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 25-1 record (96.1 percent) – only miss was Brandon’s win over Oak Grove – last week and has a 201-55 (78.5 percent) this season.
By Robert Wilson
Hartfield Academy (8-1) at MRA (8-3)
Hartfield’s football fans acted like they had won the state championship last week when the Hawks made a remarkable comeback to defeat Jackson Prep 22-17. And there was reason to celebrate. Hartfield, the new kid on the MAIS Class 6A block, has been in the shadows of Prep, the almost always annual winner of the MAIS All-Sports trophy, since Hartfield opened 10 years ago. It was the first time that Hartfield had played Prep in football, a sport Prep has owned in the top classification for decades. It was a historic night for the Hawks.
Hartfield must forget that win quickly and concentrate on an even bigger prize this week, the two-time defending MAIS Class 6A state champions. Madison-Ridgeland Academy comes in on fire, winning seven straight games by an average of 31.7 points per game, after losing three of its first four games to defending state champions, Greenville Christian (Mississippi), Oakland (Tennessee) and Pulaski Academy (Arkansas). The Patriots have scored as many as 59 points and at least 35 during their winning streak. To make matters worse for the Hawks, star quarterback Cruz Garner will miss this game due to a shoulder injury. Hartfield coach Craig Bowman said Garner injured his non-throwing shoulder in the first quarter against Prep and expects to get him back next week. Wide receiver Reed Jesiolowski, a 6-foot-3, 195-pound sophomore who is second on the team in catches and receptions, will start for Garner at quarterback against MRA.
MRA Under Armour All-American senior linebacker Stone Blanton – who was presented his Under Armour jersey two weeks ago at MRA’s homecoming – leads the Patriots defense. Blanton had nine tackles and returned an interception for a touchdown in last week’s win over Parklane. He has 89 tackles, 18 for loss, in eight games this season. Junior linebacker Jeffrey Polk, senior linebacker Braeden Watters, junior defensive end Alex Hillhouse and senior safety Tylon Latham give Blanton help on defense.
Sophomore quarterback John White has completed 69.6 percent of his passes for 3,144 yards and 33 TDs – ninth in the nation in both categories according to MaxPreps – this season. Senior wide receiver and Southern Miss commitment Davis Dalton has 65 catches for 1,196 yards (24th in the nation) and 12 TDs.
MRA is in first place in 6A with a 4-0 record. Hartfield is in second at 3-1. Prep and Jackson Academy are in third at 2-2. The first two teams receive byes in next week’s first round. If MRA defeats Hartfield, Prep defeats Presbyterian Christian and JA defeats Parklane, there will be a three-way tie between Hartfield, Prep and JA. Since the three teams are 1-1 against each other, the second tiebreaker is point differential between the three teams. Hartfield is a plus 1, JA zero and Prep minus 1 so Hartfield would be the No. 2 seed, JA No. 3 seed and Prep No. 4 seed.
MRA is 4-0 all time against Hartfield, winning 42-14 last year, 47-10 in 2019, 50-0 in 2018 and 39-14 in 2017.
Hartfield will be too far behind this week to have an incredible comeback. MRA will put this one away in the third quarter.
MRA 35, Hartfield 10.
Scott Central (9-0) at Velma Jackson (7-1)
Coach Bernard Euell’s Velma Jackson team dropped down from Class 3A to 2A this season and have been rolling. Since losing to Class 4A Raymond in the third game of the season, Velma Jackson has won five straight games and averaged 37 points per game. But now Velma Jackson faces one of the strongest teams in 2A for the past several years. Scott Central has a 56-8 record, an 87.5 winning percentage, since 2017, with one state championship in 2018 and a semifinal appearance in 2019. Scott Central has won 16 of its last 17 games.
Both teams are 3-0 in Class 2A, Region 6 play so the winner receives the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.
Since Euell came to Velma Jackson in 20-16, the Falcons have been to the playoffs every year, reaching the semifinals in 2016. Velma Jackson has won only two playoff games in four years since then.
Euell will be counting on safety Carsyn Day, strong safety Latravis Williamson and defensive end Tyshun Willis on defense and quarterback Terrance Mack, running back Gavin Griffin and wide receiver Kentravian Young on offense to try to knock off Scott Central.
Scott Central will pick up a road win in Camden. This game is tonight, not Friday night.
Scott Central 21, Velma Jackson 14.
In other games:
W Lanier (1-7) at Wingfield (1-7), Thursday, North Jackson
W Pelahatchie (4-5) at Puckett (4-5), Thursday
Richland (5-4) at Quitman (4-4) W, Thursday
St. Andrew’s (3-5) at Pisgah (2-7) W, Thursday
W Brandon (6-2) at Northwest Rankin (2-6)
Callaway (3-5) at Neshoba Central (9-0) W
Germantown (4-5) at Starkville (8-1) W
Holmes County Central (5-4) at Ridgeland (5-3) W
Jim Hill (1-7) at Forest Hill (2-7) W, South Jackson
McComb (3-5) at Raymond (7-2) W
Murrah (1-8) at Madison Central (7-1) W
W Oak Grove (6-2) at Pearl (7-2)
W Provine (2-6) at Canton (4-4)
W South Jones (2-6) at Florence (1-7)
Terry (1-8) at Meridian (5-4) W
Tupelo (6-3) at Clinton (4-4) W
Parklane (3-7) at Jackson Academy (7-3) W
Presbyterian Christian (7-3) at Jackson Prep (6-4) W
Pillow (5-5) at Central Hinds (8-2) W
Madison St. Joseph (4-6) at Simpson Academy (7-3) W
Columbia Academy (3-8) at Tri-County (9-1) W
Hillcrest Christian (0-10) at Sylva-Bay (3-7) W