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 10 of 11 games correctly last week, missing only Leake’s surprising 47-37 victory over Jackson Academy. Robert is 20-2 (90.9 percent) for the season.
MRA (2-0) at Jackson Academy (1-1)
Under Armour All-American wide receiver Deion Smith, rated as the No. 1 player in Mississippi and No. 7 wide receiver in the country by 247 Sports, is expected to make his debut Friday night for Jackson Academy, after transferring from Provine High last week. First-year JA coach Lance Pogue knows how to use talented players like Smith. Pogue won a national championship and five state titles using players like Smith during his 10 years at South Panola. It should be interesting how much and how Smith, who is verbally committed to defending national champion LSU, is used by Pogue against the defending MAIS Class 6A state champions.
Smith combined with JA’s other talent like 6-foot-6 quarterback Jackson Conn, 5-10, 225-pound running back Marcus Harris, Nebraska commit and speedy wide receiver-defensive back Lardarius Webb Jr. and hard-hitting linebacker Donovan Vealsey give the Raiders plenty of firepower.
MRA has an Under Armour All-American as well in junior linebacker Stone Blanton. Blanton was punishing runners and had 17 tackles in MRA’s 27-26 victory over Trinity (Texas) Christian. Like JA, MRA has more than Blanton. Northwest Rankin transfer quarterback Zach Beasley, sure-handed wide receiver Davis Dalton (last week’s Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Player of the Week) and along with a massive offensive line will be hard to slow down.
Pogue is trying to position JA back to where it was when the Raiders won three straight titles from 2009-11 and a win over MRA would open some eyes. JA will be focused after last week’s loss at Leake, but MRA and coach Herbert Davis have too much, even with Smith being in the lineup this week. This isn’t the same team that ended Jackson Prep’s seven-year state title run last year, but they are still very hard to beat.
MRA 35, JA 31.
Pearl (0-0) at Ridgeland (0-0)
Two new head coaches, Pearl’s Justin Hunter and Ridgeland’s Sam Williams, match up in a season opener. Hunter was promoted when then head coach John Perry took the head coaching position in Nixa High in Missouri in January. Hunter has been the offensive coordinator since 2014 under Perry. Williams comes to Ridgeland from Pelahatchie where he won 27 games and took the Chiefs to the playoffs each of his three years as head coach.
Class 6A Pearl finished 6-5 a year ago and returns the nucleus of its team, including senior quarterback Shade Foster, who has been starting for a year and a half.
Class 5A Ridgeland, under David White, rebounded last season and had an 8-4 record, its first winning season since 2013. White left Ridgeland after one season to take the head coaching job at Blue Springs High in Missouri in February. Ridgeland has one of the top quarterbacks in Mississippi in senior Zy McDonald, who has verbally committed to Louisiana-Lafayette. McDonald, a second team selection on the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard All-Metro Jackson team last season, passed for 3,252 yards and 25 touchdowns and ran for 610 yards and 14 TDs last season. He has been starting at quarterback since his freshman year.
Pearl defeated Ridgeland 62-21 last year behind Kenyatta Harrell’s 364 yards and six touchdowns. Don’t look for the Pirates to win that bad, but they will bring back a W to Rankin County.
Pearl 28, Ridgeland 21
Northwest Rankin (0-0) at Madison Central (0-0)
This isn’t a game Madison Central loses very often. In fact, the Jaguars have won eight of the last nine meetings, losing only 32-28 in 2018. Even though MC star quarterback Jimmy “The Jet” Holiday has taken his talents to Tennessee, look for the Jaguars to continue their winning ways over the Cougars. The stubborn defense, led by senior Creek Robertson, an Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard All Metro Jackson defensive back last season, and twin linebackers Joseph and Josiah Perryman, should keep NW Rankin out of the end zone for most of the night. The Jaguars’ season ended early last year, being upset in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs by Olive Branch. They don’t want to start off like they finished last year.
Madison Central 24, Northwest Rankin 7
Clinton (0-0) at Brandon (0-0)
Brandon quarterback Will Rogers was the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Football Player of the Year this past season. Rogers is now a freshman at Mississippi State. And for the first time in three seasons, Brandon coach Tyler Peterson will have a quarterback other than Rogers leading his offense. Senior Josh Sullivan is Rogers’ replacement. He backed up Rogers last season. He played in six games and completed 4 of 6 passes. Sullivan has a pair of experienced seniors to throw to in wide receiver Caleb Anderson and tight end Will Tyndall.
Clinton is trying to rebound from a 5-6 season, which started out with an early season upset over Olive Branch. The Arrows are going to need a game like they had the last time they visited Brandon in 2018 when they forced five Brandon turnovers and came away with a 19-14 win.
Brandon 28, Clinton 14.
Other games: (Projected winner in bold)
Pelahatchie (0-0) at Scott Central (0-0) (Thursday)
Adams County Christian (1-1) at Clinton Christian (0-2)
Canton (0-2) at Pillow (0-2)
Cathedral (2-0) at Hillcrest Christian (0-2)
East Rankin (1-1) at Winston (0-2)
Germantown (0-0) at Canton (0-0)
Leake County (0-0) at Puckett (0-0)
Madison St. Joseph (0-0) at Richland (0-0)
Park Place (2-0) at Hartfield (2-0)
Pisgah (0-0) at St. Andrew’s (0-0)
Raymond (0-0) at Amite County (0-0)
Sebastopol (0-0) at McLaurin (0-0)
St. Aloysius (0-2) at Central Hinds (0-2)
Tensas (1-0) at Rebul (0-2)
Terry (0-0) at Florence (0-0)
Tri-County (2-0) at Sylva-Bay (0-2)