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 24-5 record last week (82.8 percent) and has a 37-7 record (84.1 percent) for the season.
Warren Central (1-0) at Pearl (1-0)
Pearl finished with a 15-0 record and won the MHSAA Class 6A state championship under Coach John Perry in 2017.
The Pirates haven’t come close to the magic of that season, having a combined 27-23 record over the past five seasons.
Perry – who won a school record 108 games in 12 seasons and had the third best winning percentage out of 19 coaches in school history – left after a 6-5 season in 2019 to coach at a high school in Missouri. He had only one losing season, 4-7 in 2015.
Justin Hunter, who was Perry’s offensive coordinator for his last six seasons, including the championship season of 2017, was promoted to head coach. Hunter – who was an assistant on three other state championship teams (Louisville in 2007 and 2008 and Noxapater in 2009) – has had two losing seasons in three years as Pearl’s head coach. The Pirates went 2-9 last season, the most losses since 1971.
But after last week’s 35-10 win at Neshoba Central, there is renewed optimism in the proud football program in Rankin County.
Hunter has a rising star in sophomore quarterback Jack Durr, who completed 10 of 15 passes for 257 yards and three touchdowns and ran 10 times for 68 yards and one TD in the win over Neshoba Central. Junior wide receiver Kingi McNair caught two TD passes. The offensive line is led by 6-foot-4, 292-pound senior 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. He also has Division I offers from Southern Miss, Alcorn State, Jackson State, Mississippi Valley, Tulane, Akron, Central Arkansas, Alabama State and Florida A&M.
For decades, Pearl has been known for its outstanding, gritty and hard-hitting defenses and the Pirates brought that toughness to Neshoba Central last week. Senior linebacker Ken Mangum, junior linebacker Kaleb Aterberry and senior defensive end Tre Chaffier led the way. Pearl allowed only 117 total yards.
Warren Central, like Pearl, has a rich tradition of winning football. The Vikings were a powerhouse back in the 1970s and early 1980s when legendary coach Lum Wright built them into an outstanding program. Robert Morgan, current head coach Josh’s dad and Wright’s longtime assistant, took over for Wright and coached Warren Central from 1985-2003. Josh Morgan is in his 14th season at head coach. His older brother, Rob Morgan, is the offensive coordinator. Josh Morgan played safety at Mississippi State from 1998-2002. Rob Morgan played quarterback at MSU from 1996-98.
Warren Central got off to a great start in with a 28-7 victory over Clinton last week in the season opener in Vicksburg. Senior linebacker Julien Demby and junior defensive end Ronnie Blossom made 12 tackles each and junior running back EJ Collins scored two TDs in the win. Other top players for Warren Central this season are senior wide receiver Zach Evans, junior tight end Maddox Lynch and senior strong safety Garrett Orgas. Freshman Nash Morgan – Josh’s son – is one of the three quarterbacks who played against Clinton.
Pearl and Warren Central were longtime rivals back in the Little Dixie Conference days before the MHSAA began state playoffs in the early 1980s. This will be the 42nd meeting between these two rivals, which is the most games Pearl has played against an opponent other than Rankin County rival Brandon. Warren Central leads the series 25-16. Warren Central won last year’s meeting 38-21 and has won the last three meetings.
Warren Central 28, Pearl 14.
In other games (winners in bold):
Brandon (0-1) at Madison Central (1-0)
Callaway (1-0) at Murrah (1-0), Hughes Field
Canton (0-1) at Germantown (0-1)
Canton Academy (1-1) at Sylva-Bay Academy (0-3)
Cathedral (1-1) at Hartfield Academy (3-0)
Central Hinds Academy (2-0) at Madison St. Joseph (2-0)
Enterprise-Lincoln (0-1) at St. Andrew’s (1-0)
East Rankin (0-2) at St. Aloysius (0-2)
Florence (1-0) at Ridgeland (0-1)
Forest Hill (0-1) at Vicksburg (0-1)
Jim Hill (0-1) at Port Gibson (0-1)
Lanier (1-0) at Provine (0-1), South Jackson Field
MRA (3-0) at Pulaski, Ark., Academy (1-0)
Northwest Rankin (1-0) at Clinton (0-1)
Pelahatchie (0-1) at Stringer (0-1)
Pillow Academy (1-1) at Jackson Prep (2-0)
Prentiss Christian Academy (0-2) at Park Place (0-1)
Pisgah (0-1) at Richton (1-0)
Puckett (1-0) at McLaurin (1-0)
Pure Academy, Tenn. (0-2) at Terry (1-0)
Raymond (0-1) at Copiah Academy (1-1)
Richland (1-0) at Southeast Lauderdale (0-1)
Riverfield, La., Academy (0-2) at Clinton Christian Academy (0-2)
Silliman, La., Academy (2-0) at Jackson Academy (3-0)
Tri-County Academy (2-0) at Delta Streets Academy (0-2)
Velma Jackson (1-0) at Yazoo County (1-0)
Wingfield (0-1) at Jefferson County (1-0)