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 County. Robert had a 19-8 record (70.4 percent) last week and has a 72-20 record overall (78.3 percent) this season.
By Robert Wilson
MRA (3-2) at Jackson Academy (4-0)
Alabama native and former Alabama high school coach Aubrey Blackwell has a perfect record after one month of playing games as a high school head coach in Mississippi. MAIS Class 6A JA has won all four games, two in overtime, over smaller opponents – three 5A teams, Starkville Academy, Leake Academy and Madison St. Joseph, and one 4A team, Winston Academy.
JA and Blackwell turn it up several notches in competition this week with three-time defending MAIS 6A state champion Madison-Ridgeland Academy in the first conference game of the season.
MRA has dominated JA over the past several years, winning seven straight and nine of the last 10 meetings. And most of them haven’t been close, winning by scores of 35-7 and 52-14 (2021), 41-14 (2020), 48-7 (2019) and 41-6 (2018) in the last six meetings. Only a 20-10 MRA win in 2020 was closer.
MRA appears to be just as good as it was last season. Despite losing PriorityOne Bank Metro Jackson Player of the Year Davis Dalton (now playing at Southern Miss) and Under Armour All-American Stone Blanton (now playing at South Carolina) to graduation, the Patriots are the favorite to win their fourth straight 6A state title.
Junior quarterback and Southern Miss commitment John White – a member of the PriorityOne Bank Metro Jackson Preseason Elite 11 Team – has had a solid season so far (1,056 yards and 13 touchdowns and only two interceptions) and the emergence of junior running back Charles Simpson (a combined 469 rushing and receiving yards and eight TDs) has helped the high-scoring offense. Senior linebacker Bennett Cloud has a team-high 61 tackles. Senior defensive lineman Alex Hillhouse has a team-high five sacks. Sophomore defensive back Matthew Perkins has a team-high two interceptions.
MRA has been successful despite losing two key players to injuries, senior tight end Pax Hughes (ankle) and senior linebacker Jeffrey Polk (knee), earlier this season.
JA finally got their offense going last week in its win over St. Joe. Senior quarterback Clayton White threw his first two TD passes of the season. Senior Merritt Nations has moved from wide receiver to running back and produced 101 yards and two TDs. Junior wide receiver and Terry High transfer Dre Terry caught a TD pass in his first game at JA. The Raider defense has been solid all season, led by senior linebacker Adam Kennedy and a talented group of defensive backs.
MRA has the big edge in strength of schedule, with its two losses to defending state champions Oakland from Tennessee and Pulaski Academy from Arkansas, so the Patriots are prepared for the 6A opener.
MRA 35, JA 14.
Ridgeland (3-0) at Provine (2-1), North Jackson Field
Ridgeland sophomore sensation and Brandon transfer Garrison Davis and senior Elite 11 member and Ole Miss commitment Ayden Williams have created a dynamic combo that has been hard to slow down this season. Davis – the No. 3 rated pro style quarterback in Mississippi and No. 60 in the nation in the Class of 2025 by qbhitlist.com – has completed 63.8 percent of his passes for 1,022 yards and 11 TDs with only two interceptions this season. Davis passed for 536 yards and five TDs two weeks ago against Pearl. Davis ranks No. 2 in Mississippi in passing yards according to MaxPreps.
Williams, rated as the No. 1 wide receiver in the Mississippi and No. 24 in the country by 247 Sports, has caught 21 passes for 481 yards and five TDs. He caught seven passes for 255 yards and three TDs against Pearl. Williams had offers from eight SEC schools before deciding on Ole Miss in August.
Provine is led by senior linebacker and Elite 11 member Tommy Kelly Jr., son of former Provine, Hinds Community College, Mississippi State and 11-year NFL veteran defensive lineman Tommy Kelly Sr., who is now the defensive coordinator and defensive line coach at Provine. Kelly has 31 tackles this season. He had a team-high 134 tackles in nine games, an average of almost 15 tackles per game, last season. His 14.9 tackle average was the second highest in Mississippi last season, according to MaxPreps.
Davis’ father, Shaun Davis, was an assistant coach at Provine before joining Teddy Dyess’ staff at Ridgeland this season.
Provine lost its first game of the season to undefeated Callaway 22-14 in double overtime last week. The Rams were driving for the go ahead score in regulation but running back Brandon Jones was injured and the drive stalled. Provine wasn’t to score in either overtime. Jones, who also plays linebacker, is questionable this week.
Ridgeland will move to 2-0 in MHSAA Class 5A, Region 2 play and Provine will drop to 0-2.
Ridgeland 28, Provine 7.
Parklane (4-0) at Jackson Prep (4-0)
Longtime MAIS football fans will remember when this was the huge rivalry back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In fact, Parklane won more state titles (five to Prep’s three) from 1986-1994. MAIS Hall of Fame coach Charlie Newlon, who won 195 games from 1982-2007, led Parklane to all of those state titles and success.
But Parklane has lost to Prep 28 consecutive times since 1995, including two losses last season (42-13 in the regular season and 55-13 in the playoffs). Most of those losses haven’t been close. Only one time in the past 20 years has Parklane gotten within three touchdowns of Prep (a 31-28 loss in double overtime at Parklane in 2019). Parklane hasn’t won a conference game since 2018. This is the first conference game – MAIS Class 6A – for both teams.
But there is new optimism at the MAIS school in McComb under coach Ron Rushing, in his second year as head coach at Parklane. The Pioneers has won their first four games for the first time since 2007 and have already won one more game than all of last season. Rushing knows about winning, he won a state championship at Cathedral in 2014. He also coached at Brookhaven Academy before coming to Parklane.
Parklane started 17 sophomores last season and Rushing is a year and a half into a strength program he said it is helping improve his team. Talented players like wide receiver Brewer Carruth and linebackers Walker Anderson and Chris Burton are back. Several of the players who were stars during the great era of Parklane football in the late 1980s and early 1990s have sons on this team (names like Carruth, Rushing and Albritton are on the roster). In addition to those 17 returnees, Parklane has added some talented transfers to the team: quarterback Amarien Jefferson and safety Marcus Briggs (both from Tylertown), 6-3, 230-pound linebacker Zed Washington (South Pike) and defensive back Jadarrion Hammond (Salem). Jefferson passed for 2,439 yards and 33 TDs to lead Tylertown to a 12-1 record and the MHSAA Class 3A quarterfinals last season. Washington led Class 4A South Pike with 14 tackles for loss last season.
Prep is having a resurgence of its own this season under first-year head coach Doug Goodwin, who came comes to Prep after a successful career coaching high school football in Alabama for almost three decades. He replaced Tyler Turner, who resigned in January after an 8-5 record, the most losses at Prep since 1970, the first year of the school. Turner replaced former National High School Football Coach of the Year and Mississippi Hall of Fame member Ricky Black, who surprisingly resigned two years ago after 24 successful years and 13 state championships at Prep.
Goodwin was a special teams analyst for the past two seasons at Ole Miss and held a variety of coaching positions, including Director of High School Relations, at Auburn from 2014-2019. He had a 234-91 record, a 72 percent winning percentage, in 27 seasons coaching high school in Alabama at Marion County, Lineville, Demopolis, Russellville and Homewood from 1987-2013. In 2008, Goodwin became the first coach in Alabama history to take three different teams to a state championship game. He led his teams to 14 area and regional championships, 21 state playoff appearances, five state championship appearances, and one state championship. Goodwin was named the Alabama Football Coaches Association State Coach of the Year in 2008 and elected to the AHSAA Sports Hall of Fame in 2015.
Prep senior quarterback Paxton Thompson has passed for 821 yards and 11 TDs with only three interceptions. His main target is senior wide receiver Will Upton, who has caught 19 passes for 414 yards and seven TDs. Upton is also a dangerous return man with 146 yards, including a 14.2-yard average on punt returns.
Long time Prep assistant coach Nick Brewer is back in his role as defensive coordinator and the Patriots have allowed only five TDs and created five turnovers. Senior linebacker Duncan Mathews might be the best pound for pound player in the MAIS. The 5-foot-7, 160-pound Mathews – a South Alabama baseball commitment – has a team-high 33 tackles, eight for losses, and has two sacks.
Prep 28, Parklane 14.
In other games (winning team in bold):
Jim Hill (0-2-1) at Florence (3-0) (Thursday)
Callaway (3-0) at Canton (1-2)
Cathedral (1-3) at Pisgah (1-2)
Central Hinds (3-1) at Riverfield, La. (2-2)
Charleston (1-2) at Pelahatchie (0-3)
Clinton Christian (4-1) at Benton Academy (0-4)
Discovery Christian (0-4) at Christian Collegiate (2-2)
East Rankin Academy (1-3) at Ethel (2-1)
Germantown (2-1) at Gulfport (2-1)
Hartfield Academy (2-1) at Bayou Academy (3-1)
Hillcrest Christian (2-2) at Russell Christian (4-0)
Lanier (0-3) at Hancock (2-1)
McLaurin (0-3) at West Lincoln (0-3)
Murrah (0-3) at Port Gibson (1-1-1)
Pearl (1-2) at Biloxi (1-1)
Poplarville (2-1) at Terry (3-0)
Raymond (1-1) at Yazoo County (2-1)
Richland (2-1) at Franklin County (2-1)
Richton (1-2) at Puckett (3-0)
St. Andrew’s (1-2) at McAdams (0-3)
Tri-County Academy (4-0) at Madison St. Joseph (2-2)
Velma Jackson (0-3) at Yazoo City (0-3)
Vicksburg (1-2) at Forest Hill (0-3) South Jackson Field
Wingfield (0-2) at West Jones (1-1)