Long time sportswriter and high school football expert Robert Wilson is doing the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard predictions column each week during the high school football season on teams from Hinds, Madison, and Rankin Counties. Robert had a 25-4 record (86.2 percent) last week and has a 131-41 (76.1 percent) this season.

By Robert Wilson

Neshoba Central (6-0) at Ridgeland (4-1)

First-year Ridgeland coach Teddy Dyess knows all about Neshoba Central. Dyess coached at Neshoba’s rival school – Philadelphia – from 2007-2017. He had a 115-28 record at Philly and had eight seasons where he won 10 games or more and never had a losing season. Even though Philly and Dyess were in a smaller classification than Neshoba (3A to 5A), he had a 6-3 record in the series. The schools didn’t play in 2011 and 2012.

Dyess has not only just won at Philly. He has the second highest winning percentage (82.4 with a 216-46 record in his 21st season as head coach) than any other coach in Mississippi story with at least 200 wins except for former National Coach of the Year and Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame member Ricky Black, who resigned from Jackson Prep this spring with a 83.3 winning percentage (401-70) in 40 seasons. Dyess has won six state championships, two as a player at Bassfield, one as an assistant coach at Madison Central, two as a head coach at Lumberton and one as a head coach at Magee last season with he went 12-0 and won the MHSAA Class 3A state title. He has never had a losing season.

This is Patrick Schoolar’s eighth season at Neshoba. He had a 1-3 record against Dyess and a 4-4 record against Ridgeland. Schoolar has won 29 games in the past three seasons – 10 each in 2018 and 2019 and nine last season. This has developed in one of the best rivalries in Mississippi. It’s a huge Class 5A, Region 3 game. It might decide the No. 1 seed. Ridgeland owns a 10-7 lead in the series, including a 2-0 record last season. In fact, both of Neshoba’s losses last year were to Ridgeland, 33-29 during the regular season and 32-29 in the second round of the 5A playoffs. Each of the last five games has a combined score of at least 60 points – 33-29, 32-29, 42-28, 42-24 and 44-26. 

The teams’ two stars last season – Neshoba running back Jarquez Hunter and Ridgeland quarterback – are playing at Auburn and Louisiana-Lafayette respectively this season. But there are two new stars this season for both teams, Ridgeland junior wide receiver Ayden Williams and Neshoba senior wide receiver Ja’Naylon Dupree. Williams, considered one of the best receivers in the country in the Class of 2023, was the only junior on the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Preseason Elite Eleven Team this season. The 6-foot-2, 175-pound Williams – who has offers from Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Southern Miss, Florida, Florida State, Oregon, Louisiana Tech and Louisiana-Monroe – has caught 37 passes for 661 yards and eight touchdowns. Dupree, who has offers from Southern Miss and Navy and is the grandson of Mississippi legend Marcus Dupree, has caught 29 passes for 479 yards and seven TDs. The 5-10, 160-pound Dupree transferred to Neshoba from Philly this year.

Ridgeland should hand Neshoba its first loss with a score late in the fourth quarter.

Ridgeland 34, Neshoba 32.

Jackson Academy (5-2) at Hartfield (7-0)

Hartfield, the new kid on the MAIS Class 6A block, comes in after cruising through its first seven games, averaging 42.7 points. The Hawks’ first team defense has only allowed two touchdowns, both by Presbyterian Christian, in a 42-14 victory, the only Class 6A team Hartfield has played. Hartfield’s defense is led by defensive end Jay Smith, senior linebacker Cooper Stroud and junior safety Gage Sorey. Senior running back Xavier Davis leads the offense with 983 yards and 15 TDs and has one kickoff return for a score. Davis had 242 yards and four TDs against PCS. Tanner Welch, a 6-8, 305-pound junior who has been offered by Samford and South Alabama, leads the Hawks’ offensive line. 

Now, Hartfield starts a three-game stretch against three of the most tradition rich programs in the MAIS, 2020 Class 6A state runner-up JA this week, Jackson Prep in two weeks after bye week and two-time defending MAIS 6A state champion Madison-Ridgeland Academy to finish the regular season. The Hawks have never beaten JA or MRA and never played Prep. Those three teams have dominated the highest classification in football for many years.

JA, which held nationally ranked Greenville Christian scoreless in the second half last week, will try to slow down Davis with its solid defense. Senior defensive lineman Ethan Archie and senior cornerback Kris Robinson led the Raiders with 11 tackles each last week.

JA is led on offense by senior quarterback Tate Collins, a transfer from Madison Central, and senior wide receiver Dakota Jordan, a transfer from Canton Academy. Collins has passed for 842 yards and 10 TDs and ran for 291 yards and two TDs. Jordan, a football and baseball commit to Mississippi State, has caught 16 passes for 387 yards and four TDs. Also, JA is expected to welcome the return of senior running back Marcus Harris, who missed the Greenville Christian game and hasn’t been full speed since injuring his ankle in the first quarter against MRA three weeks ago. The 5-9, 225-pound Harris has 360 yards and seven TDs this season.

Second-year JA head coach Lance Pogue has been in plenty of big games in his coaching career and won more than his share. He has won 225 games in his 24th season. He won five state titles and one national title in 10 seasons at South Panola High and has coached in eight state championship games, six at South Panola and one each at JA and Eupora. Pogue led JA to its first state title game since 2013 last season, losing to MRA.

Second-year Hartfield head coach Craig Bowman coached at Canton Academy before coming to Hartfield and coached Jordan before Bowman left for Hartfield. He knows how explosive Jordan can be. 

The unknown in this game is how Hartfield’s players will react in a close game in the second half. And this one will be very close. This game may come down to the legs of kickers Scott Swalley of JA and Weston Adcock of Hartfield.

JA 27, Hartfield 24 in overtime.

In other games:

North Forrest (0-6) at Puckett (3-3) W Thursday

Pelahatchie (2-4) at Scott Central (6-0) W Thursday

W St. Andrew’s (1-4) at West Lincoln (0-6) Thursday

W Vicksburg (4-2) at Callaway (3-3) Thursday, North Jackson

W Adams County Christian School (5-2) at Tri-County (7-0)

W Brandon (3-2) at Petal (3-3)

W Canton Academy (5-2) at Clinton Christian (2-6)

W Cathedral (3-4) at Central Hinds (7-1)

W Christian Collegiate (3-3) at Rebul (0-7)

W Crystal Springs (4-2) at McLaurin (2-4)

East Rankin (3-4) at Leake Academy (6-1) W

Florence (1-4) at Hattiesburg (2-4) W

Hillcrest Christian (0-8) at Centreville (6-2) W

Jim Hill (1-4) at Holmes County Central (2-3) W

Lanier (1-4) at Raymond (5-1) W

W Madison Central (4-1) at Clinton (2-3)

Murrah (1-5) at Greenville (4-2) W

Northwest Rankin (1-4) at Warren Central (3-2) W

W Oxford (4-2) at Germantown (3-3)

Park Place (3-4) at Lamar (1-6) W

W Pearl (5-1) at Terry (1-4)

Pisgah (2-4) at Velma Jackson (5-1) W

Presbyterian Christian (6-1) at MRA (5-2) W

W Provine (1-5) at Forest Hill (1-5) South Jackson 

Richland (4-2) at Northeast Jones (4-2) W

W Sacred Heart (5-1) at Madison St. Joseph (2-5)

Wingfield (1-4) at South Pike (1-3) W

Yazoo City (3-3) at Jackson Prep (4-3) W