Veteran sportswriter and high school football expert Robert Wilson is doing the Priority One Bank predictions column each week during the high school football season on teams from Hinds, Madison, and Rankin Counties. Robert had a 24-7 record (77.4 percent) last week and has a 33-8 record overall (80.4 percent) this season.
By Robert Wilson
Madison Central (1-0) at Brandon (1-0):
Round 4 of the Toby Collums vs Sam Williams series is Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Brandon.
It is also a rematch of the MSHAA Class 6A state championship game between Collums’ Madison Central Jaguars and Williams’ Brandon Bulldogs. The two successful coaches are good friends. Williams, who coached with Collums for two seasons at Northwest Rankin, learned a lot from Collums about coaching football.
The early season showdown also features the last two Priority One Bank Metro Jackson Coach of the Year winners.
Collums won the award in 2020 when he took Northwest Rankin to a 9-4 record – a huge turnaround from the year before – and won a second-round playoff game for the first time in school history. One of those wins was a 48-22 victory over Ridgeland and Williams, in his only year there. Collums took the Madison Central job last season and led the Jaguars to a 13-1 record and the 6A state title, the first one at Madison since 1999. Collums won his first state title is his 12th season as a head coach, four at Itawamba AHS and six at Northwest Rankin. He has won 23 of his last 28 games.
Williams won the award last season when he led Brandon to a 11-3 record and the 6A state championship game for the first time since 2012 in his first year as head coach at Brandon. He made a six-win improvement over Brandon’s 2020 team, which finished 5-6. Williams has a 48-18 record in his sixth season, three at Pelahatchie and one at Ridgeland. He has won 21 of his 28 games.
Madison Central defeated Brandon 24-17 in the 6A state title game and 42-19 in the regular season game in the second week of the season.
Madison Central has won 11 games in a row since a 35-28 loss at Starkville in the fourth game last season. The Jaguars defeated West Jones 50-12 last week in the season opener, one of the worst losses in Scott Pierson’s 22 seasons at West Jones. Madison Central senior quarterback and Louisiana Tech commitment Vic Sutton – a member of the Priority One Bank Metro Jackson Preseason Elite 11 Team – completed 13 of 17 passes for 170 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. Sutton returned to his starting position after missing the last two games of the season last year due to a knee injury. Senior wide receiver and Southern Miss commitment Isaiah Spencer, another member of the Elite 11 Team, caught five passes for 44 yards. Senior right end and Navy commitment Jake Norris – who replaced Sutton at quarterback and led the Jaguars to the state title last season – caught four passes for 42 yards and two TDs. Senior Thomas Nichols caught three passes for 72 yards and one TD and senior running back Conner Brown ran eight times for 60 yards and caught one for 12 yards. Senior Deandre Pullen returned a kickoff for a TD and ran for another TD. Junior linebacker Ryan McCall, junior linebacker Tyrone Richardson, senior safety Chris Berry and Pullen led the Madison Central defense, which played without injured defensive line starters Braxton Barney and Edward White.
Brandon was also impressive in last week’s 45-12 victory over Oxford and senior quarterback and Heritage Academy transfer Mack Howard, rated the No. 1 quarterback in Mississippi and No. 27 in the country in the 2023 by 247Sports.
Brandon junior quarterback Landon Varnes completed 19 of 27 passes for 284 yards and three TDs. Senior wide receiver and Akron (Ohio) commitment Lester Miller was named the Junction Deli Metro Jackson Football Player of the Week and caught nine passes for 203 yards and two TDs. Junior running back Nate Blount, a member of the Elite 11 Team, had 164 yards on 21 carries. He had 1,442 yards and 17 TDs and missed the last three games with a collarbone injury last season.
Brandon senior center and Southern Miss commitment Luke Rogers, another member of the Elite 11 Team, is expected to miss Friday’s game after an ankle injury in the first half against Oxford. The 6-4, 305-pound Rogers is the brother of Brandon High alumnus and Mississippi State starting quarterback Will Rogers and son of Brandon offensive coordinator Wyatt Rogers.
Both teams were missing key players in last year’s state championship game. Madison Central was missing Sutton at quarterback and Robert Dumas Jr. at running back. Brandon was missing Blount at running back.
Madison Central’s win was the first state title since Coach Mike Justice led a talented group, many who went onto play in the NFL, in 1999. The Jaguars had been to the semifinals nine times since then before last season’s breakthrough. The win also broke Brandon’s 11 game winning streak.
Norris, who was a backup tight end during the regular season, scored the winning TD on a 2-yard run with 3 minutes, 41 seconds to play. He passed for 124 yards, including a 79-yarder to Spencer, and ran 11 times for 51 yards.
Last year’s meeting was the only the second 6A state title game between two Metro Jackson since 1999. Clinton, behind National High School Player of the Year and now Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers, defeated Pearl 49-35 in 2016. Akers, then a quarterback, passed for 228 yards and two TDs and ran for 217 yards and five TDs in one of the top performances in Mississippi football championship history.
No state championship will be on the line Friday, but Brandon would like to make a statement that it is a definite contender to replace Madison Central as state champions.
The Jaguars will remain on top. Junior kicker-punter Max Zuluaga could be the difference. Zuluaga, the first team kicker on the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson team last season, made 8 of 8 field goal attempts and 62 of 66 extra point attempts, punted for a 39.3-yard average and had seven touchbacks as a sophomore. He is the No. 5 rated kicker in the country in the Class of 2024 by nationalkickingrankings.com.
Madison Central 24, Brandon 21
In other games (winners in bold):
Florence (1-0) at Richland (1-0), Brandon (Thursday)
Hazlehurst (1-0) at Wingfield (0-1), South Jackson (Thursday)
Adams County Christian (2-0) at Clinton Christian (3-0)
Central Hinds (2-0) at Amite (1-2)
Central Holmes (0-2) at Tri-County (2-0)
Clinton (0-1) at Northwest Rankin (0-1)
Crystal Springs (1-0) at Terry (1-0)
Germantown (1-0) at Canton (1-0)
Greenville St. Joseph (1-0) at Jackson Prep (2-0)
Hartfield Academy (1-0) at Pillow (2-0)
Hillcrest Christian (1-1) at Lee, Ark. (1-1)
Madison St. Joseph (1-1) at East Rankin (1-1)
McLaurin (0-1) at Loyd Star (0-1)
Pearl (1-0) at Ridgeland (1-0)
Pelahatchie (0-1) at Copiah Academy (2-0)
Porter’s Chapel (1-1) at Discovery Christian (0-2)
Port Gibson (1-0) at Jim Hill (0-1), Hughes Field
Pulanski, Ark., Academy (1-0) at MRA (2-1)
Richton (0-1) at Pisgah (0-1)
Riverside (0-1) at Canton Academy (3-0)
St. Patrick (0-1) at St. Andrew’s (1-0)
South Jones (0-1) at Forest Hill (0-1), South Jackson
Winston Academy (0-2) at Jackson Academy (2-0)
Yazoo City (0-1) at Velma Jackson (0-1)