Starkville (5-0) at Northwest Rankin (4-1)
The top-ranked Yellow Jackets head down Highway 25 to Flowood to face the seventh-ranked Cougars in a Top 10 showdown and a key Region 2-6A matchup. Starkville has been balanced on offense averaging 222.6 yards per game passing and 212.8 yards rushing led by running back Rodrigues Clark and quarterback Luke Altmyer. Rceivers Malik Brown and Rufus Harvey also are playmakers. The Yellow Jacket defense has been nothing short of dominant, only allowing 7.6 points a game led by Jalil Clemons, Zach Edwards and Jaylan Ware. Northwest Rankin is also a balanced offensive team and is led by a rushing game that is averaging 202 yards per game. Quarterback Jamari Jones and running backs Dee Baker and P.J. Lindsey have led the way all season. The Cougar passing game with Jarrian Jones at wide receiver has become a bigger part of the offense as the year has gone along. Top-ranked Starkville is too much this week and gets it done on road.
Pick: Starkville 28-20
Pearl (3-2) at Meridian (3-2)
Pearl faces Meridan in a key Region 3-6A and a rematch of last year’s Class 6A South State Championship. Dual-threat quarterbacks have given the Pearl defense problems this year so how the Pirates handle Meridian quarterback Tevarrius Adams could determine the game. Adams has already passed for 1,013 yards with nine touchdowns and has rushed for 331 yards with two touchdowns to lead the Meridian offense. Southern Miss commit Kendrick Brown is the Wildcats top wideout to watch for. Auburn commit Jamond Gordon and UL-Monroe commit Xavier Curry anchor a stiff Meridian defense. Pearl is led by a rushing attack that’s averaging 145 yards per game led by Kenyatta Harrell, Jerry Johnson and Carleontaye Spires. Pearl is 2-0 in their last two trips to Meridian but Wildcats end the skid at home in a close one.
Pick: Meridian 24-21
Poplarville (4-1) at Greene County (4-2)
The Hornets head over to Leakesville to face the Wildcats in the Region 7-4A opener for both teams. Each team is currently on a four-game winning streak. Poplarville is averaging 318 yards per game rushing led by quarterback Antonio Barnes along with running backs Amahd Bolton, Tyson Holston and Ethan Taylor. Greene County is a more balanced team offensively averaging 169 yards per game passing led by quarterback Jacob Mitchell, along with receivers Drake Henderson and Kevin Dortch. The Wildcat running game is averaging 110 yards per game led by running back Santez Campbell. The Hornet ground game is too much in this one.
Pick: Poplarville 28-21
Choctaw County (4-2) at Houston (4-1)
Expect a throwback game of teams with dominant running games as Choctaw County heads over to Houston to face the Hilltoppers in their Region 4-3A opener. Houston is led by a potent rushing attack that is averaging 312 yards per game led by Jalen May, Bobby Townsend and Lajarvis Ewing. Choctaw County is averaging 223.7 yards per game led by Tylan Carter, Rakeim Ashford and Dicenzo Miller. The Chargers won a nail-biter last year and the Hilltoppers get payback at home.
Pick: Houston 20-14
Magee (4-2) at Velma Jackson (4-1)
Magee travels to Camden to face Velma Jackson in their Region 6-3A opener. Velma Jackson is led by a potent offense that is averaging 282 yards per game rushing and 138 yards passing led by quarterback Antavious Willis, who has rushed for 1,117 yards with 23 touchdowns. Magee is led by a more balanced offense averaging 162 yards per game passing and 149 yards per game rushing led by quarterback Javo Thurman along with running back Ross McInnis and receiver Chandler Pittman. Willis is too much in this one and the Falcons get the job done at home.
Pick: Velma Jackson 26-20
Seminary (3-3) at West Marion (6-0)
Seminary faces off against Magee in a critical Region 8-3A opener. West Marion’s passing attack is averaging 213 yards per game led by quarterback Jeremiah Holmes, who has thrown for 1,199 yards with 14 touchdowns. Wide receiver Dontavious McGowen has seven touchdown receptions and running back Adryane James leads the ground game that averages 118 yards per game. Seminary is led by a potent rushing attack that is averaging 269 yards per game led by Jordan Barrett and Marquis Crosby. The key will be how West Marion handles Seminary defensive tackle Nathan Pickering, arguably the state’s most dominant defensive lineman. The Trojans win this one in a close one on homecoming.
Pick: West Marion 20-19
Bay Springs (4-2) at Taylorsville (6-0), Thursday
Bay Springs travels to Taylorsville to face the Tartars in one of the state’s most anticipated small school matchups that is also a Thursday night special and a huge Region 5-2A opener. This will be the battle of Taylorsville’s passing game against the Bay Springs ground game. The Tartar passing game is averaging 285 yards per game led by quarterback Ty Keyes, who has passed for 1,654 yards with 18 touchdowns. Receivers Jalon Clark and Raven Arrington (eight receiving touchdowns) are key targets. Keyon Bass anchors the Taylorsville rushing attack. The Bay Springs rushing attack is averaging 237 yards per game led by Anson Windham and Jamarius Hosey. Quarterback Adrian Cole has thrown for 526 yards for the Bulldogs. Keyes and the Tartar passing game come out on top in this one.
Pick: Taylorsville 30-20
Pisgah (5-1) at Puckett (6-0)
Pisgah travels down Highway 43 to face unbeaten Puckett in a critical Region 6-2A matchup of Rankin County rivals and ranked teams in 2A. Pisgah has pounded opponents on the ground, averaging 347 yards a game rushing led by Noah Thweatt, who has 11 rushing touchdowns, and Dillon Usry (nine rushing touchdowns). The Puckett ground game is led by the duo of quarterback Ty’vez Tate and running back Zay Taylor. the Dragons make it three in a row over the Wolves in a close one.
Pick: Pisgah 23-22
Stringer (5-1) at Resurrection (4-1)
Stringer faces Resurrection in a huge Region 4-1A matchup. Stringer is led by a ground game that is averaging 283 yards per game led by running back Anthony Thomas who has rushed for 895 yards with 13 touchdowns. Quarterback Cayleb Dyess has passed for six touchdowns and is a difference-maker. Resurrection is a more balanced offense that is averaging 169 yards per game passing and 148 yards per game rushing led by quarterback Jacob Galle and running back Terrance Spivey, along with receivers Javid Shadwick and Will Clemens. The Red Devil defense makes the difference and leads Stringer to a sixth straight win.
Pick: Stringer 26-21
Jackson Academy (5-0) at Jackson Prep (6-0)
One of the state’s biggest rivalries will take place on Lakeland Drive as Jackson Academy makes the short eight-mile trip to square off against Jackson Prep in a battle of unbeatens. Prep is led by a potent rushing attack that is averaging 229 yards per game, anchored by running back Jerrion Ealy who has rushed for 487 yards with 13 touchdowns. Matt Jones is also a potent threat. Peyton Greenwood and Adam Norsworthy anchor the always tough Jackson Prep defense. Jackson Academy brings a more balance attack on offense led by quarterback Kinkead Dent and running backs Thad Bishop and Webb Strickland. Max Harmon is the top Raider receiving threat. Ealy and company are still too much though the Raiders have been strong this season.
Pick: Jackson Prep 35-21