Veteran 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 County. Robert had a 17-2 record (89.5 percent) last week and has a 237-72 record overall (76.7 percent) this season.
By Robert Wilson
Jackson Academy (9-3) at Madison-Ridgeland Academy (9-3)
Three-time defending MAIS Class 6A state champion took a break last week after playing 12 consecutive weeks after winning the 6A regular season title and receiving a first-round bye in the playoffs.
It has been two weeks since Hartfield Academy surprised MRA 31-28 on Connor Mullins’ 39-yard field goal on the last play of the game in addition to an outstanding performance by Hartfield’s Mr. Do It All, junior running back-wide receiver-return man Reed Jesiolowski, who ran for a school record 292 yards and three touchdowns.
MRA ended its streak of 19 consecutive wins against MAIS competition and a 26-game winning streak in regular season in conference games, dating back to 2017. MRA had won 50 of its last 51 games against MAIS teams before the Hartfield loss.
MRA is motivated to get back on the winning streak tonight in the MAIS Class 6A state semifinals. The Patriots had won seven straight games since back-to-back losses to defending state champions Oakland, Tenn., and Pulaski, Ark., Academy before the Hartfield loss.
MRA defeated JA 21-6 on the strength of defensive coordinator Danny White’s unit and special teams play in the regular season meeting Sept. 16 at JA.
MRA was playing without three key players against JA – senior linebacker Jeffrey Polk (leading tackler from last year), senior offensive lineman Mason McCrory (a three-year starter and the leader of the offensive line) and senior tight end Pax Hughes (a Division I prospect expected to be a huge part of the offense this season). They are still out. MRA also played without defensive lineman Cole Mullen and two more tight ends (Brady Rogers and Matt Latham) against JA, but they have returned.
Senior linebacker Bennett Cloud and senior defensive lineman Alex Hillhouse had a team-high 10 tackles each. Hillhouse had three sacks. MRA sacked JA senior quarterback Clayton White five times and MRA senior defensive back JJ Latham had one interception. MRA also had 11 tackles for loss.
MRA senior Rivers Godwin blocked a punt to set up a score and punted four times for a 41.0-yard average, including a long of 52 and had two punts downed inside the 20.
JA limited MRA junior quarterback and Southern Miss commitment John White – a member of the PriorityOne Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Preseason Elite 11 Team – to only 51 passing yards, his lowest this season. In comparison, White has thrown for a MAIS-best 2,716 yards and 26 TDs this season.
JA’s only scores were two field goals by senior Andrew Harrison of 23 yards (on the final play of the first half) and of 33 yards (in the third quarter).
MRA is trying to become the second team in MAIS history to win four consecutive state titles in highest classification. Jackson Prep won seven straight state titles from 2012-2018.
MRA has dominated JA over the past several years, winning eight straight and 10 of the last 11 meetings.
First-year JA head coach Aubrey Blackwell, who replaced Lance Pogue, comes from Alabama where he had a 57-26 record with one state championship runner-up finish in six seasons at Montgomery Catholic (five seasons) and Benjamin Russell in Alexander City, Ala. (one season).
MRA head coach Herbert Davis is a Mississippi veteran coach. He has 229 victories and won six state titles (three at MRA, two at Brookhaven Academy and one at Pillow Academy) in his 26 seasons as a head coach.
He should get No. 230 tonight.
MRA 28, JA 10.
In other games (winners in bold):
Desoto Central (6-5) at Clinton (7-3)
Madison Central (7-3) at South Panola (8-2)
Hancock (6-5) at Brandon (9-1)
Northwest Rankin (4-6) at Ocean Springs (10-0)
Callaway (8-2) at Lafayette (7-4)
Velma Jackson (6-4) at Mize (9-2)
Hartfield Academy (9-2) at Jackson Prep (10-1)
Tri-County Academy (11-1) at Adams County Christian School (11-0)
Centreville Academy (5-6) at Canton Academy (10-1)