Long time sportswriter and high school football expert Robert Wilson will be doing a predictions column each week during the high school football season on teams from Hinds, Madison and Rankin Counties. Robert is still getting the dust off his crystal ball as evidence of last week’s 1-2 record. Like any good coach would say, there is a big improvement between weeks one and two and Robert expects the same with his picks.
Starkville at Brandon:
This isn’t the high school version of Alabama vs. Clemson, but it’s close. In a possible preview of the Class 6A state championship, Starkville makes a two hour trip to Brandon in this highly anticipated season opener, which should bring an overflow crowd of more than 7,000. Brandon quarterback Will Rogers comes into his senior season as one of the top players in Mississippi. He threw for 3,009 yards and 23 touchdowns and has committed to Mississippi State. He doesn’t have Jonathan Mingo to throw to this year – Mingo is playing for Ole Miss – but Rogers has plenty of talented targets on his team this season. Coach Tyler Peterson’s sixth team at Brandon could be his best yet. The Bulldogs finished 13-2 and lost to Oak Grove 21-10 in the semifinals last season. They want to go further in 2019. This game should be a good indicator if they can do it. Some project Starkville as the team to beat in the Class 6A race after the Yellowjackets finished 11-2 and lost to eventual 6A state champion Horn Lake 35-14 in the semifinals last year. Starkville quarterback Luke Altmyer, playmaker Rufus Harvey and talented linebacker Tyrese Hopkins will give Brandon fits all night long. Look for Brandon to pull this one out at in the closing minutes.
Brandon 28 – Starkville 27
Jackson Prep at Heritage Academy:
Prep coach Ricky Black has won an amazing seven straight state championships, including the last three with star running back Jerrion Ealy. Ealy will be playing for Ole Miss this year instead of running for touchdowns for Prep. It might take a while for the Patriots offense to recover. Heritage will be a tough test and looked impressive its win last week in Montgomery, Ala. Prep will have to pay close attention to Heritage defensive lineman and Ole Miss commitment Eli Acker. The 6-foot-5 ½, 285-pound Acker is considered one of the top 10 college recruits in Mississippi. Prep hopes 6-7, 290-pound offensive tackle Peyton Dunn will help slow down Acker. Prep’s depth should be the difference in this one in the second half.
Prep 28 – Heritage Academy 13
Murrah at Wingfield (Thursday, South Jackson Field):
These two Jackson Public School rivals haven’t played each other in football since 2008. Murrah won the last meeting 41-20. First-year Murrah coach Marcus Gibson gets his Mustangs off to a good start with a victory and extends the Falcons’ losing streak to 16 games. Wingfield was 0-12 a year ago.
Murrah 28 – Wingfield 6
Richland at St. Andrew’s:
J.J. Plummer will make his debut as Richland’s coach against a team he used to coach. Plummer was at St. Andrew’s before he took the job at Terry where he was able to hang with the big dogs of Class 6A football and hold his own. Now Plummer has a difficult task of getting the Rangers back up to speed and tries to break a 13-game losing streak. Although Richland is Class 4A and St. Andrew’s is 3A, Johnny Nichols’ Saints are too much for Plummer and his Rangers.
St. Andrew’s 21 – Richland 14
Madison Central at Vicksburg (at Warren Central):
Madison Central senior quarterback Jimmy Holiday is the real deal. One of the top players in the state and being recruited by several SEC schools, Holiday passed and ran for 2,975 yards and 24 touchdowns last season. He has been clocked at a blazing 4.38 seconds in the 40 yard dash. But the Jaguars have much more than Holiday and that’s why they are projected to have a legit shot of winning the Class 6A state championship this season. First up is Vicksburg and the Gators aren’t in the Jaguars class. Madison gets to found out how good they are next week when it plays host to 6A contender Brandon.
Madison Central 35 – Vicksburg 0
Pearl at Clinton (Thursday):
Pearl coach John Perry is feeling good about his Pirates this year. Two years removed from the Class 6A state championship, Pearl looks like they are ready to make another run at it. They return every offensive starter, including dynamic quarterback Shade Foster. Clinton’s star quarterback from a year ago, Hunter Hulsey, is playing for Northwest Mississippi Community College this year. He has been replaced by elusive Caleb Miller and his top target is Mississippi State commitment E. Jai Mason. The Pirates have too much firepower for the Arrows.
Pearl 28 – Clinton 7
Velma Jackson at Canton:
Velma Jackson coach Bernard Euell rode the talented legs and arm of quarterback Antavious Willis for the past three years, but Willis is now at Southern Miss. Willis ran and passed for 58 touchdowns in his high school career for the Falcons. But don’t expect Euell and VJ to slow down. Euell, who was a star at Jim Hill and Mississippi State, knows a thing or two dealing with adversity. As a player, he led Jim Hill to its first winning season in 15 years and as a coach he helped turn Yazoo County into a winning program before coming to VJ. Velma Jackson defeated Canton 50-26 last season. Calvin Bolton’s Tigers will give the Falcons a better game this time, but not enough to pull off a win.
Velma Jackson 28 – Canton 14
Pelahatchie at Florence:
Behind super talented quarterback J.P. Purvis, Pelahatchie had one of the most high-powered offenses in the state a year ago, averaging 45.3 points per game. Purvis is playing at Mississippi State now, but the Chiefs are still loaded and are one of the best Class 2A teams in the state. Florence is Class 4A and the Eagles aren’t bad either. Pelahatchie was the only team to beat eventual 2A state champion Scott Central a year ago. Florence lost to Scott Central 35-20 last year. Many Southern Miss fans will remember new Florence Rod Davis. Davis, from Gulfport, was an All-American linebacker at Southern Miss and won the Conerly Trophy in 2002. A fifth draft pick in the NFL, Davis played 10 years of pro ball in the NFL, CFL and Arena League. He has spent the last four years as an assistant head coach and co-defensive coordinator at Northwest Rankin. Davis has the Eagles excited for the opener, but the Chiefs will escape with a win.
Pelahatchie 27 – Florence 20
Pisgah at Puckett:
Puckett used to dominate this Rankin County series, but not any more. Coach Michael Granberry has his Pisgah Dragons rolling these days. Pisgah has won 28 games in the last three years and will start with another easy one this year.
Pisgah 27 – Puckett 7
Clinton Christian at Park Place:
Park Place went on the road last week to Central Holmes and opened up a lot of eyes with a lopsided win as quarterback Bryson Shupe, running back Nic Butts and its defense looked awesome. Things will get tougher for the Crusaders this week when Clinton Christian to comes to Pearl. Clinton Christian finished 8-4 last year and was eliminated in the playoffs by eventual champion Greenville St. Joe. CCA beat Park Place 24-14 a year ago. Same result, closer score this time.
Clinton Christian 20 – Park Place 19
Raymond at Terry:
Terry hasn’t lost this Hinds County rivalry since 2008. Look for first-year Bulldog coach Bo Russum to continue the streak.
Terry 20 – Raymond 6
Winners are Underlined
Central Holmes at East Rankin
Columbus at Provine
Copiah at Canton Academy
Forest Hill at St. Martin
Germantown at Desoto Central
Greenville Christian at Tri-County
Hartfield at St. Aloysius
Hillcrest at Glenbrook, La.
Jackson Academy at Pillow
Jim Hill at McComb
Kemper County at Callaway
Madison St. Joe at St. Stanislaus
Northwest Rankin at Oxford
Ridgeland at Ocean Springs
Riverfield, La. at Central Hinds
Rebul at Ben’s Ford, La.
Washington at MRA
Yazoo City at Lanier