Photo by Brad Bridges

Sponsored by:
Belle Meade Family Dental
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PriorityOne Bank
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Burgers Blues Barbecue – Madison
Charlie Morehead-Agency Owner at Farmers Insurance
Alliant Construction

By Robert Wilson
Photos by Brad Bridges

       Devin Cooper doesn’t wear sunglasses and a cap indoors, wear gold chains and isn’t an NFL Hall of Famer like former Jackson State coach and current Colorado coach Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders, but the Northwest Rankin football coach has his team believing too.

       In only the fourth game of the season, Cooper’s Cougars have won only one less game than they did all of last season.

       Freshman sensation De’Shawn Dillion caught six passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns to lead Northwest Rankin to a 28-21 victory over previously undefeated Madison Central Friday night and defeated former Northwest Rankin coach Toby Collums in a non-region, MHSAA Class 7A matchup between neighboring county rivals before an estimated 4,500 at Northwest Rankin’s Cougar Field in Brandon.

       Like Sanders who has led Colorado into the Top 25 after winning only two games in the past two seasons in his first year, Cooper has led Northwest Rankin to a big turnaround in his third season.

       Northwest Rankin improved to 3-1 and has made dramatic improvement over last year when the Cougars went 4-7, including a 48-3 loss to Madison Central. Madison Central – which had a 24-14 series lead and won 13 of the last 14 meetings before Friday night – dropped to 3-1.

       Cooper took over for Collums three years ago after having success at a defensive coordinator at Clinton (he was a part of the MHSAA Class 6A state championship team with All-American Cam Akers in 2016) and then three years as head coach at Scott Central where he had a 35-6 record (an 85.3 winning percentage) and won a MHSAA Class 2A state title in his first year in 2018.

       But Cooper won only two games in 2021 – the worst season at Northwest Rankin since 1998 – and only four last year. But this is a new season and Cooper has his Cougars on the right track.

       Friday night’s win over undefeated Madison Central – which is two years removed from winning the 6A state title – was a great indication of just how far Cooper and his team has come this season.

       “Our guys are playing hard and believe in each other right now,” Cooper said. “Last year’s team helped create momentum for our off season. We have been fortunate to make key plays to pull off these close wins. Every Friday is big at this level.

       “We had a great effort by our team. We had some great plays called by (offensive coordinator) Coach (Preston) Leathers and his offensive staff and our players executed those plays in big moments of the game. Our defense, led by (defensive coordinator) Coach (Phillip) Poole, played really well all night with the exception of a few big plays. Our defense held them by 7 points in the first half to keep us in the game.”

       Northwest Rankin senior running back Dylan Lewis scored on a 1-yard run for the winning score with 1 minute, 30 seconds to play. He had 22 carries for 90 yards and one TD. Northwest Rankin senior wide receiver Kaleb Boggans had four catches for 70 yards and had 105 all-purpose yards.

       Madison Central senior running back Glen Singleton gained 175 yards on 28 carries, Senior running back Marvjyan Jackson had 98 yards on nine carries and one TD and junior wide receiver Jaden Johnson had five catches for 109 yards and one TD. Sophomore quarterback Ben Picarella passed for 213 yards and two TDs.

       “Northwest Rankin outplayed and outcoached us,” said Collums, who was named the PriorityOne Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Coach of the Year in 2020 after leading Northwest Rankin to a second-round playoff victory for the first time since the school opened in 1981 and led the Cougars to a 9-4 season, six more wins than the previous year. He had a 46-28 record in six seasons at head coach at Northwest Rankin before leaving for Madison Central.