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 11 of 12 games correctly (91.6 percent) last week. His only miss was Madison-Ridgeland Academy’s last-second, 27-26 win over Trinity (Texas) Christian.
Jackson Prep (1-0) at Simpson Academy (1-0)
Prep coach Ricky Black, the second winningest high school football coach in Mississippi history, has coached at Prep since 1997, but has never carried a team down the long hill to Simpson’s field. Prep, whose streak of seven straight MAIS state championships was broken by Madison-Ridgeland Academy last season, started the 2020 season with a 41-13 win over defending Class 5A state champion Heritage Academy at Prep. Senior quarterback Riley Maddox passed for 129 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 60 yards and two scores, senior running Matt Jones had 132 yards and two TDs and senior Thaxton Burch caught nine passes and one TD. Black will be going for his 295th career victory, 257th at Prep. Prep has two new players for this week’s game, both senior transfers from Jackson Public School teams, which announced recently they were not playing fall sports. Linebacker Chris Peals transferred from Lanier and tight end-defensive end Kendarius Smith from Provine.
Simpson is coached by Dan Napier, who is in his fourth season as head coach. Long time high school sports fans know Napier, who is one of the greatest athletes in Simpson school history. He won state championships for Simpson in football, baseball and track. A speedy running back, Napier led Simpson to a 13-0 record and its first state title in 30 years in 2003. Then as a senior in 2004, Napier gained 2,037 yards and led Simpson to another state title. He wants to bring another state title to Simpson as a coach. The Class 5A Cougars were 6-5 a year ago, including a 48-0 loss at Prep, but should be improved this season, led by junior quarterback Brentley Berry. Simpson opened the season last week with a 39-12 victory at Columbia Academy. Berry passed for 210 yards and two TDs. Sophomore Aubren Kennedy scored three TDs and senior Andrew Smith had one score.
Simpson will give Prep a little trouble in the first half, but look for the Patriots, who will double the Cougars in number of players, to pull away in the second half.
Prep 31, Simpson 14.
Hartfield (1-0) at Canton Academy (0-1)
Hartfield, one of the favorites in Class 5A, opened up the season last week with a 43-0 victory over St. Aloysius to give Craig Bowman a win in his debut as head coach at Hartfield. Bowman, who previously was the head coach at Canton, was promoted from offensive coordinator at Hartfield to head coach to replace Jeff McFerran, who is now offensive coordinator. Junior running back Xavier Davis, a transfer from Hillcrest Christian, ran for 178 yards and four TDs, all in the first half. Hartfield also welcomed back last year’s starting quarterback Cruz Garner, who transferred to Brandon High this summer, but came back to Hartfield last week. Garner, a junior, is one of the most versatile athletes in Metro Jackson and can play a variety of positions, not only quarterback, but also running back, wide receiver and defensive back. Garner also started at point guard in basketball at Hartfield last year.
Canton Academy head of school Ron Jurney is doubling up again as head coach like he did for eight years until 2016 when he guided the Panthers to a 13-1 record and a state championship. Jurney won 57 games in those eight seasons. Jurney started his coaching career as a 23 year old in 1978 when he became a head coach at Woodland Hills Baptist Academy and then started Jackson Academy’s football program in the early 1980s. Jurney has also been the athletic director and head coach at Millsaps College and recruited Bowman. Bowman played quarterback and free safety at Millsaps.
Class 4A Canton hasn’t had a winning season since Jurney stepped down in 2016. The Panthers were 2-9 last season, including a 42-10 loss to Hartfield. Canton opened the season with a 41-13 loss to Copiah.
Hartfield, led by Mississippi State commitment and wide receiver-defensive back-return specialist Brandon Buckhlater, has too much for Canton.
Hartfield 35, Canton 7
MRA (1-0) at Copiah (1-0)
MRA made a big impression on many people, including an NFL Hall of Famer, last week with its 27-26 victory over Trinity (Texas) Christian. Trinity quarterback Shadeur Sanders and his dad, NFL Hall of Famer and Trinity offensive coordinator Deion “Primetime” Sanders fell short of the defending Class 6A state champion Patriots. Look for MRA to have a natural letdown after last week’s emotional game, but the Patriots are too talented for Copiah and first-year Billy Wayne Hankins, who came to the Colonels after a successful career at Simpson. Hankins won 128 games in 12 seasons at Simpson. MRA better keep an eye on Copiah quarterback Ellis Fair, a 6-2, 235-pound senior transfer from Crystal Springs High. Fair gained 197 yards on 28 carries and scored four TDs in a 41-13 win over Canton last week.
MRA 35, Copiah 13
Riverfield, La., (1-0) at Tri-County (1-0)
These two teams meet in a rematch of last year’s Class 4A state championship game. The game was originally scheduled for Riverfield, but because of Louisiana’s stricter coronavirus regulations, it was moved to Flora. Riverfield defeated Tri-County 29-21 for the state title to finish 13-0. Riverfield also beat Tri-County 50-49 during the regular season, winning on the final play of the game. Tri-County has played in four state title games in the past five years and last won a state title in 2012. Riverfield defeated Central Hinds 39-7 and Tri-County defeated Greenville Christian 27-0 last week.
Tri-County 28, Riverfield 27.
Other games: (Team in bold is the projected winner)
Cathedral (1-0) at Central Hinds (0-1)
Greenville St. Joseph (1-0) at Clinton Christian (0-1)
Hillcrest (0-2) at Carroll (1-0)
Jackson Academy (1-0) at Leake (1-0)
Marshall (0-1) at East Rankin (1-0)
Claiborne, La. (0-1) at Rebul (0-1)