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 went 11-7 last week (61.1 percent) and is 61-17 (78.2 percent) for the season.
This week is historic for Mississippi high school football. For the first time, the MAIS Big Three – Jackson Academy, Jackson Prep and Madison-Ridgeland Academy – are each playing MHSAA teams in football on the same night. JA plays host to Pelahatchie, Prep visits Taylorsville and MRA visits Corinth. Prep was the first to break the MAIS-MHSAA barrier when the Patriots played host to George County in 2001. MRA’s first MHSAA football opponent was St. Andrew’s in 2007. JA’s first MHSAA football opponent was Northeast Lauderdale in 2011. The three have a combined record of 41-20 vs. MHSAA football teams. Prep is 19-9, MRA 13-8 and JA 9-3.
MRA (4-0) at Corinth (2-1)
This game was scheduled last week after Bay Springs cancelled on MRA and Corinth had an open date. MRA will make one of its longest football trips in history (228 miles from Madison to Corinth, located just south in the Tennessee line), about a four-hour bus ride. It is Corinth’s homecoming and MRA would like to spoil the festivities with a victory.
MRA is the defending MAIS Class 6A state champions. Corinth is the defending MHSAA Class 4A state champions. MRA, 4-0, is ranked No. 1 and Corinth is No. 36 in Mississippi by MaxPreps. MRA has won 11 games in a row since losing to Briarcrest Christian (Tenn.) last season. Corinth has won 16 of its last 18 games with losses to Class 6A Tupelo last season and Class 6A Olive Branch this season. Corinth is averaging 45.3 points in three games this season and averaged 43.3 points per game last season and scored at least 31 points every game. MRA, led by Under Armour All-American junior linebacker Stone Blanton, hasn’t allowed a point in the last seven quarters. Corinth has a star of its own. Cayden Betts had 233 rushing yards and three TDs and returned a kickoff for a 79-yard TD in a 66-27 victory over Kossuth last week. MRA welcomes the return of junior wide receiver Davis Dalton, who was the Junction Deli/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Football Player of the Week after his outstanding performance in MRA’s 27-26 victory over Trinity Christian, which came in as the No. 12 ranked team in Texas. Dalton caught six passes for 146 yards and three TDs, including a 10-yard TD with seven seconds to play. Dalton has missed the last three games due to illness.
MRA 35, Corinth 34
Jackson Prep (4-0) at Taylorville (2-0)
In one of the greatest defensive games in Prep history, the Patriots held talented Taylorsville quarterback Ty Keyes and his high-powered offense out of the end zone for a surprising, 28-0 victory last season. Taylorsville came in averaging 34 points per game and was ranked No. 8 in Mississippi by MaxPreps. Their closest game was a 20-point win. But Prep defensive coordinator Nick Brewer and his Patriot defense kept Taylorsville scoreless for the first time since 2004 and ended a 190-game scoring streak. Taylorsville got inside the Prep 20 twice, but turned the ball over on fourth down both times. Keyes, who has verbally committed to Tulane, completed 17 of 33 passes for 169 yards and one TD with one interception, was sacked twice and pressured all night. Prep’s running back Matt Jones had 218 rushing yards and two TDs and 37 receiving yards and one TD.
Keyes and Taylorsville rebounded to win the rest of its games and the Class 2A state title and has won both of its games this season. In fact, the only game Keyes has lost in the past three seasons is to Prep because he didn’t play in the 2018 Class 2A state championship loss to Scott Central. Taylorsville might have been overlooking Prep last season when they came up to Flowood. They won’t be this season and they will be playing on their home turf. Prep has won seven straight games vs. MHSAA competition, but look for Taylorsville to win this rematch.
Taylorsville 28, Prep 14
Pelahatchie (1-2) at JA (3-2)
Pelahatchie put on an offensive show last year and defeated JA 49-37 in Pelahatchie. A lot has changed for both teams since last season. Both schools have new head coaches. JA’s new head coach, Lance Pogue, owns a national championship and five state titles when he was at South Panola. He was promoted from defensive coordinator at JA. Pelahatchie’s new head coach is Ryan Keeton, who was defensive coordinator at Pelahatchie for three seasons under Bill Ward before becoming the head coach at Nanih Waiya for three seasons. He was an assistant coach at Tupelo for the past two years. Keeton replaces Sam Williams, who was very successful at Pelahatchie for the past three seasons and moved on to take the job at Ridgeland. In addition to Pogue taking over as head coach, JA now has the top rated player in Mississippi in senior wide receiver Deion Smith, who has verbally committed to defending national champion LSU and transferred to JA from Provine, whose football season was cancelled. Smith’s younger brother, sophomore Dan Smith, also transferred The duo has combined for 432 rushing and receiving yards and four TDs, including 190 receiving yards and two TDs in last week’s win over Oak Forest, La. Pelahatchie graduated running back Ahmad Johnson and defensive back Ian Jackson, both first team selection on the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard All Metro Jackson football team last season. JA seems to be getting better each week and the Smith brothers are getting more touches each game.
JA 42, Pelahatchie 21
Canton (1-1) at Ridgeland (2-1) W
Choctaw Central (0-3) at Richland (3-0) W
Clinton (1-1) at Madison Central (2-1) W
W Collins (0-1) at Florence (1-2)
East Rankin (1-4) at Canton Academy (3-2) W
Eupora (1-2) at Pisgah (2-1) W
W Franklin County (1-2) at Raymond (1-2)
Germantown (3-0) at Warren Central (3-0) W
W Greenville St. Joseph (4-1) at Central Hinds (0-5)
Gulfport (1-2) at Brandon (1-2) W
Hillcrest Christian (1-5) at Greenville Christian (3-1) W
W Leake (5-0) at Park Place (3-2)
McLaurin (0-3) at Puckett (3-0) W
Meridian (0-3) at Northwest Rankin (2-1) W
Oak Forest, La. (1-3) at Hartfield (2-3) W
W Petal (2-1) at Pearl (0-3)
Rebul (0-5) at Sharkey-Issaquena (3-2) W
St. Andrew’s (0-3) at West Lincoln (1-2) W
W Tri-County (3-1) at Winston (3-2)
W Velma Jackson (1-0) at Madison St. Joseph (2-1)