This week’s Ten Games to Watch features five matchups of undefeated teams and a couple of the state’s best rivalry games.
Petal (2-0) at West Jones (2-0)
Petal travels to No. 5 West Jones in one of the state’s biggest games this week. West Jones is averaging 280.5 yards per game through the air behind quarterback Alan Follis. Wide receivers Tajrick Randolph and Matthew Nixon are big-play threats. Petal averages 240 yards per game with quarterback Jackson Allen and receivers Jonathan Harris, Jeremiah Robinson and Micah Cherry. Both teams have been impressive through the first two weeks. This might come down to a defensive stop and West Jones gets the win at home.
Pick: West Jones 24-21
Ridgeland (2-0) at Northwest Rankin (1-1)
Ridgeland is at Northwest Rankin in a matchup of two early season surprise teams. Ridgeland has been rolling with wins over Pearl and Terry. The Titan offense is averaging 296.5 yards passing per game and 243 yards per game rushing led by quarterback Zy McDonald, a Louisiana commit. Running back Donovan Ball is solid and receivers Richard Mays and Ayden Williams can play. Northwest Rankin led a very good Madison Central team through a half to open the year and knocked off Clinton last week. The offense features a couple of major talents in senior receiver Jordan Cavitt and junior running back Cam Marion. Those are names to remember. Quarterback Caleb Parten directs an offense averaging 218 yards passing per game and 179.5 yards rushing. Jordan Ware and Caleb McCoy make plays. This game will be close but Zy McDonald and the Ridgeland offense might be too tough to stop.
Pick: Ridgeland 28-21
South Panola (2-0) at Clarksdale (2-0)
This is one of the state’s underrated rivalries as the No. 3 South Panola travels Highway 6 to Clarksdale to face the Wildcats in a matchup of unbeaten teams. Both teams like to run the football. South Panola is averaging is averaging 284 yards per game on the ground with quarterback Anterrio Draper and running backs David Hubbard and Martez Clark leading the way. Clarksdale, who has been an early season surprise, is averaging 235 yards rushing led by quarterback Tamera Allen and running back Sammie Ray. The stingy Tiger defense comes up big late on the road.
Pick: South Panola 31-20
Noxubee County (2-0) at West Point (1-1)
Noxubee County is at West Point to face the No. 4 Green Wave in a matchup of title contenders in 5A and 3A. The Green Wave are led by an always potent ground game that is averaging 295.5 yards per game. Quarterback Corbin Kelly and running backs Chris Ivy and Cameron Young provide much of the offense. The Tigers, ranked No. 3 in 3A, are more balanced on offense averaging 175 yards rushing per game and 157.5 yards passing. Quarterback Chrishard Rupert, running back Bobby Shanklin and receiver Anthony Little are the headliners. The Green Wave defense comes through at home.
Pick: West Point 34-20
Scott Central (2-0) at Neshoba Central (2-0)
Scott Central heads along Highway 21 to Philadelphia to face No. 7 Neshoba Central, ranked No. 3 in 5A. The Rockets are averaging 319 yards per game on the ground led by quarterback Eli Anderson and running back Jarquez Hunter. They are throwing more on offense to become more balanced averaging 104 yards through the air. The Rebels, ranked No. 2 in 2A, is averaging 101 yards a game on the ground anchored by quarterback Treyon Wash along with a plethora of running backs in LaJavis Patrick, Zechariah Parodi and Elijah Robinson. The Rocket defense, anchored by defensive tackle Braxton Woodard and Hunter, are the difference.
Pick: Neshoba Central 24-12
Union (2-0) at Newton County (2-0)
Union is off toe Decatur to face rival Newton County in a key matchup of unbeaten teams. Newton County, ranked No. 4 in 4A, features quarterback Damon Mapp along with running back Carlois Walker. Union, who is coming a big shutout win over Eupora last week, has been rolling under first year had coach Jordan Wren. The Yellowjackets are led by quarterback Kenyon Clay and also receivers Jamarcus Jones and Jaheim Gill. The Jackets won in convincing fashion last year but this year the Cougars get revenge at home.
Pick: Newton County 28-24
Poplarville (0-2) at Picayune (2-0)
Poplarville is at Picayune’s Lee-Triplett Stadium to face the No. 8 Maroon Tide in a battle of Pearl River County rivals. This game will feature a lot of talent on both sidelines. Picayune, also ranked No. 4 in 5A, is again this year wearing out teams on the ground. Quarterback Isaac Hickmon and running backs Austin Samples, Dante Dowdell and I’Dorian Robinson have been impressive. Poplarville, ranked No. 3 in 4A, has lost its first two games but they came against powerhouse Jefferson Davis County and a solid 6A team in D’Iberville. The offense produces 179 yards per game on the ground led quarterback Matt Will and running back Gregory Swann. This game will be close but the Tide are hard to beat at home and make it three in a row over the rival Hornets.
Pick: Picayune 21-20
East Union (2-0) at East Webster (1-1)
East Union faces East Webster in what could possibly be an early 2A playoff preview. East Webster, ranked No. 4 in 2A, is coming off a game that saw the Wolverines throw four interceptions in their loss to Choctaw County last week. The Wolverines are balanced, averaging 262.5 yards rushing per game and 133.5 yards passing. Quarterback Steven Betts is talented along with running back Zy Ford and receiver Carter Flora. East Union has been rolling on offense the first two games led by quarterback Rett Johnson along with running back Colton Plunk and receiver Hayden Roberts. The Wolverines bounce back at home.
Pick: East Webster 30-20
Leake Academy (4-0) at Starkville Academy (2-1)
Lake Academy is on the way up Highway 25 to Starkville to face the Volunteers in a matchup of ranked teams in the MAIS Top 10 and MAIS Class 5A. Leake, ranked No. 3 in the MAIS Top 10 and No. 1 in 5A, is led by quarterback Rhett Atkinson and running back Whitt Welch. They’ve led an offense that has been really good. Receivers Riley Myers and Thomas Cheatham are solid. Defensive end Jarrett Watkins is one to keep an eye for the Rebels. Starkville has a lot of experience back on the offensive side of the ball led by running back C.J. Jackson along with both quarterbacks Colby Allen and Randall Futral. This game is always close but Rebels get it done on the road.
Pick: Leake Academy 34-28
Brookhaven Academy (4-0) at Cathedral (4-0)
Brookhaven Academy is at Natchez Cathedral Friday night to face the Green Wave in a key MAIS District 4-4A matchup of ranked teams in MAIS Class 4A. BA, ranked No. 3 in MAIS Class 4A, is averaging 257.5 yards per game passing and 225.8 yards rushing. Quarterback Tyler Fortenberry (1,063 yards passing, 13 touchdowns) is a big-time talent. Running back John Rivers Brown and receiver Dylan Fortenberry are playmakers, and Gavin Brogden has been a nice addition at the skill positions. Cathedral, ranked No. 4 in Class 4A, is led by a rushing attack that has been piling up 292.8 yards per game. Quarterback Noah Russ and running backs Kaden Batieste and Bryson Moore have been too hard to stop this season. This will be a ball-control type game that is close in the 4th quarter but the Cougar offense makes a few extra plays.
Pick: Brookhaven Academy 38-27