It’s finally a full schedule of high school football games as the MHSAA joins the party in their opening week of the regular season. The MAIS enters week three of their regular season with a huge matchup of MRA and Jackson Academy. Here are a few notes on the Ten Games to Watch.
West Point at Starkville
It’s No. 1 vs. No. 2 as top-ranked West Point faces Starkville in the season opener. West Point is led by quarterback Corbin Kelley and running backs Cameron Young and Chris Ivy. Starkville will feature MSU running back commit Amariyon Howard and Florida State quarterback commit Luke Altmyer. This will be a close game, but the Green Wave defense comes through late.
Pick: West Point 21-20
Gulfport at Oak Grove
Gulfport squares off against Oak Grove in a rematch of last year’s second round Class 6A playoff game. Oak Grove beat Gulfport twice last year in Gulfport in the regular season and in the playoffs. Both teams are breaking in new quarterbacks as Oak Grove will have Kade Barnett as the new signal caller, while Gulfport will have Breck Leflore. Oak Grove does have Jordan Coleman back at wide receiver and Eugene Newell at running back. Gulfport will lean on a defense that returns 10 starters back from last year. This will be a close game but Warriors tough to beat at home.
Pick: Oak Grove 27-21
Tupelo at Neshoba Central
Tupelo head a key season opener for both teams. Tupelo is beginning the Ty Hardin era as head coach and will be led by quarterback Jake Weir and receiver Corbin Huggins. Linebacker and South Alabama commit Dalton Hughes is one to watch on defense for Tupelo, along with Justin Wilson. Neshoba will once again lean on the heavy ground game and running back Jarquez Hunter. The Golden Wave won handily last year in Tupelo, but the Rockets get revenge at home.
Pick: Neshoba Central 21-17
Clinton at Brandon
It’s oldest rivalry in the Jackson Metro area as Clinton faces Brandon for the 76th all-time meeting. Clinton quarterback Caleb Miller and running back Jeremy Mack need big games. Brandon will be breaking in a lot of new faces, including the quarterback position. Doby Bartling and Josh Sullivan will both see time at quarterback, while Ozarrio Smith, Nate Blount and Zailon Johnson will be the top running backs for Brandon. Receiver Caleb Anderson is one to watch for the Bulldogs. The road team has won five straight in the series, but that streak ends.
Pick: Brandon 24-21
D’Iberville at Wayne County
D’Iberville is at Wayne County in a season-opener that was added over the summer. D’Iberville is led by a rushing offense that averaged 207.8 yards per game last year. Quarterback Dwight Williams along with running back Justice Davis and Minnesota commit Justin Walley are keys. Wayne County will begin the Kevin Gandy as head coach and will lean once again a ground game that averaged 230.2 yards per game last season led by Shadamien Williamson and Kelnevious Walley. Defensive tackle Milikah McKenzie is one to watch for the War Eagles. The Warrior passing game comes through.
Pick: D’Iberville 28-24
Pearl at Ridgeland
Pearl is at Ridgeland to face the Titans in the season opener and also the debut of two new head coaches. Pearl is now led by Justin Hunter, who spent the last six seasons as offensive coordinator. Quarterback Shade Foster takes over an offense that will ride running backs Jerry Johnson, Jamari Thompson and Jaquavien Shoto. Ridgeland will begin the Sam Williams era after Williams spent the last two seasons as head coach at Pelahatchie. The Titans will be led by quarterback Zy McDonald who put almost 4,000 yards of offense last year. Receivers Chandler Williams and Richard Mays are also returning. The Pirates thumped the Titans 62-21 last season, but this time the home gets revenge.
Pick: Ridgeland 28-27
Laurel at Hattiesburg
It’s the 99th annual Battle for the Little Brown Jug as ninth-ranked Laurel faces Hattiesburg. Laurel quarterback Dexter Scott can play, along with running back Xavier Evans and receiver Kanarius Johnson. Hattiesburg is young again this season and led by quarterback Jordan Willis and Walton Thompson at wide receiver. The Golden Tornado offense just too much and they take the Brown Jug back for the second year in a row.
Pick: Laurel 34-20
Poplarville vs. Jefferson Davis County (at Pearl River CC)
Poplarville and Jefferson Davis County play a neutral site game this week at Pearl River Community College in Poplarville. Poplarville will be breaking in a new quarterback but has Gregory Swann back to lead the wing-T offense. JDC, the defending the Class 3A state champions, will have a new quarterback as well but will have Demario Booth, Malcolm Hartzog, Ty Johnson and Nick Johnson to lead the ground game. The line of scrimmage is key this week and the Hornets have the more experience in that department (and are playing 3 miles away).
Pick: Poplarville 34-27
Bay Springs at Lumberton
Bay Springs travels to Lumberton in a season-opening battle of run-heavy teams. Lumberton has Robert Henry, the reigning MHSAA Class 1A Mr. Football, to lead the offense after totaling 43 touchdowns at quarterback last season. Keep an on running backs Trevon Jessie and Shavante Toney, along with receiver K’Nylan Willis. Bay Springs will lean on promising sophomore running back Tyrick Jones and an offense that averaged 228.9 yards per game last season. The Panther offense too much at home.
Pick: Lumberton 30-20
MRA (2-0) at Jackson Academy (1-1)
MRA heads to The Brickyard to face Jackson Academy in the division opener for both teams. MRA has been rolling the first two weeks led by quarterback Zach Beasley, running back Rayf Vinson and receiver Davis Dalton. JA is coming off a game against Leake that saw them allow 34 points in the fourth quarter and lose 47-37. The Raiders will welcome the state’s top prospect in receiver Deion Smith who will make his debut at receiver, while quarterback Jackson Conn and running back Marcus Harris lead the offense. The Patriot defense anchored by linebacker Stone Blanton is the difference.
Pick: MRA 35-21