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 1-1 record (50 percent) last week and has a 254-75 record overall (77.2 percent) this season.

By Robert Wilson

Brandon (12-1) vs. Starkville (11-3), Saturday, 7 p.m., M.M. Roberts Stadium, Hattiesburg, televised on MeTV and livestreamed on NFHS network, radio broadcast on 106.3 FM, 1400 AM, 105.9 FM and audio streaming on and

Brandon coach Sam Williams was named the PriorityOne Bank Metro Jackson Coach of the Year last season after turning around the Bulldogs with a remarkable year in his first season in Brandon.

Williams, who came from Ridgeland, took Brandon to the MHSAA Class 6A state championship game and finished with an 11-3 record, losing to Madison Central 24-17 in the state title game. He doubled Brandon’s win total after taking over a team that had a 5-6 record in 2020.

He has brought back to the 6A state championship game once again this season.

For the second straight year, Brandon won in the final minute in the semifinals. Senior kicker Will Elliott made a 29-yard field goal on the final play of the game for a 34-31 victory over previously undefeated Ocean Springs and senior quarterback and Alabama commitment Brayson Hubbard. Junior quarterback Landon Varnes – this week’s Junction Deli/Mississippi Scoreboard Player of the Week – took Brandon from its own 36 in the final 26 seconds with two long pass plays to sophomore Quincy Phillips and senior and Akron (Ohio) commitment Lester Miller to set up the winning field goal. A year ago, Brandon stopped defending 6A state champion Oak Grove on a go-ahead two-point conversion try in the final minute for a 21-20 victory.

Now, Williams will try to finish strong against Starkville. It won’t be easy. Star quarterback Trey Petty is healthy and when he is, the Yellowjackets are difficult to beat. Petty wasn’t healthy in the regular season game against Tupelo, but he was last week, and Starkville upset previously undefeated Tupelo in the semifinals.

Petty – who is rated No. 15 player in Mississippi in the Class of 2024 by 247 Sports – has been offered by Mississippi State, Southern Miss, and San Diego State. He has passed for 2,543 yards and 28 touchdowns.

Williams, who played at Northwest Rankin and Mississippi State, has a 60-18 career record (76.9 winning percentage) in six seasons, 23-4 in two seasons at Brandon, 10-3 in one season at Ridgeland and 27-11 in three seasons at Pelahatchie.

Williams isn’t the only coach in this game with an impressive record. Starkville coach Chris Jones has a 111-28 overall record (79.6 winning percentage) in 10 seasons, a 66-16 record in six seasons in Starkville and a 45-12 record in four seasons at Kemper County. Metro Jackson fans will remember Jones’ first team at Starkville when he took the Yellowjackets to the 6A state title and lost to Pearl 21-17. Jones led Kemper County to a state title in 2016 before he left for Starkville.

While Brandon has never won a state title, Starkville has won six, the last one in 2015, led by wide receiver AJ Brown, the former Ole Miss All-American now in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Brandon, like last year, is missing a key running back. Brandon junior Jarvis Durr, a Louisiana Tech commitment, is out after an elbow injury and has missed all of playoffs. Brandon junior Nate Blount, who missed several of last year’s playoff games, has taken up the slack for Durr. Blount has had a tremendous season and has 1,805 yards and 24 TDs. He had 35 carries for 193 yards and two TDs last week against Ocean Springs and 34 carries for 295 yards and five TDs two weeks ago against Warren Central.

Blount runs behind Brandon’s talented offensive line, anchored by senior center and Southern Miss commitment Luke Rogers, brother of former Brandon High and current MSU quarterback Will Rogers.

Brandon gets its first state title. Brandon’s defense, led by senior linebacker Dysart Bell, will be able to slow Petty enough to get the historic victory.

Brandon 35, Starkville 34.