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 27-4 record (87.1 percent) last week – the best record this season – and has a 181-57 record overall (76.1 percent) this season.
By Robert Wilson
Germantown (5-3) at Madison Central (4-3)
Two weeks ago, Germantown, under first-year coach Russell Mitchell, had won only one Class 6A game and that was against winless Murrah. With the rest of the scheduled packed with strong 6A, Region 2 teams, it didn’t look promising for Mitchell and the Mavericks. A third fourth straight losing season in 6A appeared on the horizon.
But on the strength of defensive coordinator Scott Brown and his Mavs defense, Germantown sent shock waves across 6A football with a surprising, 26-16 upset of Oxford, a program that had averaged 10 wins a season over the past six years. Oxford senior quarterback Mack Howard – a Utah commitment who is rated as the No. 1 quarterback in Mississippi and No. 32 in the country by 247 Sports – was sacked an amazing 10 times by the Mavs before Howard left the game in the fourth quarter.
It was a signature win for Germantown since it moved up to 6A four years ago. Until last week. The Mavs surprised Grenada 38-14 as senior wide receiver Nisaiah Bass caught two touchdown passes (five catches for 101 yards) and ran for one TD, junior quarterback Jackson Hood completed two TD passes and junior running back David Gainwell III ran for two scores.
Mitchell – a former Picayune High quarterback who was Oak Grove’s offensive coordinator for the past six seasons – has the Mavs believing and has their confidence up. Mitchell has been a part of a state or national championship in seven of his previous 18 seasons as a coach.
And the big bad wolf of Madison County – defending 6A state champion Madison Central – doesn’t look so bad anymore. The Jaguars are on a two-game losing streak, falling to Clinton 38-31 and undefeated Tupelo 34-0. Madison Central had won 17 of its last 19 games before two weeks ago. The Tupelo loss was the worst loss for Madison Central since a 43-7 decision to South Panola in the 2010 playoffs. Tupelo had 402 total yards, compared to Madison Central’s 149.
Could Germantown pull off another upset against its biggest rival? History says the Mavs have an uphill battle. The teams have played three games with Madison Central winning easily in all three, 36-23 in 2019, 38-6 in 2020 and 31-0 last season.
Madison Central and second-year coach Toby Collums will try to get his Jaguars back on the tracks and pointed in the right direction on Senior Night. Collums will need some seniors to shine Friday, especially senior quarterback and Louisiana Tech commitment Vic Sutton and senior wide receiver and Division I prospect Isaiah Spencer – both members of the PriorityOne Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Preseason Elite 11 Team. Senior tight end, short yardage running back and Navy commitment Jake Norris (10 TDs, seven rushing and three receiving) would help the Jaguars with a big Senior Night. A sophomore – defensive lineman Myles Miller – leads Madison Central with 52 tackles and five sacks.
Germantown has been playing two quarterbacks – Hood and senior Drew McCluskey – who have combined for 960 yards and nine TDs. Senior nose guard Jamison Rankin, senior outside linebacker Hampton Ross and senior defensive back Krystian Parker lead the Mavs defense.
Both teams have excellent kickers. Madison Central junior Max Zulagua has made 3 for 3 on field goal attempts and 25 of 26 on extra point attempts. Germantown junior Hayden Houpe has made 7 of 9 field goal attempts and 21 of 21 extra point attempts.
Look for Germantown to come out with an emotional edge, but in the end Madison Central’s talent will take over and Zulagua will kick a fourth quarter field goal for the difference.
Madison Central 24, Germantown 21
Jackson Prep (8-1) at Hartfield Academy (7-1)
Prep Nation has had this date circled on their calendars since last fall when Hartfield, in its first year of MAIS Class 6A, defeated Prep twice, 22-17 in the regular season, and 17-13 in the playoffs, handing Prep its fifth loss of the season, the most since 1970, the first year of the school.
Hartfield is the new kid on the block of 6A football and Prep wants to make sure it regains the championship of Lakeland Drive.
Yes, Jackson Academy is Prep’s biggest longtime rival, but the Hartfield wins last season stung deep among the Prep faithful.
In the first meeting in football in school history, Hartfield scored 15 points in the final 3 minutes, then stopped Prep a yard short of the goal line on the last play of the game for the regular season victory. Cruz Garner connected with Dawson Pike for a 64-yard TD pass, Gage Sorey recovered an onside kick, Xavier Davis scored on a 5-yard TD and wide receiver Peyton Elliott completed a pass to Davis for a two-point conversion for the 22-17 lead. Prep drove down the field and Paxton Thompson completed a pass to Will Upton to the Hartfield 1 with 1 second to play. Hartfield stopped Prep’s Sam McMullan short of the goal line on the final play for the historic win. That was Prep’s fourth loss of the season for the first time since 2004 and the first time to lose to four MAIS opponents since 1976.
In the playoff win, Hartfield drove 80 yards in 19 plays in the fourth quarter with Davis running for a 1-yard TD for the winning score. Prep drove to the Hartfield 35 but was stopped on fourth down with 2 minutes to play. Davis gained 214 yards on 24 carries and caught a TD pass.
A lot has changed at the senior campus on Lakeland Drive since last season. Alabama High School Hall of Fame coach Doug Goodwin was hired to bring back the swagger of Prep and he has accomplished that in style. Prep is rolling, with its only loss a hard-fought, 26-14 decision to three-time MAIS defending 6A state champion Madison-Ridgeland Academy.
Thompson and Upton, who set a school receiving yards record last year, are having outstanding seasons on offense. Thompson has completed 61 percent of his passes for 1,973 yards (third in Mississippi, according to MaxPreps) and 25 TDs (first in Mississippi). Upton has caught 51 passes for 958 yards (second in Mississippi) and 14 TDs (first in Mississippi).
Senior linebacker Duncan Mathews, a South Alabama baseball commitment, leads the Prep defense with 55 tackles, 16.5 for losses.
Hartfield senior quarterback Trip Maxwell, a transfer from Oxford High, has completed 66.2 percent of his passes for 1,157 yards and 18 TDs. Versatile Reed Jesiolowski has accounted for 1,093 yards and 15 TDs (496 rushing and 8 TDs, 419 receiving and 7 TDs and 178 return yards).
Goodwin and Thompson will definitely keep an eye on Hartfield senior defensive back Gage Sorey, who has a school record 10 interceptions (third in the country, according to MaxPreps). He is five short of the Mississippi record, held by the late Steve McNair, who intercepted 15 passes in 1990 for Mount Olive High before going on to be an All-American quarterback at Alcorn State and Super Bowl winner in the NFL.
Hartfield coach Craig Bowman has done a splendid job in guiding his Hawks to 16 wins in his last 20 games over the past two seasons since moving to 6A.
Prep will be emotionally charged up for this one.
Jackson Prep 35, Hartfield 14.
In other games (winners in bold):
Brandon (7-0) at Oak Grove (6-2)
Brookhaven (0-6) at Florence (5-3)
East Rankin Academy (3-6) at Simpson Academy (7-2)
Forest Hill (1-7) at Ridgeland (5-3)
Grenada (5-3) at Clinton (4-3)
Holmes County Central (5-2) at Callaway (6-1), Thursday (South Jackson Field)
Jim Hill (0-7-1) at Canton (2-5)
Lanier (0-8) at South Pike (2-6)
McComb (6-0) at Wingfield (0-7), North Jackson Field
McLaurin (1-7) at Raleigh (7-1)
Mississippi School for the Deaf (2-6) at Newton County Academy (8-1), Thursday
North Pike (4-3) at Raymond (6-1)
Parklane Academy (6-3) at Madison-Ridgeland Academy (8-2)
Pearl (2-6) at Northwest Rankin (3-4)
Pelahatchie (1-7) at Pisgah (1-7)
Presbyterian Christian (4-5) at Jackson Academy (6-3)
Richland (3-5) at Mendenhall (7-1)
St. Aloysius (1-8) at Tri-County Academy (8-1)
St. Andrew’s (7-3) at Central Hinds Academy (5-4)
Scott Central (6-2) at Puckett (6-2)
Terry (4-4) at Warren Central (6-1)
Tupelo (8-0) at Murrah (0-8)
Wilkinson Christian (5-4) at Discovery Christian (0-8)
Winona Christian (4-5) at Canton Academy (8-1)