Robert Wilson spent 23 years at The Clarion-Ledger/Jackson Daily News as a sportswriter with more than half of those years covering high school sports, mostly in the Metro Jackson area. He helped chose the All-Metro teams in various sports for more than a decade. Wilson rebirthed this team last year with Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard All-Metro Football Team with 50 players and a Coach and Player of the Year. With the help of high school and college coaches, Wilson selected the best players from Hinds, Madison and Rankin Counties.
By Robert Wilson
Ridgeland senior quarterback Zy McDonald and Northwest Rankin football coach Toby Collums had historic seasons for their respective teams this year.
McDonald set school total offense and passing touchdown records and led the Titans to an 8-3 record and the Class 5A quarterfinals. Collums led the Cougars to a 9-4 record and a second-round playoff victory for the first time in school history, winning six more games than last year’s team.
For their outstanding accomplishments, McDonald and Collums have been named the Player and Coach of the Year respectively on the second annual Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Football Team.
The 5-foot-11, 182-pound McDonald completed 202 of 317 passes, 63.7 percent, for 2,984 yards and 35 touchdowns with only six interceptions and ran 117 times for 899 yards, 7.6 yards per carry, and eight TDs. McDonald’s total offense of 3,883 yards broke his own school record of 3,862 yards, set last year as a junior. He broke the record despite playing two less games. McDonald passed for a school record 3,252 yards and 25 TDs with only six interceptions last season. He completed 60.9 percent of his passes for 10,852 yards and 100 TDs with only 28 interceptions and ran 245 times for 1,631 yards, 6.6 yards per carry, and 24 TDs during his four-year career. He started every game of his high school career. What’s even more amazing is McDonald put up those numbers with a new head coach each of the last three seasons. Ryan Earnest was McDonald’s coach as a freshman and sophomore, Danny White as a junior and Sam Williams as a senior.
“It is amazing when you think about Zy’s total body of work, throwing for more than 10,000 yards and having to learn from a new head coach each of the last three years,” said Williams, who came to Ridgeland from Pelahatchie. “He does all the little things right. Zy has been a joy to coach. He studies the game. When other kids are going home after practice and playing video games, Zy is going home to study football. He was always mentally and physically ready to play.”
“Zy is most humble human I’ve ever encountered,” said Ridgeland offensive coordinator Josh Crowder, who was McDonald’s quarterback coach his freshman, sophomore and senior seasons. “He was a true joy to have not only as a football player, but as a kid. From the day I had him as a 14 year old he’s done everything any coach has ever asked of him.
“Winners win all the time. If it were a foot race, checkers, video games, or football, I’d always go all in that Zy McDonald’s going to win.”
McDonald, who signed with Louisiana-Lafayette Friday during the national early signing period, is the nephew of Morton High, Ole Miss and New Orleans Saints standout running back Duece McAlister. McDonald’s father, Elijah McDonald, played quarterback at Morton, Jackson State and Arkansas-Monticello.
“My dad has been working with me and teaching me how to play quarterback my whole life,” Zy McDonald said. “He has given me great instruction over the years and I’ve used to try to become the best quarterback I can be. My focus this year was getting better on my accuracy on the deep ball and also being able to be more mobile in the pocket and aware of who is close to me. Duece has been very helpful, too. He helps me with off the field areas, with the mental side of the game.”
Williams points to the two victories over Neshoba Central and one win over Vicksburg as McDonald’s best games this season.
McDonald completed 26 of 37 passes for 398 yards and seven TDs and ran nine times for 106 yards in a 49-32 victory over Vicksburg. He also ran for two two-point conversions and passed for one and accounted for 48 of Ridgeland’s 49 points. He was named the Junction Deli/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Football Player of the Week.
McDonald passed for 255 yards and four TDs and ran for 164 yards and one TD in a 33-29 victory at previously undefeated Neshoba Central in a Class 5A, Region 2 battle for first place. Then he passed for 381 yards and three TDs and ran for 102 yards to lead Ridgeland to a 32-29 win at Neshoba Central in the second round of the 5A playoffs. It was the only two games Neshoba lost this season.
McDonald’s top two targets this season were senior Richard Mays Jr. and sophomore Ayden Williams. Mays caught 66 passes for 1,216 yards and 14 TDs and Williams caught 58 passes for 765 yards and six TDs.
If McDonald’s offensive performances weren’t enough, Williams also used him on defense in certain situations at safety. He had eight tackles, six solos, onetackle for loss and caused two fumbles, one of them to stop a fourth quarter drive by Neshoba Central.
“I would put Zy in on the money downs,” Williams said. “He would come when we really needed a stop on third down in big games.”
Collums had 12 returning starters from last year’s team, which finished 3-8, Collum’s first losing season since he took over for Tyler Peterson in 2015. Collums wasn’t able to have spring practice because of the pandemic and summer workouts were limited. Then on the first week of practice in August, linebacker coach Kelby Bowman passed away. Bowman, 43, was in his second season at Northwest Rankin. The players wore patches with his initials KB on their helmets and the coaches had KB on their headsets as a tribute to Bowman during the season.
“We had a lot of holes to fill from a leadership stand point and the kids really bought into what we were teaching them,” said Collums, who had 23 seniors on this year’s roster. “We didn’t have captains this year, but we had seniors leaders like (quarterback) Caleb Parten, (wide receiver) Jordan Cavitt, (linebacker) Ryan Kimbrell and (linebacker) Andrew Jones.”
Northwest Rankin led Madison Central 7-3 at halftime in the season opener before losing 31-20. Despite the loss, Collums saw some good things and then he really got excited after the next week.
“We were able to bounce back from that loss to Madison Central and beat a very good Clinton team (28-21),” Collums said. “That win showed me that we had a chance to do something special.”
Collums used a workhorse in 5-foot-11, 205-pound junior running back Cam Marion to gain tough yards and use the clock. Sometimes carrying the ball more than 30 times in a game, Marion led the Cougars to some impressive wins. He carried it 31 times for 161 yards and three TDs and was named the Junction Deli/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Football Player of the Week in the Clinton win. Marion gained 1,384 yards and scored 17 TDs on 261 carries, an average of 23.7 carries per game, this season. Marion grinding up yardage, Parten’s game management, Cavitt’s big-play ability, a solid defense and sophomore Christian Baglione’s clutch kicking was the formula for Northwest Rankin’s success this season. Marion and junior defensive back Jalen Nelson are members of this year’s first team Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Football team. Cavitt, Bagloine and senior linebacker Javian Gathright are second team selections.
“Coach Collums is more than just a great coach, he’s a great man,” Parten said. “He made me such a better football player. The way he knows the game is absolutely crazy. He got me to where I actually know the game. Our whole team loved him because he had a bond with every single one of the players. He cares about our football career, but he also cares about our lives outside of football. He’s the greatest coach in the state. He’s more than a coach to me. I love that man.”
The Cougars won seven games in a row before losing to Brandon and eventual Class 6A state champion Oak Grove to finish the regular season. Then Northwest Rankin bounced back with a 17-14 victory over Ocean Springs in the first round the 6A playoffs. Then came the chance for history where many Northwest Rankin teams in the past couldn’t get over, a second round playoff victory. The Cougars had to travel on the Gulf Coast and face D’Iberville and 6A Player of the Year, senior wide receiver Justin Walley. Northwest Rankin scored 16 points in the fourth quarter to pull out a 29-28 victory. After scoring a touchdown with about a minute to go, Collums went for the win and Parten connected with Cavitt for the winning two-point conversion.
Said Collums: “We wanted to make history.”
Oak Grove ended Northwest Rankin’s season the next week, but the Cougars knocked down the door no team have ever done since school began in 1981.
Collums has a 77-42 career record in 10 seasons as a head coach, 31-14 in four seasons at Itawamba AHS and 46-28 in six seasons at Northwest Rankin. He has had nine winning seasons out of 10.
Collums’ assistants are offensive coordinator Preston Leathers, defensive coordinator Britt Rowell, offensive line coach Tate Rogers, special teams coach Chris Gardner, quarterback/running backs coach Chad Walberg, wide receivers coach Ben Cheatham, defensive backs coaches Rigel Green and Quade Smith, linebackers coach Conner Douglas (the assistant athletic director and assistant baseball coach who replaced Bowman) and defensive line coach Wil Freeman.
Collums was a running back at Smithville High and Itawamba Community College and played strong safety for Mississippi College. He won the Class 1A state title as a senior at Smithville in 1993 and was a runner-up for the state junior college title at Itawamba. As a junior at MC, Collums helped the Choctaws to a conference championship.
After one year as a graduate assistant at MC, Collumswas a wide receivers coach at Wayne County for one season, four years at Amory as offensive coordinator, one year at Louisville as defensive coordinator and five years at Wayne County as offensive coordinator before getting his first head coaching position at Itawamba AHS.
When he arrived at Northwest Rankin, he heard about this very good quarterback in the sixth grade in the Northwest Rankin Athletic Association.
“He was unbelievable,” Collums said. “He was definitely the best player on the field and I looked forward to him playing for us in the seventh grade.”
But when Collums went to check on him at Northwest Rankin Middle School the next fall, he was not longer in the school district. His name? Zy McDonald.
2020 PriorityOne Bank All Metro Jackson Football Team
Player of the Year: Zy McDonald, Ridgeland
Coach of the Year: Toby Collums, Northwest Rankin
First team offense:
QB: Zy McDonald, Ridgeland, Sr. 5-11, 182
RB: Cam Marion, Northwest Rankin, Jr. 5-11, 205
RB: Branson Robinson, Germantown, Jr. 5-10, 218
WR: Richard Mays, Sr., Ridgeland 6-2, 200
WR: Deion Smith, Jackson Academy, Sr. 6-3, 185
TE: Blake Gunter, Madison Central, Jr., 6-3, 220
OL: Braxton Bolden, Madison Central, Sr. 6-2, 270
OL: Aubrey Grace, Germantown, Sr. 6-3, 270
OL: Kenny Walker, Clinton, Sr. 6-4, 300
OL: Jalen Nettles, Canton, Sr. 6-4, 295
OL: J.P. Wilke, MRA, Sr. 6-5, 309
All-Purpose: Rayf Vinson, MRA, Sr. 6-1, 190
K: Scott Swalley, Jackson Academy, Jr. 5-7, 150
First team defense:
DL: Zxavian Harris, Germantown, Jr. 6-6, 308
DL: Jeremy Johnson, Pearl, Jr. 5-10, 290
DL: Zion Nason, Ridgeland, Sr. 6-3, 260
DL: Jabreal Woodall, Clinton, Sr. 6-1, 252
LB: Stone Blanton, MRA, Jr., 6-2, 210
LB: John Lewis, Germantown, Sr. 6-4, 225
LB: Joseph Perryman, Madison Central, Sr. 6-1, 203
DB: Thaxton Berch, Jackson Prep, Sr. 5-11, 165
DB: Jeremy Mack, Clinton, Sr. 6-0, 186
DB: Jalen Nelson, Northwest Rankin, Jr. 6-1, 170
DB: Creek Robertson, Madison Central, Sr. 6-0, 180
P: Ross James, Hartfield, Sr. 6-2, 170
Second team offense:
QB: Zach Beasley, MRA, Sr. 6-3, 210
RB: Marcus Harris, Jackson Academy, Jr. 5-9, 230
RB: Matt Jones, Jackson Prep, Sr. 5-11, 185
WR: Jordan Cavitt, NWR, Sr. 6-1, 181
WR: Davis Dalton, MRA, Jr. 6-3, 185
TE: William Tyndall, Brandon, Sr. 6-5, 225
OL: Harper Blake, MRA, Sr. 6-4, 270
OL: Camron Richardson, Madison Central, Sr. 6-2, 320
OL: Luke Rogers, Brandon, So. 6-3, 270
OL: Tanner Welch, Hartfield, So. 6-6, 315
OL: Ted Windham, Richland, Sr. 6-4, 275
All-purpose: Jerry Johnson, Pearl, Jr. 5-11, 175
K: Christian Baglione, Northwest Rankin, So. 5-9, 136
Second team defense:
DL: Jude Aldridge, MRA, Sr. 6-2, 205
DL: C.J. Barney, Madison Central, Jr. 5-11, 217
DL: DeAndrae Cavett, Clinton, Sr. 6-2, 260
DL: Tyrese Fields, Germantown, Jr. 6-2, 250
LB: Braedon Mabry, Jackson Prep, Sr. 6-0, 200
LB: Javian Gathright, Northwest Rankin, Sr. 6-0, 184
LB: Donavon Veasley, Jackson Academy, Sr. 5-11, 230
DB: Brandon Buckhalter, Hartfield, Sr. 6-3, 200
DB: B.J. Washington, Madison Central, Jr. 5-10, 163
DB: Lardarius Webb, Jr., Jackson Academy, Sr. 5-10, 180
DB: Ayden Williams, Ridgeland, So. 6-2, 175
P: Riley Maddox, Jackson Prep, Sr. 6-2, 200