Long time 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 Counties. Robert had a 16-2 record (88.9 percent) last week and has a 239-60 (79.9 percent) this season.
By Robert Wilson
Jackson Academy (8-3) at MRA (9-3)
Two-time MAIS defending Class 6A state champion Madison-Ridgeland Academy had a week off to heal some injuries and also an extra week to prepare for this week’s opponent. MRA coach Herbert Davis knows JA has improved since MRA defeated JA 35-7 on Sept. 17 at MRA. But so has MRA. The Patriots have won eight consecutive games since its difficult opening schedule of playing state champions from Mississippi (MAIS Class 3A and nationally ranked Greenville Christian), Tennessee (Class 6A and nationally ranked Oakland) and Arkansas (Class 2A Pulaski Academy).
Everyone knows about MRA’s high powered offense led by sophomore quarterback John White (a Mississippi-best 3,402 passing yards and 34 TDs), senior wide receiver and Southern Miss commitment Davis Dalton (a MAIS-best 72 catches for 1,324 yards and 13 TDs) and three-year starting offensive lineman Rush Bland, but the Patriots have a solid defense as well. Not only is there Under Armour All-American and senior linebacker Stone Blanton, but JA must also contend with junior linebacker Jeff Polk (a team-high 112 tackles), senior defensive end Braedan Watters (102 tackles), junior linebacker Bennett Cloud, senior noseguard Will Hornback and junior defensive end Alex Hillhouse. Then there’s the secondary, led by senior Tylor Latham, who has been offered by Division I schools Samford, Navy and Air Force, and junior Cam Covey, who has not allowed a touchdown pass against him all season. MRA is allowing only 9.4 points per game during its winning streak. The Patriots have allowed just 168 yards or fewer in the last four games.
JA’s offense has been dominating in its last two wins, with 54 points and 678 yards against Parklane and 40 points and 531 yards against Presbyterian Christian. The Raiders’ offense is led by senior quarterback Tate Collins (1,572 passing yards and 16 TDs and 663 rushing yards and 6 TDs), senior running back Marcus Harris (661 rushing yards, 12 TDs) and senior wide receiver and Mississippi State commit Dakota Jordan (43 catches for 759 yards and nine TDs).
If MRA’s offense wants to be successful Friday, the Patriots need to keep an eye on No. 21 for the Raiders, senior defensive end Max Walenta, who has a team-high 95 tackles, including 23.5 sacks, the 6th highest total in the nation. JA senior defensive back Porter Harrell has a team-high five interceptions and 10 pass breakups and has returned a fumble 90 yards for a score.
Even though MRA won the first game by 28 points, expect this one to be closer. JA’s Harris went out in the first quarter and Jordan left the game in the third. It was 7-7 at halftime. This game might come down to the kickers. MRA senior Landon McGee is 4 for 4 this season and JA senior Scott Swalley is 7 of 10, including 4 for 4 in the first half last week.
MRA has won 39 of its last 40 games against MAIS competition, and 28 of its last 31 games and 45 of its last 51 overall. The Patriots will add another W to its streak.
MRA 28, JA 24.
Jackson Prep (8-4) at Hartfield Academy (8-2)
These two teams met earlier this season for the first time in school history in football. Hartfield, the new kid on the MAIS Class 6A block, had a remarkable comeback to pull off the win. 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 a 22-17 victory at Prep.
Prep seemed well in control after senior Louie Gatlin kicked a field goal for a 17-7 lead with 4 minutes to play, but Hartfield senior quarterback Cruz Garner connected with senior wide receiver Dawson Pike for a 64-yard touchdown pass to pull Hartfield to 17-14. Then, Hartfield junior Gage Sorey recovered an onside kick and drove down to take the lead with senior running back Xavier Davis outracing several Prep defenders to the corner of the end zone for a 5-yard TD. Hartfield wide receiver Peyton Elliott completed a pass to Davis for the two-point conversion for a 22-17 lead. Prep drove down the field and junior quarterback Paxton Thompson completed a pass to junior wide receiver Will Upton just short of the end zone with 1 second to play. Thompson then handed off to running back Sam McMullan, but Hartfield’s Davis, Jay Smith, Tanner Welch, and Melvin Collins stopped him short of the goal line on the last play of the game.
While it was a historic win for Hartfield, it was a historic loss for Prep. It is the first time Prep has lost four games since 2004 and the first time to lose to four MAIS opponents since 1976.
Prep, with first-year coach Tyler Turner, is trying to get back to the championship game, something the Patriots missed last season for the first time since 2010. JA made a remarkable comeback of its own, scoring 21 points in the fourth quarter to defeat Prep 28-21 in the semifinals. It turned out to be the last game for Ricky Black to coach at Prep. The former national coach of the year and Mississippi Hall of Fame member surprisingly resigned in February.
Hartfield had the emotional edge in the first meeting, taking on Prep for the first time. Prep has the emotional edge this time, wanting to get revenge for the loss earlier this season. It still won’t be enough.
Hartfield 21, Prep 14.
Desoto Central (6-5) at Madison Central (9-1)
First-year Madison Central coach Toby Collums, last year’s Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Coach of the Year after his turnaround season at Northwest Rankin, is looking to make history for his Jaguars this season and it all starts Friday night with the first round of the MHSAA Class 6A playoffs.
Madison Central hasn’t won a state title since 1999 and has lost in the semifinals nine consecutive times since then. The Jaguars didn’t get out of the first round for the past two seasons, that hasn’t happened in two consecutive years since 2006-07. Madison Central lost to Olive Branch 24-7 in 2019 and Oxford 25-23 last season in the first round. Collums is out to change that playoff trend. He has already made history, with only one regular season loss for the first time since 2010.
The Jaguars, led by quarterback Vic Sutton, running back Robert Dumas and a solid defense, should roll into the second round with a victory in the Jungle.
Madison Central 35, Desoto Central 7.
In other games:
W Clinton (6-4) at Southaven (8-3)
Harrison Central (6-3) at Brandon (8-2) W
Pearl (7-4) at Ocean Springs (10-0) W
Ridgeland (6-4) at West Point (8-2) W
W Velma Jackson (8-2) at Kemper (8-3)
Philadelphia (5-6) at Pelahatchie (6-5) W
W Pisgah (4-7) at Newton (7-3)
W Tri-County Academy (11-1) at Greenville St. Joseph (9-1)
Canton Academy (9-2) at Centreville (9-3) W