Northwest Rankin (4-1) at Starkville (5-1)
This one will be about good defenses and two good running games as the Cougars make the 100-mile trip up Highway 25 to face the Yellowjackets in a Region 2-6A top 10 showdown. Winner gets a step closer of hosting a first round Class 6A playoff game. Northwest Rankin is coming off a big win over Warren Central, while Starkville handed Provine its first loss with a 42-0 thumping. Cougars bring a potent running that’s averaging 284 yards a game led by Cameron Carroll and Dee Baker. Starkville uses a plethora of running backs that is averaging 194.3 yards per game led by Rodrigues Clark, Malik Brown and Andreus Swanigan. Jackets in a close one at home.
Pick: Starkville 28-24
Oxford (4-2) at South Panola (4-2)
This one could determine who might be on the outside looking in come playoff time when the Chargers make the short trip over to Batesville to face the Tigers. South Panola is coming a loss to Horn Lake on the road, while Oxford suffered a home loss to Southaven. Both teams lean on the passing game. Tigers will lean on the passing game with Patrick Shegog, John Railey and Barry Flowers. Oxford’s passing game is led by John Reece McClure, Jaquan Webb, Jeremiah Pegues and Hiram Wadlington. Tigers bounce back at home.
Pick: South Panola 26-20
Laurel (3-2) at Brookhaven (4-1)
Golden Tornadoes will make the long drive on Highway 84 to face the Panthers in a critical Region 3-5A matchup. Last year Laurel spoiled Brookhaven’s homecoming, so Brookhaven is out for some serious revenge. Golden Tornadoes are led by a rushing attack that averages 186.4 yards per game led by Xavier Evans, Sinclair Ulmer and Jacques Bester. Brookhaven is led by a dynamic duo at running back with Damarrell Leggett (631 yards, 10 touchdowns) and Jaquarius Edwards (544 yards, 6 touchdowns). Tornadoes get it done on the road.
Pick: Laurel 21-17
Greene County (6-0) at Poplarville (5-0)
If you like old-fashion run heavy football than this one is for you when the Wildcats head over to Poplarville to face the Hornets in a Region 7-4A opener clash of undefeated teams. Poplarville is averaging 406.4 yards per game rushing led by Austin Bolton (947 yards, 13 touchdowns) along with Antonio Barnes, Roosevelt Raine and Cory Knight. Greene County is a little more balanced offensively, but leans on the ground game led by Derrick Grice and Tagg Creech. Grice has tossed for 856 yards with six touchdowns for the Wildcats. Hornets tough to beat at home.
Pick: Poplarville 28-21
New Hope (4-2) at Louisville (5-1)
Trojans head down to Louisville to face the Wildcats in a huge Region 4-4A opener. New Hope comes in very balanced on offense averaging 187 yards rushing and 174 yards passing. Trojans use two quarterbacks in Ryan Burt and Kyree Fields. Fields leads the team in rushing with 433 yards with seven touchdowns and wide out Jeremy Tate (432 yards receiving, 6 touchdowns) is one to keep an eye on. Louisville, who is on a 4-game winning streak, is led by a fierce rushing attack and defense. Wildcats is averaging 216.3 yards per game on the ground led by Kenneth Knowles, Kevon Jackson and Deonte Yarbrough. Louisville’s defense only allows 13.3 points per game. Defense gets job done for Wildcats.
Pick: Louisville 20-14
Scott Central (6-0) at Newton (5-0)
Rebels make the short trip over to Newton to face the Tigers in a Region 4-2A battle of unbeatens. This will be a battle of a run-heavy offense and a pass happy offense. Scott Central is averaging 256.2 yards per game rushing and is led by T.J. Wash, Vontae McDonald, Ken Butler and Navonteque Strong. Newton is averaging 231.6 yards per game passing led by Tre Hillie, Zachary Johnson, Zackariah Johnson, Javarious Moore and Sirvares Snow. Both teams have outstanding defenses, so it’ll come down to who can slow down who. Tigers in a close one at home.
Pick: Newton 23-22
East Webster (5-1) at Eupora (5-1)
Wolverines make the short trip over to face rival Eupora in the annual Maroon Bowl and also the Region 2-2A opener. Eupora is coming off a big win over Charleston, while East Webster is coming off a blowout win over J.Z. George. Both teams like to run the ball and play great defense. Wolverines is led by a running game that is averaging 177 yards per game that is led by Charlie Brand, Jhitwan Rogers and Gray McCarter. East Webster’s defense is averaging 17.7 points per game. Eagles are averaging 172.4 yards per game that is led by Edwin Herard, Ash Dumas and Preston Perkins. Eupora defense only allows 10.6 points per game. Eagles coming off two big wins and well make it three.
Pick: Eupora 16-13
Smithville (5-1) at Okolona (4-2)
Seminoles are off to a fast start undering new coach Michael Campbell, while Okolona is out to good start under new coach Lamart Harvey as the two meet in a pivotal Region 1-1A matchup. Seminoles will bring its run heavy offense that is averaging 232 yards per game led by Dustin Moffett, Caleb Leech and Cameron Wardlaw. Chieftains are also heavy on the run game that is averaging 230.3 yards per game led by Jacorrius Standfield, Jacob Buchannan and Deonte Hampton. Okolona’s defense only allows 12.3 points per game, while Smithville’s give up 19 points per game. Chieftains have too much speed.
Pick: Okolona 20-18
Lumberton (4-1) at East Marion (3-2)
Panthers will head over to Columbia to face the Eagles in a critical Region 3-1A matchup. Both lean heavily on the ground game. Lumberton is averaging 224 yards per game that is led by Jared Tribett, Davion Edwards, Rodriqus Coleman, Krishaun Fairley and Robert Henry. East Marion is averaging 222.4 yards per game that’s led by Devin Daniels and one of the state’s underrated running backs in Jarveon Howard. Panthers have too many weapons on offense.
Pick: Lumberton 26-18
Jackson Prep (6-0) at Jackson Academy (5-0)
One of the state’s biggest rivalries will take place at The Brickyard when the Patriots make the 8-mile trip over to face the Raiders. Jackson Prep has the arguably the state’s top recruit for the Class of 2019 in do-it-all athlete Jerrion Ealy (767 yards rushing, 18 touchdowns, 3 receiving touchdowns and 2 touchdowns on special teams). Quarterback Chance Lovertich has tossed for 872 yards with 12 touchdowns for Patriots. Jackson Academy is balanced on offense averaging 155.8 yards per game rushing and 129.6 yards per game passing led by Kinkead Dent, Toryn Steed and E.J. Mason. Prep, Ealy just too much to handle.
Pick: Jackson Prep 35-21