Ten Games to Watch — Week 8

Madison Central senior linebacker Hayes Bufkin. Photo by Chris Brooks

Warren Central (4-2) at Madison Central (6-0), Thursday

Warren Central travels to “The Jungle” to face the top-ranked Jaguars in a battle of unbeaten teams in Region 2-6A play. Both teams feature defense and solid running games. Madison Central is averaging 238 yards per game on the ground led by quarterback and TCU commit Jimmy Holiday (661 yards rushing, 10 touchdowns). Running backs Duke Arnold and Javarius Jordan are featured. Warren Central is averaging 177 yards on the ground led by running backs Jerrious Stovall, Malik Sims, Kentrick Thompson and Antonio Thomas. The Jaguar passing game comes up big in this one.

Pick: Madison Central 24-20

Brandon (5-2) at Petal (5-1)

It’s a Top 10 showdown as third-ranked Brandon heads down to Petal to face the ninth-ranked Panthers in a matchup of unbeaten teams in Region 3-6A. The question is how well the Petal secondary matches up against the Brandon passing game. The Bulldogs are averaging 207.6 yards per game through the air led by quarterback Will Rogers along with receivers Ashton Nickelberry and Ladarius Moore. Petal is anchored by a firce rushing attack averaging 254.7 yards per game led by quarterback Decarlos Nicholson along with running backs Micah McGowan and Rashad Handford. The Bulldog defense is hard to run on and comes up big on the road.

Pick: Brandon 28-21

Horn Lake (3-3) at Olive Branch (4-2)

Horn Lake at Olive Branch is a big game in Region 1-6A. Each team has three players that’ll be participating in the MS/AL All-Star Game and all play defense, so expect a low scoring contest. Horn Lake will be led by a ground game anchored by promising sophomore running back Jaylen Sulton and Jamario Harris. Olive Branch has a ground game that averages 232.7 yards per game led by running backs Gary Banks (735 yards rushing, 9 touchdowns) and Preston Jeffries (599 yards, 7 touchdowns). The Quistors get a key win at home.

Pick: Olive Branch 17-14

Holmes County Central (4-3) at Provine (7-0) (Hughes Field)

Holmes County Central is at Hughes Field in Jackson to face Provine in Region 2-5A. Provine is out to a 7-0 start for the first time since 2004. The Rams are balanced offensively averaging 168.6 yards per game rushing and 117.3 yards per game passing. Quarterback Shavario Allen (15 passing touchdowns), promising junior receiver Deion Smith (13 touchdown catches) and running back Marktavius Reed have been good all year. Holmes County Central is also very balanced on offense averaging 217.4 yards per game passing led by quarterback Justin Smith (17 passing touchdowns) and receivers Cory Ellington, Earnest Wade and Ralph Tyes. Running backs Reko Walden and Shon Mason lead a rushing attack that averages 180.4 yards per game. The Jaguar defense led by Montra Edwards comes up big.

Pick: Holmes County Central 23-18

Greenwood (7-0) at Rosa Fort (6-1)

Greenwood travels to Tunica to face Rosa Fort in a key Region 3-4A matchup. Greenwood, ranked No. 1 in Class4A, is very explosive on offense averaging 42 points per game, 240 yards per game passing, 179.6 yards rushing per game. Quarterback Deandre Smith is a crucial part of those numbers, along with running back Jamarion Addison and receivers Kobe Chambers and Daylin Metcalf. Rosa Fort is led by a rushing attack that averages 201.7 yards per game led by running backs Marcus Rule and Lonnie Johnson. The Greenwood offense just too much in this one.

Pick: Greenwood 34-20

Magee (7-0) at West Marion (7-0)

Magee heads to Foxworth to face West Marion in a huge Region 8-3A contest in an all-Trojan battle of unbeaten teams ranked in the Little 10.  Magee, ranked No. 7 in the Little 10 and No. 2 in 3A, is averaging 43.9 points per game, 217.4 yards passing, and 194.1 yards rushing. Junior quarterback Chandler Pittman (1,522 yards passing, 18 touchdowns; 605 yards rushing, 12 touchdowns) already has SEC offers. Running back Jawon Shaw and receiver Xavier Franks have been solid. West Marion, ranked No. 8 in Little 10 and No. 3 in 3A, is averaging 143 yards passing per game and 194.6 yards rushing per game led by quarterback Jeremiah Holmes, running backs Octavious Harvey and Jartavious Martin. Receiver Omarion Husband can be a threat as well. Pittman and company are just too much.

Pick: Magee 21-20

Northside (6-0) at Charleston (4-3)

Northside has been flying under the radar as the Gators will look to stay unbeaten as they head over to Charleston to face the Tigers in a key Region 3-2A contest. Charleston is led by a ground game that averages 130.5 yards per game led by quarterback Chris Bradford along with running backs Keyshun Cashaw, Mook Prince and Kristian Gammage. Northside is a balanced team offensively averaging 192.3 yards per game rushing and 140.2 yards per game passing led by quarterback Jaterrance Moore, running backs Semaj Daniels and Thaddeus Latham along with receiver Karl Burrage. The Tiger defense only allows 11.2 points per game, while the Gator defense has given up one touchdown all season. The Tigers win at home.

Pick: Charleston 30-20

Philadelphia (6-1) at Lake (6-0), Thursday

Philadelphia faces Lake in a crucial Region 6-2A matchup. Philadelphia is coming off a big district win over Scott Central last week, while this will be Lake’s first division game. The Tornadoes, ranked No. 2 in the Little 10 and No. 1 in 2A, are led by quarterback Asher Morgan and receivers Kadarius Calloway and MSU commit Lideatrick Griffin. Lake is a very balanced offense averaging 166.5 yards per game rushing and 132.8 yards per game passing. Brady McGee is solid under center along with running backs J.D. Evans, Johnny Johnson and receiver Z.K. Ledbetter. The Tornados are explosive on offense.

Pick: Philadelphia 35-21

Biggersville (4-1) at Baldwyn (3-3), Thursday

Biggersville travels to Baldwyn to face the Bearcats in a battle of unbeatens in Region 1-1A. Biggersville is led by a ground game that averages 202.8 yards per game led by quarterback Quinton Knight along with running backs Jarell Jones and Goldman Butler. Baldwyn is very balanced offensively averaging 205.5 yards passing per game and 133.7 rushing led by quarterback Maddux Richey, running back Kevrick Richey along with receivers Tim Scales and Jacolby Williams. The Bearcat offense is too much at home.

Pick Baldwyn 31-20

Lamar School (6-2) at Heritage Academy (8-0)

Lamar School head up Highway 45 to Columbus to face Heritage Academy in a matchup of MAIS Class 5A title contenders. It’ll be the Lamar passing game against the Heritage rushing attack. The Raiders are averaging 202.8 yards per game passing led by quarterback Will Morris and receiver Jacob Partridge. Running back Daulton Nelson leads a ground game that is averaging 113.8 yards per game for Lamar. Heritage is averaging 144.6 yards per game led by K.J. Smith and quarterback Carter Putt. Smith is one of the most underrated backs in the state. Jared Long has been huge at receiver and safety for the Patriots. Patriots at home.

Pick: Heritage Academy 27-17