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 22-3 record (88.0 percent) last week and has a 223-58 (79.3 percent) this season.

By Robert Wilson

Pearl (7-3) at Brandon (7-2)

The biggest question in Rankin County tonight will be which team – Brandon or Pearl – will eat dirt.

The Rankin County Super Bowl is one of the oldest and most intense high school football rivalries in Mississippi. The first meeting was in 1949 and ended in a 0-0 tie. The two teams have played each other every year except for 1953 and 1954. Brandon leads the series 43-26-1 and has dominated lately, winning 10 of the last 15 meetings and three of those losses were in overtime. 

Pearl won last year’s game 15-7 in Justin Hunter’s first season at Pearl’s head coach after six years as an assistant. Three of the stars for Pearl in last year’s game return this season. Pearl senior defensive lineman Jeremy Johnson had a team-high eight tackles. Senior running back Jamari Thompson had 35 carries for 128 yards and two touchdowns. Senior defensive back Jeremy Johnson had two interceptions, including one with 2 minutes, 29 seconds to go to stop a potential tying drive by Brandon. Johnson intercepted the ball around the Pearl 30 and returned 40 yards before stepping out of bounds. Pearl was able to run out the clock to clinch the victory.

Pearl bounced back from a 42-7 loss to Oak Grove to defeat Brandon last season. The Pirates also lost to defending Class 6A state champion Oak Grove this year, losing 35-23 last week to Oak Grove as they enter the game.

Brandon, meanwhile, is on a roll under first-year coach Sam Williams, who came over from Ridgeland this year. The Bulldogs have won seven straight games after losing the first two games and have clinched the No. 1 seed in next week’s playoffs and will host a first-round game. Brandon has yet to lose a region game. The Bulldogs, behind sophomore running back Nate Blount’s 263 yards and six rushing TDs, won their seventh in a row last week in a 50-48 shootout with Northwest Rankin. The week before that, the 5-foot-10, 223-pound Blount gained 260 yards on 36 carries and scored one TD to lead Brandon to a 24-17 over Oak Grove.

Pearl has also clinched a spot in next week’s playoffs. Pearl is currently third with a 4-2 region record while Warren Central is fourth at 3-3. Both teams will have to travel to the coast next week in the first round.

Both Hunter and Williams are looking forward to the matchup.

“It is the best rivalry in the state, mainly because of the communities,” Hunter said. “Lot of friends between the two towns but not tomorrow night. It’s a lot of fun for communities and schools. We have Spirit Week this week every year so our kids get to enjoy some fun stuff that comes with the game.”

“The Pearl-Brandon game is the Egg Bowl of high school football,” said Williams, who grew up in Rankin County, played and coached at Northwest Rankin and coached at Pelahatchie. “While I have not yet coached in it, the intensity and the hatred in this rivalry is real. It is two towns that border each other that have an immense amount of pride in their towns and want nothing to do with the other. I look forward to many years of a great rivalry and many years of Bulldog victories. Just remember, the more physical football team wins when all the chips are down. Eat dirt Pearl.”

Brandon 35, Pearl 21.

In other games:

Canton (4-5) at Ridgeland (5-4) W, Thursday

W Clinton (5-4) at Murrah (1-9), South Jackson, Thursday

Florence (1-8) at Natchez (4-6) W, Thursday

Northwest Rankin (2-7) at Oak Grove (7-2) W, Thursday

Oxford (7-3) at Madison Central (8-1) W, Thursday

Petal (4-6) at Terry (2-8) W, Thursday

W Tupelo (6-4) at Germantown (4-6), Thursday

Callaway (3-6) at Forest Hill (3-7) W, North Jackson

W Provine (3-6) at Jim Hill (1-8), South Jackson

Raymond (7-3) at Poplarville (8-2) W

East Marion (3-7) at Velma Jackson (7-2) W

Pelahatchie (5-5) at Bogue Chitto (8-2) W

Pisgah (3-7) at Loyd Star (9-1) W

Presbyterian Christian (7-4) at Jackson Academy (8-3) W

Parklane (3-8) at Jackson Prep (7-4) W

W Tri-County Academy (10-1) at Oak Hill (5-5)

Sylva-Bay Academy (4-7) at Canton Academy (8-2) W