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 a 23-4 record last week (85.2 percent) and has a 81-17 record (82.7 percent) for the season.

       Madison Central (3-0) at Northwest Rankin (2-1)

       The Jaguars have owned the Cougars in this long series of neighboring county schools over the years. Madison Central has a 24-4 record in the series and has won 13 of the last 14 meetings. Northwest Rankin’s last victory was a 32-28 decision during the 2017 regular season before Madison Central won a 27-10 playoff game against the two teams.

       Madison Central won the MHSAA Class 6A state title with a 13-1 record in 2020 under first-year coach Toby Collum, who left Northwest Rankin after leading the Cougars to a big turnaround season in 2019 and being named the PriorityOne Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Coach of the Year. Collum’s Madison Central team has won by lopsided scores of 38-7 and 48-3 in the past two seasons. Devin Cooper came over after winning multiple state titles at Scott Central and has rebuilt the Cougars after Collum left for Madison Central.

       Both teams have gotten off to good starts this season.

       Madison Central won its opener over Ocean Springs when Jack Richardson made a 36-yard field in the final seconds for a 15-14 victory. Then, Madison Central surprised Brandon, last year’s Class 6A state runner-up, with a 40-26 victory. The Jaguars took a three-hour road trip to the Mississippi Gulf Coast last week and came away with a 23-21 victory over Gulfport in a high-scoring fourth quarter where 23 points were scored and there were four lead changes.

       Senior running back Glen Singleton has a team-high 252 rushing yards and four touchdowns this season. Sophomore Ben Picarella, a transfer from Madison St. Joseph, and junior Jaiden Johnson, have both played quarterback. Picarella has thrown for 352 yards and Johnson 205. Both have thrown two TD passes. Picarella is the younger brother of Emile Picarella, who is rated as one of the Top 10 quarterbacks in the country in the Class of 2025 who transferred from Madison St. Joseph to University Lab School in Baton Rouge this summer. Junior wide receiver Ryan Delaney has caught nine passes for a team-high 242 yards – an incredible 26.9 yards per catch – and two TDs and junior wide receiver Zadarran Hart has caught 14 passes for 178 yards and two TDs. Senior linebacker Ryan McCall – who was named the Junction Deli/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Player of the Week after a 20-tackle performance against Ocean Springs – and senior linebacker Rickey Banks (12 tackles against Gulfport) are the leaders on defense.

       Northwest Rankin was minutes away from a 3-0 start this season last week. The Cougars jumped out to a 17-0 first quarter lead over Ocean Springs and were on their way before the Greyhounds rallied and pulled out a 27-24 victory in the final minutes. Northwest Rankin’s two wins are over Germantown 35-28 and Clinton 21-14.

       Senior quarterback Wes White has passed for 586 yards and scored four TDs, senior running back Dylan Lewis has gained 324 yards and scored five TDs and freshman sensation wide receiver De’Shawn Dillion has caught 15 passes for 299 yards and three TDs. Dillion, considered one of the top athletes in Mississippi in the Class of 2027, played a big part last year as an eighth grader on Northwest Rankin’s Class 6A state championship run. Juniors linebacker Brooks Wallis and Daniel Watkins and senior defensive end Dylan Gaines are the leaders on defense.

       Madison Central 24, Northwest Rankin 14

       MRA (3-1) at Oak Grove (3-0)

       MRA has played a tough schedule over the past several years – including several nationally ranked teams – to prepare for the MAIS Class 6A conference schedule and it has paid off winning three straight state championships from 2019-2021.

       The Patriots are taking on another nationally ranked team Friday night as they travel to Hattiesburg to play MHSAA Class 7A powerhouse Oak Grove, who many consider the favorite to win a state championship. Oak Grove is ranked No. 118 in the country by High School Football America, the highest ranking of any Mississippi team. The Warriors has already shown their ability to beat top teams as they defeated well known national power Hoover, Ala., 28-21 in overtime. Hoover is ranked No. 130 by High School Football America.

       Oak Grove is ranked No. 2 and MRA No. 12 in Mississippi by MaxPreps. The two teams have never played in football.

       MRA’s only loss was a 45-43 decision to four-time defending Arkansas Class 6A state champion Pulaski Academy. 

       MRA has had success playing against MHSAA schools in recent years, with wins over Raleigh 39-28 in 2022 and 35-21 in 2021 and Corinth 51-17 in 2020. MRA lost at Philadelphia 21-14 in 2019. MRA defeated St. Stanislaus 59-14 in 2018 and 31-28 in 2017, lost to St. Martin 51-28 and defeated Taylorsville 37-6. MRA opened the season in 2016 against three MHSAA teams, defeating Amory 40-6, losing to St. Martin 40-21, and defeating Taylorsville 56-30.

       Oak Grove’s first game against a MAIS school was two years ago when nationally ranked Greenville Christian School, considered one of the best MAIS teams in history, defeated Oak Grove 48-41 in an incredible offensive show at Oak Grove.

       MRA senior quarterback and Southern Miss commitment John White, who is on pace to have a shot of becoming the career passing yards leader in Mississippi history, will have to have another big game to defeat Oak Grove. White has passed for 1,519 yards and 17 TDs and only four interceptions this season. He is averaging 303.8 yards per game.

       White has 13,029 career yards, third best in Mississippi history. Myles Brennan is the Mississippi record holder with 15,138 career yards at St. Stanislaus from 2013-16 and Ty Keyes from Taylorsville (14,525 from 2017-2020).

White’s career high is 515 yards against Jackson Prep as a sophomore.

Oak Grove is loaded. Consider this: the Warriors are the only team with three players rated in the 247 Sports’ Top 17 in Mississippi in the Class of 2024 (defensive lineman and Southern Miss commit Caleb Moore is No. 11, cornerback and Mississippi State commit PJ Woodland is No. 15 and quarterback and Texas A&M commit Anthony Maddox is No. 17). And there is only other school – South Panola – with two in the top 17.

       Oak Grove 42, MRA 21.

       In other games (winners in bold):

       Jefferson County (3-0) at Murrah (3-0), Thursday, Hughes Field

       Yazoo City (0-3) at Wingfield (0-3), Thursday, South Jackson Field

       Brandon (1-2) at Warren Central (2-1)

       Callaway (1-2) at Canton (0-3)

       Canton Academy (2-2) at Central Hinds Academy (3-1)

       Clinton (0-3) at Grenada (2-1)

       Clinton Christian Academy (2-2) at St. Aloysius (0-4)

       East Rankin Academy (1-3) at Copiah Academy (3-1)

       Florence (3-0) at Mendenhall (2-1)

       Forest Hill (0-3) at Lanier (1-2), South Jackson Field

       Hartfield Academy (3-0) at Starkville Academy (3-0)

       Hillcrest Christian School (1-3) at Prentiss Christian School (1-2)

       Jackson Academy (4-1) at Lamar School (3-1)

       Jim Hill (1-2) at Velma Jackson (2-0)

       Madison St. Joseph (2-2) at Greenville St. Joseph (3-1)

       Parklane Academy (3-1) at Jackson Prep (4-0)

       Park Place Christian Academy (1-2) at Porter’s Chapel Academy (3-0)

       Pisgah (1-2) at French Camp (0-3)

       Port Gibson (1-2) at Raymond (0-3)

       Richland (2-1) at Pelahatchie (0-3)

       Ridgeland (1-2) at Pearl (3-0)

       St. Andrew’s (1-2) at McAdams (1-2)

       South Pike (3-0) at Provine (2-1), Hughes Field

       Stringer (1-2) at Puckett (3-0)

       Tri-County Academy (4-0) at Winston Academy (3-1)

       Vicksburg (2-1) at Terry (3-0)

       West Lauderdale (3-0) at Germantown (1-2)

       Wilkinson County (0-3) at McLaurin (1-2)