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. Wilson had an 18-8 record last week (69.2 percent) and has a 174-57 record (75.3 percent) for the season.

            Brandon (5-2) at Pearl (6-1)

       Eat Dirt is popular phrase for these two longtime Rankin County rivals during this week leading up to what many call the Rankin County Super Bowl. Northwest Rankin may object to that this season (see below).

       You have to go back to before 2000 to find when Brandon and Pearl had such outstanding records this deep into the season when the teams played each other.

       In addition to being two of the best teams in Mississippi, this game has even more importance. It is a MHSAA Class 7A, Region 3 game. If Brandon wins, the Bulldogs will be the probable No. 1 seed heading into the playoffs and the only undefeated team in the region. Pearl needs to keep pace for a possible playoff spot. The Pirates are in a four-way tie in second place with a 1-1 record.

       Brandon is trying to reach the state championship game for the third year in a row under Coach Sam Williams. The Bulldogs lost in 2021 and 2022 and lost their first two games this season, but have won five straight, including last week’s 38-20 upset of previously undefeated Oak Grove.

       Pearl has made a remarkable turnaround from last year when it lost nine games for the first time since 1971. Coach Justin Hunter has the Pirates rolling with their only loss a 21-13 decision to Northwest Rankin.

       One never knows what will happen in this rivalry game, with an overflow crowd of more than 6,000 expected at Pearl’s Ray Rogers Stadium.

       Six years ago, Pearl was on its way to a 16-0 season and the state championship when Brandon, which finished 7-6, almost pulled the upset. Pearl won 28-27 in overtime when Brandon missed an extra point attempt. A young Will Rogers – now a record-setting quarterback at Mississippi State – almost led Brandon to the huge upset as a sophomore.

       Brandon has four players who were on the PriorityOne Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Preseason Elite 11 Team, senior running back and Louisiana-Monroe commitment Nate Blount, senior defensive lineman-linebacker Jaeden Calender, senior kicker Conner Mullins and senior quarterback and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College commitment Landon Varnes.

       Blount has 906 yards and 14 touchdowns. Calender has 108 tackles, 9 for loss, 6 sacks and 19 quarterback hurries. Mullins has made 3 of 4 field goal attempts, including a 51-yarder against Oak Grove last week, and 27 of 28 extra points attempts. Varnes has completed 61.1 percent of his passes for 1,321 yards and 11 touchdowns.

The most talented Pirate is 6-foot-4, 292-pound senior offensive lineman Taccofah Lewis, who is rated as the No. 36 best player in Mississippi in the Class of 2024 by 247 Sports and is committed to Memphis.

Brandon 21, Pearl 14

       In other games (winners in bold):

       Jim Hill (2-6) at Humphreys County (2-6), Thursday

       Murrah (5-3) at Lanier (2-6), Thursday, Hughes Field

       Callaway (4-4) at Vicksburg (4-3)

       Clinton Christian Academy (5-3) at Central Hinds Academy (5-4)

       East Rankin Academy (3-6) at Lamar School (6-3)

Columbus (1-7) at Ridgeland (2-5)

       Florence (5-3) at Natchez (4-4)

       French Camp (2-6) at Velma Jackson (7-0)

       Greenville (1-6) at Canton (2-5)

       Greenville Christian School (5-2) at Tri-County Academy (8-1)

       Hartfield Academy (10-0) at Madison St. Joseph (4-4)

       Hillcrest Christian School (1-7) at North Sunflower Academy (3-5)

       Indianola Academy (1-8) at Canton Academy (6-3)

Jackson Prep (7-2) at Madison-Ridgeland Academy (6-3)

Madison Central (4-3) at Germantown (4-4)

       McLaurin (1-7) at Pisgah (2-6)

       Newton County Academy (9-1) at Park Place Christian Academy (3-5)

North Pike (2-5) at Provine (5-3), Hughes Field

       Oak Grove (6-1) at Northwest Rankin (5-2)

       Presbyterian Christian School (3-5) at Jackson Academy (6-3)

Puckett (6-2) at Pelahatchie (2-6)

       Raleigh (6-2) at St. Andrew’s (4-4)

       Raymond (4-3) at Richland (5-3)

       Tupelo (6-2) at Clinton (1-6)

       West Jones (7-0) at Forest Hill (4-4), South Jackson Field

       Wingfield (1-7) at McComb (8-0)