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 Counties. Robert had a 20-4 record (83.3 percent) last week and has a 53-12 record overall (81.5 percent) this season.
By Robert Wilson
Callaway (2-0) at Provine (2-0), North Jackson Field, Thursday
Anyone who knows the Callaway-Provine rivalry history knows the success of Callaway coaches Charlie Allman and Daryl Jones and Provine coaches Stanley Blackmon and Willie Collins.
Allman won 115 games from 1972-86 and was a part of several great Callaway teams during the Big Eight Conference days and also the early years of the MHSAA playoffs, which began in 1981. Jones, who played at Provine and Jackson State and is now the Jackson Public Schools athletic director, won 40 games from 2009-2013, including winning a school record 14 games and reaching the Class 5A state semifinals in 2013. They are the only two coaches out of the past 10 coaches at Callaway to have winning records.
Blackmon won 79 games from 1979-81 and Collins, who was a longtime assistant to Blackmon, continued the winning tradition with 167 wins from 1992-2013. The highlight of Collins’ era was being the MHSAA Class 5A runner-up in 1994 and 1999, the only two times a JPS football team has reached the state championship since the playoffs began in 1981.
Callaway’s Damean Brown and Provine’s Tim Wilson – the current coaches at both schools – bring undefeated records into Thursday’s matchup, which will be the 55th meeting between these two JPS schools. Callaway leads the series 29-25 and has won nine of the last 13 meetings. Only the two teams’ series with JPS rival Murrah is longer than this series.
Brown, in his third season as head coach, and Wilson, in his fifth season, are off to great starts this year despite dealing with the challenges of Jackson’s water issues over the past several weeks.
Callaway defeated Yazoo City 45-12 and Murrah 35-15. Senior Daquavion Thompson and sophomore Marvin Moore have combined for 307 rushing yards and six touchdowns. Junior quarterback Kantrell Thomas Jr. has passed for three TDs. Junior right guard Joey Anthony anchors the offensive front. Versatile senior Kedarius Wade can play wide receiver, linebacker, quarterback and returns kicks and has offers from Mississippi State, Southern Miss, and Arkansas State. He leads the team with 224 all-purpose yards (54 rushing, 82 receiving and 88 return). Wade, Thompson, and junior Tavarius Pepper led the Callaway defense.
Provine defeated Gautier 12-6 and Lanier 35-7.
Senior linebacker Tommy Kelly Jr. – a member of the PriorityOne Bank Metro Jackson Preseason Elite 11 Team – leads the defense, which has allowed only two scores. Kelly – the son of former Provine, Hinds Community College, Mississippi State and NFL defensive lineman Tommy Kelly Sr. – has a team-high 20 tackles, 5 for loss. Defensive back Carlando Crump and linebacker Brandon Jones also are key players on defense. Provine’s defense, coached by Kelly Sr., held talented Gautier quarterback Kaden Irving, who has committed to Ole Miss in baseball, without a TD pass despite throwing 52 passes.
Junior quarterback John White has passed for 236 yards and one TD. Junior running back Jontavous Shoemate has 193 rushing yards and one TD. Senior wide receiver Dan Smith has five catches for 94 yards. Kelly, who also plays backup quarterback, has two rushing TDs. Crump plays wide receiver and kick returner, and Jones plays running back.
These teams have come a long way since the pandemic in 2020 when JPS cancelled the football season. A year ago, Callaway had a 3-7 record and Provine had a 4-6 mark. Callaway hasn’t had a winning season since going 7-5 in 2016. Provine went 9-4 in 2019 and won its first seven games. The Rams lost to eventual champion West Point in the first round of the 5A state playoffs.
Kelly and Smith – two players with Division I talent – will lead Provine to its third straight victory.
Provine 12, Callaway 6
Brandon (2-0) at Clinton (1-1)
Sam Williams’ first victory as Brandon’s head coach last year came over Clinton when the Bulldogs scored 14 points in the final 81 seconds for a remarkable, 31-24 win at Brandon. Brandon running back Jarvis Durr, a Louisiana Tech commitment, scored on a 20-yard TD with 1:21 to play to tie the game at 24-24. Then B.J. Morrow recovered a Clinton fumble with 33 seconds to play. Three plays later, quarterback Landon Varnes completed a 26-yard TD pass to Devin Thigpen with 3 seconds to play for the winning score. The dramatic victory came after Williams and Brandon had suffered losses to Oxford and Madison Central to open the season. The win over Clinton started Brandon’s 11-game winning streak, which ended with a loss to Madison Central in the MHSAA Class 6A state championship game.
Brandon comes into this year’s game on a high after defeating defending 6A state champion Madison Central 28-7 and is considered the favorite right now to win its first state title in school history.
Williams and offensive and defensive coordinators Wyatt Rogers and Greg Robinson have the Bulldogs clicking on all cylinders with the accuracy of Varnes, the one-two running back punch of Durr and hard to bring down junior Nate Blount, the offensive front led by senior center and Southern Miss commitment Luke Rogers and solid defensive play. Blount has back-to-back games of 164 and 162 yards. Varnes has completed 70 percent of his passes for 437 yards and five TDs. Senior wide receiver Lester Miller, an Akron (Ohio) commitment, has caught a team-high 12 passes for 247 yards and three scores. Senior linebacker Jack McKay (two sacks), junior lineman Jaeden Calendar (two sacks) and senior defensive back JaQuaylen Love (two interceptions) led the defense against Madison Central.
Clinton’s loss to Brandon last year was one of four losses by seven points. The Arrows finished 6-5 and lost to Southaven 14-10 in the first round of the 6A state playoffs.
Clinton coach Judd Boswell, who led the Arrows to the 6A state title in 2016 behind high school All-American Cam Akers (now with the Los Angeles Rams), believes this year’s group has a lot of potential with 16 returning starters (eight each on offense and defense). He is expecting big things from 5-foot-11, 220-pound senior running back Jakobe Calvin, who gained 902 yards and scored 15 TDs and caught six passes for 152 yards and one TD last season.
There are four members of the PriorityOne Bank Metro Jackson Preseason Elite 11 Team in this game – Brandon’s Rogers, Blount and senior tight end DeCoreyea Buchanan and Clinton’s Calvin.
Clinton offensive line coach Tyler Peterson was Brandon’s head coach for six seasons and had a 55-26 record, including a 13-2 record and a 6A state semifinal appearance in 2018 behind quarterback Will Rogers, now a junior starting quarterback at Mississippi State. The only regular season loss that year was 19-14 to Clinton.
Clinton leads the series 41-34-1.
Brandon is expected to have a little letdown after an emotional victory over Madison Central last week but should hang on for a road victory.
Brandon 21, Clinton 14
Jackson Academy (3-0) at Madison St. Joseph (2-1)
First-year JA coach Aubrey Blackwell has led the Raiders to three close wins over Class 5A Starkville 17-14 in overtime, Class 5A Leake 10-6 and Class 4A Winston 20-17 in overtime.
Blackwell, who took over for Lance Pogue (now at Heritage), comes to JA from Alabama where he had a 57-26 record in seven seasons as a head coach, six at Montgomery Catholic and one at Benjamin Russell High in Alexander City.
JA freshman lineman Dereon Albert had a team-high 17 tackles in last week’s win over Winston. Senior linebacker Adams Kennedy leads the team with 40 tackles this season. Sophomore linebacker AJ Parker is second with 32 tackles and a team-high 3.5 sacks. The Raiders have forced seven turnovers, five interceptions (two by sophomore defensive back DJ Watkins) and two fumble recoveries.
If Blackwell and JA are to stay undefeated, they must slow down of the top-rated sophomore quarterbacks in the state and one of the best ones in the country in St. Joe’s Emile Picarella. Picarella, rated No. 1 in Mississippi and No. 7 in the country in the Class of 2025 by qbhitlist.com, has completed 61.6 percent of his passes for 570 yards and four TDs this season. He has offers from Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Pittsburgh, and Akron (Ohio). In addition to Picarella, St. Joe has another offensive weapon in senior running back and Forest Hill High transfer Million Kelly, who has a team-high 482 all-purpose yards (239 receiving, 158 rushing, 63 punt return and 22 kickoff return) and five TDs.
First-year St. Joe head coach Jason Moore, who coached for 25 years as an assistant at MHSAA schools Brandon, Florence, Puckett, Pelahatchie, and Forest before coming to St. Joe as an assistant four years ago, has his Bruins on a two-game winning streak, and are coming off an impressive 50-7 win over East Rankin Academy. St. Joe hasn’t had a winning season since 2017 and has had only two winning seasons in the past eight seasons. The Bruins have 12 returning starters, increased its roster by 14 players up to 42 and added five transfers.
JA has dominated St. Joe in each of the three meetings, 35-14 last season, 47-7 in 2018 and 31-14 in 2017.
Look for Picarella and St. Joe to get their first win over JA in school history and continue improve their winning streak to three games.
St. Joe 20, JA 14
In other games (winners in bold):
Ridgeland (2-0) at Jim Hill (0-1-1), North Jackson Field, Thursday
St. Andrew’s (1-1) at Richton (0-2), Thursday
Canton (1-1) at Vicksburg (0-2)
Canton Academy (4-0) at Oak Hill (1-2)
Carroll Academy (2-1) at Clinton Christian (3-1)
Discovery Christian (0-3) at Ben’s Ford, La. (2-1)
East St. John, La. (1-1) at Lanier (0-2), North Jackson
Florence (2-0) at Magee (1-1)
Forest Hill (0-2) at Neshoba Central (0-2)
Jackson Prep (3-0) at Lamar School (0-4)
Lake (0-2) at Pelahatchie (0-2)
Morton (0-2) at Pearl (1-1)
Northwest Rankin (0-2) at Madison Central (1-1)
Presbyterian Christian (2-1) at Hartfield (2-0)
Pillow (2-1) at East Rankin (2-1)
Pisgah (1-1) at Sebastopol (2-0)
Raymond (0-1) at Velma Jackson (0-2)
Richland (1-1) at McLaurin (0-2)
Silliman, La. (1-2) at Central Hinds (3-0)
Simpson (3-0) at MRA (2-2)
Tri-County (3-0) at Riverfield, La. (2-1)
Terry (2-0) at Murrah (0-2)
Warren Central (2-0) at Germantown (2-0)
West Lincoln (0-2) at Puckett (2-0)