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 20 of 28games (71.4 percent) correctly last week. Robert is 161-64 overall for the season, a 71.5 winning percentage.
Madison Central (7-0) at Starkville (6-2)
The No. 1 ranked Madison Central train, led by senior quarterback Jimmy “The Jet” Holiday, appears going full steam until it reaches its destination of a Class 6A state championship. Not so fast Jaguars. There’s trouble ahead. Starkville, considered by many as the preseason favorite in 6A, has its train back on the tracks after being derailed atBrandon and by three time defending 5A state champion West Point, both by a touchdown, in the first three weeks of the season. Starkville went 11-2 last season, including a 21-17 win at Madison Central. And then in 2017 Starkville beat Madison Central twice, 14-6 in the regular season and 27-24 in the playoffs, both games in Starkville. Starkville also beat Madison Central twice in Starkville in 2015 on its way to the state championship. In fact, since the two schools started playing every year in 2011, Madison Central has never won in Starkville. This is how good Starkville is at home. The Yellowjackets haven’t lost a regular season home since 2013. They have only lost three home games since then, all in the playoffs to eventual state champions who went undefeated, Horn Lake last year, Pearl in 2017 and South Panola in 2014. Starkville will win again on its home turf.Friday night.
MRA (7-2) at Jackson Prep (7-1)
MRA broke an eight-year losing streak to Prep last season when it won 42-14 during the regular season and broke Prep’s 22-game winning streak. It was one of the worst losses ever by Prep as MRA staked its claim to possibly end Prep’s six-year run as MAIS state champions.But Prep coach Ricky Black and his staff devised a plan to reverse that decision when they meet in the championship game and Prep finished on top 33-27 for its Mississippi record seventh straight state championship. Jerrion Ealy, who didn’t do much vs. MRA in the first meeting, was dominating in the title game, gaining more than 200 yards and scoring three touchdowns. While Ealy is running for Ole Miss now, his replacement Matt Jones is having a great season. Jones hit the 1,000-yard barrier in last week’s win at Washington and has 1,010 yards on 136 carries, a 7.4-yard average, and 19 touchdowns. MRA is led by senior quarterback Phillip Short (1,855 passing yards, 15 TD passes), but Short has been slowed by an ankle injury over the past several games and MRA has several more players who aren’t at full speed due to injuries.
Canton (4-3) at Callaway (4-3) (South Jackson Field)
Canton started the season in impressive fashion, winning their first four games, including eye-opening wins over Class 6A teams Terry and Germantown. But since Canton has started Class 5A, Region 2 play, things haven’t gone so well, losing to Ridgeland 28-7, Holmes County Central 49-20 and Neshoba Central 56-34. Quarterback Jacobian Morgan is having an outstanding season with 1,801 passing yards and 17 touchdowns with only four interceptions. Callaway is almost in the same position, winning its first three games and losing three of the last four, including back-to-back region losses to Provine 26-23 and Ridgeland 48-30 the past two weeks. The Chargers’ offense is very explosive, scoring at least 30 points in six of their seven games. Both these teams need this win to have a shot at making the playoffs.
Pearl (5-2) at George County (4-3)
Pearl star running back Kenyatta Harrell was lost for the season when he suffered a knee injury in the first quarter in the overtime loss at Petal three weeks ago. Pearl coach John Perry said Harrell is scheduled to have surgery this week and he should make a full recovery to be ready to play college football next season. Some college will get a great player. He has yet to commit to a school. Harrell gained 58 yards and scored one touchdown vs. Petal before his injury. Prior to the Petal game, Harrell had gained 969 yards and scored 15 touchdowns and was on his way to an incredible season, averaging 242 yards per game. Pearl has bounced back from Harrell’s injury and the loss to Petal with Class 6A, Region 3 wins over Meridian 62-0 and Terry 42-7. A trio of Pearl running backs — Senior Carleontaye Spires and sophomores Jerry “JBird” Johnson and Jamari Thompson –are trying to fill the big shoes of Harrell. Meanwhile, George County is trying to recover from one of the biggest upsets of the season in Mississippi, a shocking 35-0 loss at home at Northwest Rankin, which came in with only two wins thisseason. Perry will make sure his team realizes George County is much better than it played last week against Northwest Rankin.
Pelahatchie (6-2) at Pisgah (7-1)
These two Rankin County rivals are two of the best Class 2A teams in Mississippi. This is also a Class 2A, Region 4 game and the winner will probably be the regional champion. Both are undefeated in regional play. Pelahatchie has won three straight games, averaging an amazing 55.7 points per game, since its loss to Bay Springs. Pisgah bounced back from its only loss – a 27-7 decision to Lake – with a 33-7 win last week over Madison St. Joseph. Since the two teams were grouped in the same region in 2015, Pisgah has won three meetings, 43-19 in 2015, 38-28 in 2016 and 49-20 in 2017 before Pelahatchie won 41-21 last year. Pelahatchie will make it two in a row.
Provine (7-1) at Neshoba Central (4-3)
Provine’s undefeated season came to a halt last week when Holmes County Central surprised the Rams 32-13. Provine must regroup and take a road trip to Neshoba County to take on the Rockets. Provine hasn’t had much recent success playing outside of Jackson, winning only four of its last 20 games. More bad news for Ram fans. Neshoba beat Holmes County Central 27-20 three weeks ago at Holmes County Central. The Rockets’ three losses were the first three games of the season, two Class 6A teams, Germantown and Tupelo, and Top 10 5A team Grenada.Since then, Neshoba has won four straight games. Make it five after Friday night.
Velma Jackson (4-3) at Crystal Springs (6-1)
Velma Jackson has won 17 consecutive Class 3A-Region 6 games, dating back to a loss at Yazoo County in 2015. The Falcons were 5-0 in 2016, 2017 and 2018 and are 2-0 this season. After losing its first four games, Velma Jackson has won four in a row and has its eyes on winning its fourth consecutive region title. But Crystal Springs is on its way to its second consecutive winning season, something that hasn’t happened in this Copiah County town in a long time. The Tigers went 7-5 a year ago, the first winning season since 2006. Velma Jackson has dominated Crystal Springs for the past four seasons, 38-15 in 2015, 33-6 in 2016, 47-19 in 2017 and 58-27 last season. This one won’t be as easy at those, but Velma Jackson will survive.
Velma Jackson 27-13.
Hartfield (6-2) at Lamar (6-3)
Hartfield is smarting from its lopsided loss to Madison-Ridgeland Academy last week. The Hawks’ only touchdown in the 47-10 loss was Erick Short’s 50-yard punt return in the first quarter. But that was a non-conference game just like the loss at Oak Forest, La., was three weeks ago. Hartfield is still undefeated in Class 5A, Region 2 and travel to Lauderdale County to take on the three-time defending state champion Lamar Raiders and coaching legend Mac Barnes, who ranks fourth among active football coaches in Mississippi with 321 victories. Lamar is undefeated in conference play as well. The Raiders’ three losses are to Tuscaloosa (Ala.) Academy and two Class 6A state contenders, seven time defending state champion Jackson Prep and Heritage Academy, the only team to beat Prep. One of Hartfield’s three wins last year was when it surprised Lamar 28-22. Don’t look for that to happen again.
Brookhaven Academy (4-4) at Hillcrest (1-8)
Canton Academy (2-6) at Riverfield, La. (8-0)
Central Hinds (0-8) at Silliman, La. (6-2)
Clinton Christian (5-3) at Winston (2-6)
Clinton (3-4) at Germantown (3-4)
East Rankin (1-7) at Leake (4-4)
Jackson Academy (4-4) at Presbyterian Christian (5-3)
Jim Hill (1-6) at Wingfield (1-7) (Hughes Field)
Lanier (5-2) at McComb (4-3)
Mendenhall (3-4) at Florence (2-6)
Meridian (1-7) at Brandon (5-3)
Murrah (1-6) at Warren Central (4-3)
Natchez (3-4) at Forest Hill (3-5) (South Jackson)
Newton County (3-5) at Richland (4-4)
Newton County Academy (3-5) at Tri-County (7-1)
Petal (6-1) at Northwest Rankin (3-4)
Raleigh (2-5) at McLaurin (2-6)
Raymond (3-5) at South Pike (8-0)
Rebul (0-8) at Wilkinson Christian (6-2)
Ridgeland (6-1) at Vicksburg (1-6)
Simpson (5-3) at Park Place (4-4)
St. Andrew’s (2-6) at Yazoo City (6-2)
Terry (2-6) at Oak Grove (4-3)