Veteran sportswriter and high school football expert Robert Wilson is doing the PriorityOne Bank predictions column each week during the high school football season on teams from Hinds, Madison, and Rankin County. Robert had a 24-3 record (88.9 percent) last week – the best record this season – and has a 205-60 record overall (77.3 percent) this season.
By Robert Wilson
Velma Jackson (5-3) at Scott Central (7-2), Thursday
Junior running back Gavin Griffin has been unstoppable since he transferred back to Velma Jackson from Hartfield Academy early in the season. Griffin has gained 1,039 yards – an average of 207.8 yards (second best in Mississippi, according to MaxPreps) – averaged 13 yards per carry and scored 20 touchdowns. The Falcons have averaged 50 points in those five games and are on a five-game winning streak.
Defending MHSAA Class 2A state champion Scott Central hasn’t lost a game to a 2A opponent since losing to Enterprise 21-14 in the 2020 state playoffs. Class 1A Bay Springs broke Scott Central’s 18-game winning streak with a 28-26 victory Sept. 9 and Class 4A Mendenhall defeated Scott Central 18-8 on Sept. 30. Scott Central has won games by 54-0, 49-0 and 47-0 since then.
This Class 2A, Region 6 game will be a huge test for Velma Jackson coach Bernard Euell and his Falcons. Scott Central and Velma Jackson are tied for first place in the region. Scott Central hasn’t come up against a back like Griffin in a while.
Velma Jackson 28, Scott Central 27.
Madison-Ridgeland Academy (9-2) at Hartfield Academy (7-2)
Three-time defending MAIS Class 6A state champion MRA has won seven straight games since losing back-to-back games defending state champions Oakland (Tennessee) and Pulaski Academy (Arkansas). The Patriots have won 19 consecutive games against MAIS competition and 50 of its last 51 games against MAIS teams. MRA’s only loss during that streak was against 3A state champion Greenville Christian, which finished ranked No. 60 in the nation and is considered one of the best teams in MAIS history, in the last year’s season opener.
MRA junior quarterback and Southern Miss commitment John White has completed 60.9 percent of his passes for 2,503 yards (best in Mississippi, according to MaxPreps) and 26 TDs with only three interceptions this season. White was a member of the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Preseason Elite 11 Team this season and was the first-team quarterback on last year’s All-Metro Jackson team.
MRA junior running back Charles Simpson has 755 yards and 12 TDs, and senior wide receiver Rivers Godwin has 57 catches for 943 yards and 11 TDs.
Senior linebacker Bennett Cloud leads MRA with 118 tackles, senior defensive lineman Andrew Hillhouse has a team-high 10 sacks and senior JJ Latham and sophomore Matthew Perkins each have a team-high four interceptions.
MRA will be the No. 1 seed and receive a first round bye heading into next week’s 6A state playoffs. If Hartfield can upset MRA, the Hawks would be the No. 3 seed. A loss would put Hartfield as the No. 4 seed and possibly the No. 5 seed if Presbyterian Christian should upset Jackson Prep.
MRA 28, Hartfield 14.
Northwest Rankin (4-4) at Brandon (7-1)
Northwest Rankin is playing the role Mississippi State did last week against Alabama. The Cougars have the unfortunate task of playing a Bulldog team, which was upset by Oak Grove last week and isn’t happy. And you saw what Alabama did to MSU. The Tide won 30-6 and MSU scored on the last play of the game.
Northwest Rankin had its worst season since 1998 last year under first-year coach Devin Cooper, winning only two games, but Cooper has the Cougars playing better and has already doubled the win total from last year. Northwest Rankin has improved its offense, scoring at least 28 points in each of the last five games since a 48-3 loss to Madison Central. NWR outscored Pearl 48-34 last week in a Rankin County rivalry game.
Northwest Rankin has a pair of juniors – quarterback Wes White and running back Dylan Lewis – who have had outstanding seasons. White has thrown for 1,114 yards and 10 TDs and Lewis has run for 1,145 yards and 13 TDs. Senior wide receivers Javien Crump and Brendan Brown has combined for 80 catches for 1,177 yards and 12 TDs.
Don’t look for those guys to do much against Brandon, which has one of the best defenses in Mississippi. Only two teams – Clinton (35 points) and Oak Grove (25 points) – have scored more than two TDs against Brandon in a game this season.
Lineman Deaundre Washington (a team-high 92 tackles), senior linebacker Dysart Bell (90 tackles), sophomore linebacker Kahill Norwood (87 tackles), junior lineman Jaeden Calendar (86 tackles, a team-high seven sacks) and senior defensive back Ja’Quaylen Love (a team-high three interceptions and four pass breakups) lead the Bulldogs defense.
NWR will have a tough time slowing down the Brandon defense, led by junior quarterback Landon Varnes (1,771 yards, 17 TDs), junior running back Nate Blount (782 yards, eight TDs) and senior wide receiver and Akron (Ohio) commitment Lester Miller (40 catches, 910 yards, 12 TDs).
Brandon is tied with Warren Central for first place in Class 6A, Region 3 standings. Northwest Rankin is currently in fourth place.
Second-year Brandon coach Sam Williams gets his Bulldogs back on the track and warms up for a long playoff run.
Brandon 35, Northwest Rankin 10.
In other games (winning team in bold):
Canton (3-5) at Provine (4-4), Thursday, North Jackson Field
Pisgah (2-7) at St. Andrew’s (5-4), Thursday
Puckett (6-3) at Pelahatchie (1-8), Thursday
Quitman (3-5) at Richland (3-6), Thursday
Wesson (4-5) at McLaurin (1-8), Thursday
Wingfield (0-8) at Lanier (1-8), Thursday, South Jackson Field
Clinton (5-3) at Tupelo (8-0)
Clinton Christian (6-4) at Riverfield, La. (5-5)
Florence (6-3) at South Jones (2-7)
Forest Hill (1-8) at Jim Hill (0-8-1), South Jackson Field
Indianola Academy (5-5) at Tri-County Academy (9-1)
Jackson Academy (7-3) at Parklane (6-4)
Jackson Prep (9-1) at Presbyterian Christian (4-6)
Madison St. Joseph (4-5) at Lamar School (4-6)
Meridian (3-4) at Terry (4-5)
Murrah (0-9) at Madison Central (5-3)
Neshoba Central (6-3) at Callaway (7-1)
Pearl (2-7) at Oak Grove (7-2)
Raymond (7-2) at McComb (7-0)
Ridgeland (6-3) at Holmes County Central (5-3)
Starkville (6-3) at Germantown (5-4)
One little correction: Hartfield Academy owns the head-to-head victory against both of the teams in 4th and 5th place in MAIS 6A. A loss against MRA wouldn’t drop Hartfield unless PCS upsets Jackson Prep, as PCS is the only other 6A team to have beaten Hartfield this season.