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 21-5 record (80.8 percent) last week and has a 64-24 (72.7 percent) this season.
Jackson Academy (4-0) at Madison-Ridgeland Academy (2-3)
A lot of changes have taken place since MRA dominated JA 41-14 for its second straight MAIS Class 6A state championship last fall at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium.
MRA lost several key players to graduation like running back Rayf Vinson, who was the star of the championship game with 197 yards and three touchdowns, and quarterback Zach Beasley, who passed for 200 yards and two TDs and ran for a TD in the title game. Vinson is playing football at Ole Miss, Beasley is playing baseball at Northwest Mississippi Community College.
MRA had its 19-game winning streak broken by defending MAIS Class 3A state champion Greenville Christian in this year’s season opener and has lost two more games since to two more state champions, defending Tennessee 6A public school state champion Oakland and defending Arkansas Class 5A state champion Pulaski Academy. All three were by lopsided scores.
MRA has a new quarterback in sophomore John White, who transferred from Winona Christian School. White has played well, completing 66 percent of his passes for 1,350 yards and 13 TDs. MRA senior wide receiver and Southern Miss commit Davis Dalton, a member of the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Preseason Elite Eleven, is White’s top target with a team-high 30 catches for 419 yards and one TD. Senior wide receiver Street Toler has 20 catches for 363 yards and five TDs. MRA’s Under Armour All-American senior linebacker Stone Blanton missed the Greenville Christian and played only one half of the win over Natchez Cathedral after he had shoulder surgery this spring. Blanton – who has narrowed his college choices to Mississippi State, South Carolina, and Texas A&M – has played most of the last three games and continues to get closer to his outstanding play of last season. Senior safety Tylor Latham, senior cornerback Cam Covey and junior linebacker Bennett Cloud have emerged as other top players on MRA’s defense.
JA does not have the Smith brothers (Deion and Dan) like it had last season. Deion, an Under Armour All-American wide receiver, graduated and is playing at LSU and Dan, one of the top sophomore wide receivers in Mississippi last season, transferred back to Provine High. The Raiders have two new talented players in senior quarterback Tate Collins, a transfer from Madison Central and former starting quarterback for the Jaguars, and senior wide receiver and Mississippi State commit Dakota Jordan, a transfer from Canton Academy. Collins has completed 56.8 percent of his passes for 428 yards and five TDs and ran for 176 yards and one TD. Jordan has caught seven passes for 227 yards and three TDs. They both also give JA depth on defense in the secondary. JA senior running back Marcus Harris returns after gaining 1,537 yards and 24 TDs last season. He has gained 289 yards and scored six TDs this season. JA has plenty of talent back on its speedy defense. Senior linebacker Banks Whittington leads the Raiders with 35 tackles, senior lineman Max Walenta with 8 tackles for loss and 5 ½ sacks, senior defensive back Porter Harrell with 2 interceptions and senior cornerback Kris Robinson, a transfer from Hillcrest Christian, with 4 pass breakups.
MRA’s Herbert Davis and JA’s Lance Pogue are two of the best coaches in Mississippi with a combined 445 career victories and 10 state championships. Davis won his fifth state title last season and has won 211 games in his 25th season. He is the only football coach in Mississippi history to take five different schools (MRA, Brookhaven Academy, Pillow, Heritage and Winston) to state championship games. Pogue, in his second season as JA’s head coach, won five state titles and one national title in 10 seasons at South Panola High and has coached in eight state championship games, six South Panola and one each at JA and Eupora. Pogue has won 224 games in his 24th season. Pogue led JA to its first state championship game since 2013 last season.
MRA has beaten JA in the past four meetings, twice last season, and hasn’t lost to JA since 2017. JA quarterback Kinkead Dent, now a backup quarterback at Ole Miss, passed for three TDs for a 30-7 victory in JA’s last win in the series.
MRA’s streak ends Friday night. It will likely come down to the kicking game, specifically the foot of JA senior Scott Swalley, a member of the Elite Eleven. Swalley, who made seven of 10 field goal attempts last season with a career long of 45 yards, kicks a field goal in the fourth quarter for the difference.
JA 24, MRA 21.
Provine (1-2) at Ridgeland (2-1)
Ridgeland goes for its second straight MHSAA Class 5A, Region 2 against Provine. Ridgeland defeated Jim Hill 54-0 last week and only allowed three first downs and 57 total yards.
Ridgeland has one of the top junior wide receivers in the country in Ayden Williams. Williams – the only junior on the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Preseason Elite Eleven – is ranked No. 2 player in Mississippi and No. 3 wide receiver in the country in the Class of 2023 by 247 Sports. He has caught 18 passes for 377 yards and five TDs in three games this season. Williams caught 58 passes for 765 yards and six TDs and helped the Titans to a 10-3 record and the Class 5A semifinals and their best season since 2010 last year. Williams has offers from Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Southern Miss, Florida, Florida State, Oregon, Louisiana Tech and Louisiana-Monroe.
Ridgeland senior quarterback and Magee High transfer Thomas Dyess, Magee coach Teddy Dyess’ son, has passed for 788 yards and nine TDs.
Ridgeland’s defense is led by junior inside linebacker K.J. Baker, junior outside linebacker James Woody, senior lineman Nick Triplett and Williams, who doubles as a defensive back.
Teddy Dyess, who replaced Sam Williams as Ridgeland’s coach this season, has a 214-46 record in his 21st season as a head coach. His winning percentage of 82.3 is second only to former Jackson Prep coach Ricky Black, a member of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and 2019 National Coach of the Year, among Mississippi football coaches who have won at least 200 games. Dyess has won six state titles, 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 he went 12-0 and won the MHSAA Class 3A state crown.
Provine coach Tim Wilson hopes he will have senior defensive end Donterry Russell, one of the top players in Mississippi, back in the lineup Friday night. The 6-4, 200-pound Russell, a Mississippi State commit, is rated No. 10 player in Mississippi and No. 23 defensive end in the country by 247 Sports. Russell bruised a knee in the first quarter in Provine’s season opener at Gautier. It was the first game Russell and Provine had played since the 2019 season since Jackson Public Schools made the decision to not play fall sports due to covid. Russell hasn’t played since his injury against Gautier. Wilson said it will be a game time decision. Russell had 46 tackles, 11.5 for loss, 7 sacks and 1 forced fumble as a sophomore. Russell’s brother, De’Monte Russell, is a sophomore defensive end at MSU.
Provine lost to JPS rival Callaway 14-12 last week in its first region game. Rams junior Carlando Crump returned a punt for a 65-yard TD with two minutes to play but failed on a potential tying 2-point conversion. Not only was Provine playing with Russell but starting quarterback Shaviro Allen suffered a bruised knee in the first half. Wilson said Allen will miss the Ridgeland game and junior Zaquan Moss will start at quarterback.
Provine junior middle linebacker Tommy Kelly Jr. – son of former Provine, MSU and NFL defensive tackle and now Provine defensive coordinator Tommy Kelly Sr. – has played well in Russell’s absence. Crump, who also plays defensive back, and sophomore end Branden Clayborne are also top performers on the Rams on defense.
Ridgeland should get its second straight region victory over an JPS opponent, but not as easy as last week.
Ridgeland 28, Provine 7.
Bayou (4-0) at Hartfield (4-0)
Hartfield, fresh of its first MAIS Class 6A victory in school history, plays host to Class 5A Bayou. Hartfield, whose average victory margin is 36.7 points per game, is led on offense by senior running back Xavier Davis, who has 559 yards and nine TDs and is averaging 18 yards per carry. The leaders on defense are senior middle linebacker Cooper Stroud, senior defensive end Jay Smith and junior Gage Sorey.
Bayou coach Flip Godfrey, in his second season at Bayou, has had a successful career and in his 31st season overall, seven at North Sunflower, 13 at Canton Academy and nine at Madison St. Joseph. After leaving St. Joe, he worked in the sporting goods business for several years before becoming athletic director and then head coach at Bayou. Godfrey won two state championships at Canton Academy.
Bayou is led by senior defensive back-halfback Alford Hill, senior quarterback-free safety Joseph Smith, senior wide receiver-cornerback Jack Cartwright, and senior linebacker-running back-slot receiver Larson Ingram.
Godfrey has already surpassed last year’s win total by one – Bayou finished 3-7 last season – but Hartfield is too strong for his team. Look for the Hawks to roll their fourth consecutive lopsided victory.
Hartfield 35, Bayou 7.
In other games:
W West Jones (1-1) at Wingfield (1-1) Thursday, South Jackson Field
W Benton (4-0) at Clinton Christian (2-3)
Biloxi (1-1) at Pearl (2-1) W
Canton (0-3) at Callaway (2-1) W North Jackson Field
W Canton Academy (3-1) at Hillcrest Christian (1-4)
Ethel (1-2) at East Rankin (2-2) W
Forest Hill (0-3) at Vicksburg (1-2) W
Franklin County (1-2) at Richland (2-1) W
Gulfport (1-2) at Germantown (2-1) W
Jackson Prep (2-2) at Parklane (1-3) W
Lanier (1-1) at Hancock (2-2) W
Madison St. Joseph (2-2) at Tri-County (4-0) W
Park Place (2-2) at Wayne Academy (3-1) W
Pelahatchie (2-1) at Charleston (1-2) W
Pisgah (1-2) at Cathedral (2-2) W
W Port Gibson (3-0) at Murrah (0-3) South Jackson Field
W Puckett (3-0) at Richton (1-2)
Rebul (0-4) at Franklin, La. (1-2) W
Riverfield, La. (1-3) at Central Hinds (4-0) W
Terry (1-2) at Poplarville (2-1) W
W West Lincoln (0-2) at McLaurin (0-3)
W Yazoo City (2-1) at Velma Jackson (2-1)
Yazoo County (2-1) at Raymond (2-1) W