Long time sportswriter and high school football expert Robert Wilson is doing a predictions column each week during the high school football season on teams from Hinds, Madison and Rankin Counties. Robert picked 269 of 360 games (74.7 percent) correctly last season.
Trinity Christian (Texas) (0-0) at MRA (0-0):
Defending Class 6A state champion Madison-Ridgeland Academy and coach Herbert Davis open up the 2020 season with quite a challenge, trying to slow down the son of the one of the greatest players in NFL history. Trinity senior quarterback Shadeur Sanders, son of NFL Hall of Famer Deion “Primetime” Sanders, will be difficult to contain. Ask any of the Texas teams who have tried to do it over the past several years. Sanders, who has verbally committed to Florida Atlantic after turning down offers from SEC powers like Alabama and Georgia and his dad’s school Florida State, threw for 3,477 yards, 47 touchdowns and only four interceptions last season. Trinity is 40-2 over the past three seasons and won the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools Division II state championship for the past two seasons. Deion Sanders is his son’s offensive coordinator. MRA junior linebacker Stone Blanton, rated as one of the top 25 at his position in the country, will try to slow down the Sanders duo. On the offensive side, quarterback Phillip Short and receiver Joe Perkins have graduated after leading MRA to a 12-2 season and a historic win over Jackson Prep in the championship game. Davis, who won his fourth state title, was named the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Coach of the Year. Davis will have Senior Zach Wallace, a transfer from Northwest Rankin, at quarterback and senior Rayf Vinson at receiver and junior Tylor Latham Jr. at running back this season. Both Vinson and Latham missed much of last season with injuries. Trinity, which has several players besides Sanders with DI offers, has too many talented players for MRA.
Trinity 35, MRA 14.
Heritage (0-0) at Jackson Prep (0-0):
Prep’s 2019 season ended with a loss to MRA for the state championship, ending a seven-year state title run. But also Prep’s 2019 season didn’t start well either, being upset by Heritage 24-15 in Columbus. It was the first time since 1983 that Prep had lost a season opener to an MAIS team. Prep has plenty of seniors who remember last season and want to make amends with a victory at home to open the 2020 season. Seniors like running back Matt Jones, quarterback Riley Maddox and linebacker Braedon Mabry should give coach Ricky Black, the second winningest coach in Mississippi history, his 394th career victory. Heritage lost Ole Miss signee Eli Acker and several other key starters, but they have several returning starters, including 6-foot-2, 285-pound defensive lineman John Jackson. A new player to watch out for is Heritage’s talented sophomore quarterback Mack Howard, who has already gotten a Division I offer from Kansas.
Prep 35, Heritage 13.
Pillow (0-0) at Jackson Academy (0-0):
Jackson Academy has three important changes to its team since the Raiders lost to the Mustangs 26-21 to open the 2019 season. Lance Pogue, one of the most successful coaches in Mississippi history, has been promoted from defensive coordinator to head coach, replacing Larry Weems, who is now defensive coordinator at Meridian High. Pogue won five state championships and a national title at South Panola and wants to bring a state title to JA, which hasn’t won one since 2011 when the Raiders had a three-peat. Jackson Conn will be starting at quarterback this season. Conn suffered a season-ending leg injury in preseason last year, but he’s back at full speed. JA has a new player and he’s a Division I recruit. Wide receiver-defensive back-return specialist Ladarius Webb Jr., son of former Super Bowl champion and Baltimore Raven defensive back Ladarius Webb Sr., transferred to JA from Opelika, Ala. Pogue is expected to make sure he gets plenty of touches this season. Webb, who has verbally committed to Nebraska, is ranked the 25th best player in Mississippi by 247 Sports and Pogue said Webb is in the same league with some of the great skill players Pogue had at South Panola. The additions of Pogue, Conn and Webb in their respective roles along with playing at home should result in a JA victory.
JA 28, Pillow 7.
St. Aloysius (0-0) at Hartfield (0-0):
Park Place (1-0) at Clinton Christian (0-0):
Hartfield’s do-it-all star player, senior Brandon Buckhalter, is ranked as the top MAIS player and one of the top 75 wide receivers in the country by 247 Sports. He gets to play in 62,500-seat Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium, something he will do a lot for the next four years playing SEC football for Mississippi State, where he is verbally committed. Hartfield is playing at the Vet because their new artificial turf field won’t be ready until two more weeks. Look for Buckhalter to start of 2020 with a bang and give first-year head coach Craig Bowman a victory in his debut. The Hawks defeated St. Al 29-10 to open the 2019 season. More of the same this year.
Hartfield 35, St. Al 10.
Clinton Christian (0-0) at Park Place (0-0):
Will Jackson has been promoted from defensive coordinator to head coach and will make his head coaching debut for Clinton Christian. Last year’s head coach, Chris Bunio, went back home to Birmingham. Jackson is also from Birmingham. Class 4A CCA went 5-6 last season and went to the playoffs for the third straight season. CCA’s top players are three seniors, wide receiver-defensive back Noah Murray, quarterback Troy Andersen and running back-receiver Keiwon Rodgers. Murray caught three TD passes in last year’s 38-28 victory at Park Place. Class 5A Park Place opened the season with a 41-8 victory over Central Holmes last week. Junior quarterback Bryson Shupe passed for 252 yards and three TDs, all in the first half. Junior wide receiver Josh Sykes caught three passes, all TDs, for 183 yards. Senior running back Brady Cruthirds ran for 120 yards and two TDs. This week won’t be as easy for Park Place, but Shupe’s arm will be the difference.
Park Place 28, CCA 27.
W Ben’s Ford (La.) at Rebul
Canton Academy at Copiah W
W East Rankin at Central Holmes
W Glenbrook (La.) at Hillcrest
Greenville Christian at Tri-County W
W Riverfield (La.) at Central Hinds