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 22-8 record (73.3 percent) last week and has a 112-37 record overall (75.1 percent) this season.
By Robert Wilson
Jackson Prep (6-0) at MRA (5-2)
Madison-Ridgeland Academy, not longtime power Jackson Prep, has been the dominate program in MAIS’ highest classification over the past three seasons.
MRA has won the last three Class 6A state championships, won 15 consecutive games against MAIS competition and 46 of its last 47 games against MAIS competition, with its only loss in that streak to Class 3A state champion Greenville Christian, which is considered of the best teams in MAIS history and finished ranked No. 60 in the country last season.
MRA has been the big bad wolf, especially against Prep, winning the last four meetings, the last two scoring 50 points in each game, the most points ever given up by a Prep team. Everyone remembers the show MRA quarterback Philip Short put on in the 2019 championship game against Prep, throwing for a MAIS record 593 yards and five touchdowns in a 48-33 victory.
But there is a new sheriff from Alabama running the show on Lakeland Drive. New Prep head coach Doug Goodwin comes in with outstanding credentials (234 wins and one state title in Alabama and an induction into the AHSAA Sports Hall of Fame) and wants to bring back the state championship dominance that coach Ricky Black put together (a 263-44 record, an 85.6 winning percentage, in 24 seasons). Black won 13 state titles, including a record seven in a row from 2012-2018, before MRA stopped the streak with Short’s epic performance.
MRA coach Herbert Davis, who was inducted into MAIS Hall of Fame this summer, has 225 wins and six state titles on his resume.
MRA lost several stars to graduation like Metro Jackson Player of the Year Davis Dalton (now at Southern Miss), and Under Armour All-American linebacker Stone Blanton (now at South Carolina), then lost leaders like linebacker Jeffrey Polk, tight end Pax Hughes and offensive lineman Mason McCrory – all senior starters – to injuries this season.
Despite those losses, MRA has won all four of its MAIS games, defeated MHSAA Class 3A power Raleigh and played Tennessee state champion Oakland and Arkansas state champion Pulaski Academy closer than it did last season.
Junior quarterback John White – a member of the PriorityOne Bank Metro Jackson Preseason Elite 11 Team – has passed for 1,491 yards (the most in Mississippi) and 17 touchdowns with only two interceptions. Senior wide receiver Rivers Godwin – son of former Ole Miss defensive back Chauncey Godwin – has 34 catches for 601 yards and eight TDs.
MRA’s leaders on defense are senior linebacker Bennett Cloud, senior lineman Alex Hillhouse and senior cornerback Noah Short. Cloud has a team-high 76 tackles. Hillhouse leads the team with 14 tackles for loss and six sacks.
Prep senior quarterback Paxton Thompson has passed for 1,381 yards, third best in Mississippi, and 18 TDs with only four interceptions. Senior wide receiver Will Upton, who set a school record in receiving yards last season, has caught 35 passes for 677 yards and 11 TDs. Senior Will Laird has 18 catches for 384 yards and eight TDs. Upton is also a dangerous return man.
Prep’s leaders on defense are senior linebacker Duncan Mathews, senior lineman Luke Harrigill, junior linebacker Thomas Cross, senior defensive back Josh White and junior defensive back Micah Stallworth. Mathews leads the team with 55 tackles and 13 tackles for loss.
The gap between the two programs has shrunk with the addition of Goodwin at Prep and the MRA losses due to graduation and injuries, but not to make a difference in the final result.
MRA 28, Jackson Prep 14.
Brandon (4-0) at Warren Central (4-0)
Second-year Brandon head coach Sam Williams and longtime Brandon offensive coordinator Wyatt Rogers have the Bulldog offense clicking on all cylinders these days. Brandon has scored more than 40 points in three victories and scored 28 points on MSHAA defending Class 6A state champion Madison Central in its other win.
Junior quarterback Landon Varnes is one of the most accurate quarterbacks in Mississippi, completing 66.0 percent of his passes for 957 yards and 10 TDs and only three interceptions. Senior wide receiver and Akron (Ohio) commitment Lester Miller has caught 22 passes for 537 yards, an amazing 24.4 yards per catch, and seven TDs. The talented running back duo of junior Nate Blount – a member of the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Preseason Elite 11 Team – and senior and Louisiana Tech commitment Jarvis Durr have combined for 794 yards and eight TDs.
Brandon’s leaders on defense are junior lineman Jaeden Calendar and senior lineman DeAundre Washington, senior middle linebacker Dysart Bell and senior defensive backs Jevon Durr and JaQuaylen Love.
Warren Central is coming off a thrilling, 42-41 overtime victory over Oak Grove for its fourth consecutive victory. Warren Central head coach Josh Morgan decided to go for two and the win in the first OT and Jack Wright completed the winning pass to Maddox Lynch.
Warren Central has been traditional powerhouse even back in the 1970s and early 1980s when legendary coach Lum Wright built the Vikings into an outstanding program. Robert Morgan, Josh’s dad and Wright’s longtime assistant, took over for Wright and coached Warren Central from 1985-2003. Josh is in his 13th season at head coach. His older brother, Rob, is the offensive coordinator.
Both head coaches played football at Mississippi State. Williams played wide receiver from 2009-2012 and Morgan played safety from 1998-2002.
This is a Class 6A, Region 3 game. Both teams are 1-0 in region play.
Warren Central’s defense is pretty stingy and will keep the high-powered Brandon offense from getting to 40 points, but the Bulldogs will continue their impressive undefeated season.
Brandon 28, Warren Central 21.
In other games (winning team in bold):
Holmes County Central (3-1) at Forest Hill (1-4) Thursday, South Jackson Field
Brandon (4-0) at Warren Central (4-0)
Canton Academy (5-1) at Central Holmes (2-4)
Discovery Christian (0-6) at Prentiss Christian (2-4)
East Rankin Academy (2-4) at Lamar School (1-6)
Florence (5-0) at Wayne County (3-2)
Greenville Christian (2-3) at Jackson Academy (5-1)
Hartfield Academy (4-1) at Parklane Academy (4-2)
Hillcrest Christian (2-4) at Wilkinson Christian (3-4)
Jim Hill (0-4) at Callaway (5-0) South Jackson
Lanier (0-5) at North Pike (2-2)
Leake Academy (2-3) at Madison St. Joseph (2-4)
Madison Central (3-1) at Grenada (4-1)
Magee (3-2) at McLaurin (1-4)
Murrah (0-5) at Germantown (2-3)
Neshoba Central (3-2) at Canton (1-4)
Northwest Rankin (1-3) at Terry (3-2)
Oak Forest, La. (2-3) at Central Hinds (4-2)
Pearl (2-3) at Meridian (1-2)
Pelahatchie (0-5) at Velma Jackson (2-3)
Pisgah (1-4) at Puckett (4-1)
Provine (2-3) at Vicksburg (3-2)
Raymond (3-1) at Wingfield (0-4) North Jackson
Richland (3-2) at Newton County (1-4)
St. Aloysius (1-5) at Clinton Christian (5-2)
Starkville (4-1) at Clinton (2-2)
Tri-County Academy (6-0) at Carroll Academy (3-3)
Wilkinson County (0-5) at Ridgeland (4-1)