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 10-0 record (100 percent) last week and has a 247-72 record overall (77.4 percent) this season.
By Robert Wilson
Madison-Ridgeland Academy (10-3) vs. Jackson Prep (11-1), Saturday, 7 p.m., Mississippi College in Clinton, televised on: maisnetwork.org, metv
MRA will try to become only the second team to win four consecutive state football championships against Prep, who is the only other team to win four straight state titles, when the two play each other for the MAIS Class 6A state championship.
Prep won a Mississippi record seven straight state titles from 2012-2018 under coach Ricky Black, but MRA has dominated since then.
No. 1 seed MRA has won 20 of its last 21 games and 51 of its last 53 games against MAIS competition. The Patriots had won 26 conference games in a row in regular season, dating back to 2017, before losing to Hartfield 31-28 three weeks ago in its last regular season game.
MRA gave Prep its only loss of the season with a 26-14 victory Sept. 30 at MRA. Prep has won six straight games since then. MRA has defeated Prep four consecutive times and hasn’t lost since a 33-27 victory by Prep in the 2018 state championship.
MRA is led by junior quarterback and Southern Miss commitment John White (2,931 passing yards, second in Mississippi, according to MaxPreps, 27 touchdowns, only 5 interceptions), senior wide receiver Rivers Godwin (68 catches, 1,161 yards, second in Mississippi according to MaxPreps, 11 TDs), junior wide receiver Ben Horner (46 catches, 631 yards, 6 TDs), junior running back Charles Simpson (969 yards, 14 TDs), and senior running back JJ Latham (617 yards, 12 TDs). In addition, MRA welcomed the return of senior tight end and Division I prospect Pax Hughes last week. Hughes, who was injured in the first quarter in the season opener against Greenville Christian and had ankle surgery, played for the first time since and caught a TD pass in the semifinal win against Jackson Academy.
Senior defensive lineman Alex Hillhouse (team-high 11 sacks) and senior linebacker Bennett Cloud (team-high 138 tackles), lead the MRA defense.
Prep is led by senior quarterback Paxton Thompson (2,330 yards, MAIS-best 29 TDs, only 9 interceptions), senior wide receiver-return specialist Will Upton (57 catches, 1,071 yards, fifth in Mississippi, according to MaxPreps, 16 TDs, 464 return yards, 1 TD) and senior running back Owen Ishee (463 yards, 8 TDs). Senior linebacker Duncan Matthews (team highs of 101 tackles and nine sacks) and junior defensive back Micah Stallworth (team-high three interceptions) led the Prep defense.
Both coaches – MRA’s Herbert Davis and Prep’s Doug Goodwin – are successful veteran coaches.
Davis has won 230 games and six state titles (three at MRA, two at Brookhaven Academy and one at Pillow Academy) in 26 seasons. He is the only football coach in Mississippi history to take five schools (MRA, Brookhaven Academy, Pillow Academy, Heritage Academy and Winston Academy) to state championship games.
Goodwin is in his first year at Prep and came from Alabama where he was a Hall of Fame coach. He won 234 games in 27 years as a head coach. In 2008, Goodwin became the first coach in Alabama history to take three different teams to a state championship game. He led Demopolis to a 15-0 record and a state title in 2008 and set a state record with 761 points that season.
MRA 24, Prep 21.
Tri-County Academy (12-1) vs. Greenville St. Joseph (10-1), Thursday, 7 p.m., Jackson Academy, televised on: maisnetwork.org
Tri-County is coming off an emotional victory over Adams County Christian School and will try to refocus on a talented Greenville St. Joe team in the MAIS Class 4A state championship game.
Tri-County senior wide receiver Walker Wasson – this week’s Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Player of the Week and son of Tri-County coach Philip Wasson – had five catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns and returned a fumble 54 yards for a score in the 28-21 win over previously undefeated ACCS. ACCS had handed Tri-County its only loss (21-20) during the regular season.
Tri-County will be going after its second consecutive state title. The Rebels won back-to-back state titles in 2011 and 2012 and lost in the state championship game four times (2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019) before winning again last season. Wasson will be going for his fourth state title, winning two at Washington School (2011 and 2015) and last year.
Tri-County is led by sophomore quarterback Bryce Warriner (2,101 yards, 28 TDs), senior wide receiver-defensive end Walker Wasson (40 catches, 828 yards, 10 TDs and 42 tackles and 10 sacks), senior wide receiver-running back-safety Kamp Shepherd (581 rushing yards, 8 TDs, 409 receiving yards, 5 TDs and 71 tackles and 7 interceptions) and senior running back-linebacker Thomas Murphy (1,011 yards, 14 TDs and 66 tackles and 5 sacks).
Greenville St. Joe has had an outstanding season as well. The Saints are back in the state championship game after winning three consecutive state titles from 2017-2019. St. Joe has won nine straight games since a 41-12 loss to Class 6A finalist Jackson Prep in the second game of the season. The closest game during their winning streak was a 30-13 victory over Riverfield, La., Academy. St. Joe defeated Carroll Academy 48-0 and Riverfield 46-0 in its two playoff games.
St. Joe is led by senior quarterback-defensive back CJ Moore (1,824 passing yards, 21 TDs and 836 rushing yards and 8 TDs), senior running back-defensive back Kye Nelson (765 yards, 16 TDs), senior wide receiver-defensive back Stank King (934 yards, 14 TDs), senior wide receiver-defensive back Christian Foster (470 yards, 9 TDs), senior linebacker Carson Graham (82 tackles, 7 sacks) and senior defensive end Donnie Smith.
Greenville St. Joe 28, Tri-County 14.
Canton Academy (11-1) vs. Central Holmes Christian (6-6), Friday, 3 p.m., Jackson Academy, televised on: maisnetwork.org
Canton Academy and second-year coach Gage Posey are in the MAIS Class 3A state championship game for the second consecutive season. This year the Panthers have a much better chance of winning. Canton Academy had to play one of the best teams in MAIS history a year ago, nationally ranked Greenville Christian, and it wasn’t close. Greenville Christian won easily, like it did most of last season.
But Canton Academy, which has won four state titles (1987, 1995, 1996 and 2016) in its school history, has a much better shot of winning this season.
In fact, the Panthers are the favorite. Canton comes into the game on a roll, winning its last six games and scoring more than 40 points in each one. Canton hasn’t lost since a 48-28 decision to defending 4A state champion Tri-County on Sept. 23. The first game after the Tri-County loss was a 48-27 victory over Central Holmes, the opponent who stands between Canton and the state title.
Central Holmes surprised two-time defending 3A state champion Greenville Christian 33-32 in the semifinals. This will be Central Holmes’ first state championship appearance since 1988 when it won the title. The Trojans lost their four games but won six of its last eight games.
Canton Academy junior running back Chris Hunter is having a monster year. He has 2,260 yards on 124 carries, an amazing average of 18.2 yards per carry, and has 2420 all-purpose yards and 32 TDs. Other key player on Canton Academy are senior wide receiver-defensive back EJ Luckett (72 catches, 1,101 yards, 15 TDs and 43 tackles and 4 interceptions), senior defensive back-wide receiver Bert Goodloe (24 tackles, 6 interceptions and 39 catches, 738 yards, 9 TDs), senior linebacker Samuel Wadford (87 tackles, 5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles), senior defensive tackle Daniel Ford (50 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery) and sophomore quarterback Madden Gerald (65 completion percentage, 1,602 yards, 21 TDs).
Central Holmes is led by junior quarterback John Ward, junior running back Lamarion Buchanan, linebacker John Christopher Riley, senior linebacker Mike Jones, defensive end Eli Carr and defensive end Aiden Adcock.
Canton Academy 42, Central Holmes 21.
In other games (winners listed in bold):
Starkville (9-3) at Clinton (7-4)
Madison Central (8-3) at Tupelo (12-0)
Warren Central (10-1) at Brandon (10-1)
Callaway (9-2) at Vicksburg (9-3)
Lake (7-5) at Velma Jackson (7-4)