By Robert Wilson
The Mississippi Association of Coaches named Velma Jackson senior running back Gavin Griffin the MHSAA Class 1A Mr. Football earlier this month.
Taylorsville found out why last Friday night.
The 5-foot-10, 195-pound Griffin gained 191 yards on 18 carries and scored three touchdowns, returned a punt for a 62-yard TD, and had four 2-point conversions to lead Velma Jackson to a 44-22 victory over Taylorsville in the 1A state semifinals at Velma Jackson in Camden in Northeast Madison County.
For his outstanding performance, Griffin has been named the Junction Deli/Mississippi Scoreboard Football Player of the Week.
Griffin scored 16 points – a 1-yard touchdown run, a 62-yard punt return for a TD, and pair of two-point conversions – in a 2-minute span to tie up the game to ignite Velma Jackson from a 22-6 first-quarter deficit. Velma Jackson scored 38 straight points to clinch the victory.
Velma Jackson became the first football team in school history to reach the state championship game. Velma Jackson, 13-0, meets Biggersville, 11-1, Thursday at 4 p.m. at Ole Miss’ Vaught Hemingway Stadium in Oxford (televised on MEtv).
Velma Jackson had been to two other semifinals, losing to Scott Central 32-7 in Class 2A last season and losing to Charleston 46-17 in Class 3A in 2016, both under coach Bernard Euell, now in his eighth season. Velma Jackson had never gotten past the second round before Euell arrived.
Griffin gave Velma Jackson a quick 6-0 lead when he burst up the middle for a 66-yard TD run on the second play from scrimmage. In addition to his other two scores, Griffin had a 4-yard TD run and a 2-point conversion for a 44-22 lead with 4:48 to play to clinch the victory.
Griffin had 263 all-purpose yards, 191 rushing and 72 on two punt returns. And he did against one of the top small school football programs in Mississippi history. Taylorsville has won eight state championships, reaching the state title game four consecutive years from 2017-2020 and winning three of those in 2017, 2019 and 2020.
Griffin now has 1,780 rushing yards – 11.3 yards per carry – and 32 TDs and 24 2-point conversions while only playing an average of half of the games due to lopsided victories. This was his 10th 100-yard game this season. He also has three punt returns and two kickoff returns for TDs this season. Griffin is averaging 48.7 yards on three kickoff returns and 31.7 yards on eight punt returns.
“Gavin has meant a lot to the success of our team this year,” said Euell, who has been at Velma Jackson for eight seasons. “His leadership, hard work, and commitment to his teammates has been key for our team. Gavin’s punt return of the South State championship game is what sparked our team come from behind win. In my opinion, Gavin is definitely one of the top three running backs in the state of Mississippi. Hopefully after the championship game, Mississippi State or Ole Miss will have an opportunity to see that this kid is worthy of a scholarship offer. Gavin, in my opinion, is an elite running back.”
Griffin has offers from Alcorn State, Jackson State, Mississippi Valley, and Southern. Euell said Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Southern Miss, Cincinnati, South Alabama, and Troy has shown interest in Griffin.
Griffin gained 1,663 yards on 183 carries (a 9.1-yard average) and scored 25 TDs in 10 games last season as a junior. He had nine games where he gained 100 or more rushing yards. Griffin also returned 11 kickoffs for a 28.1-yard average. He had a career-high 303 yards and six TDs against Leake Central last season.
Griffin gained 1,156 yards on 147 carries, a 10.3-yard average, and scored 16 TDs last season and led Velma Jackson to an 8-3 record and a No. 5 final ranking in Class 2A in MaxPreps two years ago as a sophomore.
Griffin is playing in the Mississippi/Alabama All-Star Game Dec. 16 at Southern Miss in Hattiesburg.
Griffin is the son of Tiffany and Ray Luckett. Ray played football, basketball and track and field at Carthage High and played football at Mississippi Valley State. Tiffany graduated from Thomastown High and Mississippi Valley. Griffin’s brother, Ravion Henry, played basketball and ran cross country at Leake Central High and played basketball at East Central Community College, Delta State and Stillman, Ala., Institute.
Mississippi Scoreboard selects a football player from Hinds, Madison, or Rankin counties each week. Coaches can nominate a player by text or call to Robert Wilson at 601.506.2276.
2023 POW winners:
Week One: John White, MRA
Week Two: Jacob Clearman, Tri-County Academy
Week Three: Ryan McCall, Madison Central
Week Four: Brayden Bullock, Central Hinds Academy
Week Five: Nate Blount, Brandon
Week Six: John White, MRA
Week Seven: Tyler Arrington, Wingfield
Week Eight: Damarion Snow, Pelahatchie
Week Nine: Ny Johnson, Germantown
Week 10: Baker Craig, Park Place Christian Academy
Week 11: Jay McQueen, Brandon
Week 12: Jaeden Calender, Brandon
Week 13: Kayvion Freeman, Pearl
Week 14: RJ Hall, Terry
Week 15: London Simmons, Hartfield Academy