Myles Hopson is also a big-play threat. The No. 10 Chargers are led by a passing that is averaging 136 yards per game passing and 107 yards rushing. Leading the way is quarterback John Meagher, running back Jeremiah Pegues and receivers De Pegues and Dede Pegues. The Madison Central defense only allows 12.8 points per game and comes up big late in the game.
Pick: Madison Central 24-21
Neshoba Central (10-2) at Olive Branch (10-1)
It’ll be the battle of the running games as Neshoba Central makes the long trip to Poole Field to face Olive Branch in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs. The Conquistadors are averaging 230 yards per game on the ground led by running backs Gary Banks, Dakota Braswell and Cameron Mosley. The Rocket ground game is averaging 381 yards per game led by quarterback Austin Day, along with running backs Jarquez Hunter and Tyler Mathis. The No. 8 Olive Branch defense only gives up 12.3 points per game and is the difference.
Pick: Olive Branch 21-14
Wayne County (7-4) at Laurel (8-3)
One of the state’s biggest rivalries will go down “between the bricks” as Wayne County makes the short trip over to Laurel in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs. Both teams are led by heavy ground games. The War Eagles are averaging 311 yards per game anchored by quarterback Zhakerreun Wesley and running backs Shadamien Williamson, Kelnevious Walley and Trevion Loston. The Laurel running game is averaging 247 yards per game. They’re led by running backs Michael Terrell and Zias Perryman. The Golden Tornadoes do average 130 yards per game passing led by a two-quarterback system in Sinclair Ulmer and Xavier Evans. Laurel is currently on a seven-game winning streak and they make it eight.
Pick: Laurel 28-23
Greene County (9-3) at East Central (10-0)
This one is a battle of two big-time defenses. Greene County only allows 13.7 points per game led by linebackers Noah Mitchell and Ladon Woullard. East Central surrenders 8.8 points per game led by linebackers Avery White and Trace Higginbotham. East Central is led by a potent ground game that is averaging 314 yards per game anchored by quarterback Will Young and running back Dylan Grinsteinner. Greene County is a more balanced team offensively averaging 195 yards per game passing and 113 yards rushing. They’re led by quarterback Jacob Mitchell, running back Santez Campbell and receivers Kevin Dortch, Drake Henderson and Que Washam. The Hornet rushing attack is too much to handle at home in a close one.
Pick: East Central 21-17
Mendenhall (10-1) at South Pike (10-2)
Mendenhall heads down to Magnolia to face South Pike in the second round of the Class 4A playoffs. The Eagles are averaging 333 yards per game on the ground anchored by quarterback Dontavious Turner, along with running backs Deldrionn Amos and Kadarius Jackson. Wide receiver Alex Amos has 11 touchdown receptions for South Pike. The Tigers are averaging 286 yards per game rushing led by quarterback Christian Allen and running backs Junkevious Mack and Michael Simmons. Allen is one of the state’s most underrated offensive players. The South Pike offense is averaging 52.4 points per game over the last month and continues to roll in a shootout.
Pick: South Pike 34-30
North Pontotoc (11-1) at North Panola (10-1)
North Pontotoc heads to Sardis to face North Panola in the second round of the Class 3A playoffs. The Cougars are averaging 44.8 points per game, 234 yards per game passing and 232 yards per game rushing. Their do-it-all quarterback, K.J. Jefferson, is committed to Arkansas and has had a terrific senior season. Running back Clarence Taylor and receiver Tyler Shorter are dangerous. The Vikings are led by a rushing attack that is averaging 206 yards per game led by quarterback Corley Hooper and running back Hunter West. The Cougar offense just too much in this one.
Pick: North Panola 34-21
Velma Jackson (10-1) at Jefferson Davis County (8-4)
It will be a battle of rushing attacks as Velma Jackson heads to Bassfield to face Jefferson Davis County in the second round of the Class 3A playoffs. The Falcons are averaging 282 yards per rushing led by quarterback Antavious Willis, who has rushed for 31 touchdowns. Running back Santavis Vaughan is also hard to handle. The Jaguars are averaging 249 yards per game led by quarterback Michael Carraway and running backs Kyser Booth, Justin Berry and Ricky Griffith. The defending Class 3A state champs are hard to beat at home.
Pick: Jefferson Davis County 20-19
Bay Springs (9-3) at Pelahatchie (11-1)
Bay Springs heads to Pelahatchie in one of the best matchups in the Class 2A playoffs. The Chiefs are led by a potent offense that is averaging 42.1 points per game, 292 yards per game rushing and 139 yards per game passing. Quarterback Javeious Purvis is as good as there is in 2A. Running back Ahmad Johnson and wide receiver Cedrick Wilder are both future Division I players. The Bulldogs are led by a rushing attack that averages 265 yards per game anchored by running backs Anson Windham and Jamarius Hosey. The Chief offense is hard to slow down at home.
Pick: Pelahatchie 26-20
East Marion (6-5) at Noxapater (10-2)
East Marion makes the trip to face Noxapater in the first round of the Class 1A playoffs. The Eagles are rolling at the right time, winners of four of their last five games. They feature a very balanced offense that is averaging 187 yards per game rushing and 152 yards per game passing. Quarterback Devin Daniels, running back Wanya Cook and receiver Flenard McLin have been the leaders offensively. The Tigers are anchored by a rushing attack that is averaging 265 yards per game led by quarterback K.D. Carter, along with running backs Joshua McClendon, Raheem Hathorn and Chase Ray. The Tiger ground game is tough to handle at home.
Pick: Noxapater 30-20
Jackson Academy (9-2) at Jackson Prep (10-1)
Jackson Academy makes the short 8-mile trip to Lakeland Drive to face rival Jackson Prep in the semifinals of the MAIS Class AAAA, Division I playoffs. Jackson Prep won the regular season matchup 35-13 back on Sept. 28 in a game that was closer than the score indicates. The Patriots are led Ole Miss commit Jerrion Ealy who has had a big year. The play of quarterback Jake Lange has been solid, along with running back Matt Jones. The Raiders are led by quarterback Kinkead Dent and running backs Thad Bishop and Parker Ryan. Dent can be a difference-maker if given time. The Patriots roll along to another trip to Robinson-Hale Stadium for the AAAA, Division I state championship game.
Pick: Jackson Prep 35-24