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 25-4 record (86.2 percent) last week and has a 156-45 (77.6 percent) this season.
By Robert Wilson
Jackson Prep (5-3) at Jackson Academy (5-2)
Everyone remembers the last time these two rivals met.
JA, playing without its best player – Under Armour All-American senior wide receiver and LSU commitment Deion Smith – scored 21 points in the fourth quarter to rally past Prep 28-21 in the MAIS Class 6A semifinals at Prep. Jackson Conn completed a 37-yard touchdown pass to Dan Smith, Deion’s younger brother, with 47 seconds to play for the winning TD. JA broke a 12-game losing streak to Prep and had not beaten Prep since the 2013 regular season.
JA won its sixth straight game then lost to Madison-Ridgeland Academy in the state title game. Prep finished 7-3 and didn’t play in the state championship game since 2010.
It was the last game former National Coach of the Year and Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame member Ricky Black would coach at Prep. Black, the second winningest coach in Mississippi history, surprisingly resigned in February. Black had a 263-44 record (an 85.6 winning percentage) and 13 state titles, including seven straight from 2012-2018, in 24 seasons at Prep.
Prep hired 35-year-old Tyler Turner from Goodpasture Christian School in Madison, Tenn., a suburb of Nashville. Turner had a 67-15 record in six seasons at head coach before coming to Prep.
Turner and Prep, which lost the majority of its starters to graduation, have had its struggles this season, losing to nationally ranked Greenville Christian, Heritage Academy and two-time defending MAIS Class 6A state champion MRA. That’s not up to standards at Prep, the longtime king of MAIS football. A loss to JA would give Prep four losses in a season for the first time since 2004 and the first time to lose four MAIS games in a season since 1976.
Lance Pogue, who won a national title and five MHSAA state titles in 10 seasons at South Panola High, took JA to the state championship game for the first time since 2013 in his first year as head coach last season. Pogue was defensive coordinator for three seasons before replacing Larry Weems as head coach. Weems was 0-7 against Prep.
Pogue has benefited from three talented transfers – quarterback Tate Collins from Madison Central, wide receiver Dakota Jordan from Canton Academy and cornerback Kris Robinson from Hillcrest – this season to go along with 10 returning starters and his sights are set on making a run in the playoffs. But he knows Prep is dangerous. The Patriots have had many key players miss several games with injuries and should have some of them back this week. Also, junior quarterback Paxton Thompson, in his first year to start, has gradually improved and gotten more comfortable.
Prep leads the series 40-15. JA’s first win over Prep was an emotional one that many JA fans still remember. In 1995, after coach Sherard Shaw lost his battle with cancer, the Raiders upset the Patriots 21-7 on their way to their first state title. JA has won eight more state titles since then, but none since 2011.
This is one of the most unique rivalries in Mississippi. These students come from the same towns, same neighborhoods, same churches and in a few cases, the same families.
Jordan, a Mississippi State football and baseball commitment, might be the difference. He is rated as the 16th top recruit in Mississippi and third top recruit in the MAIS by 247 Sports. He can break a long TD at any moment. In addition, JA’s solid defense, which is the only team to shut out Greenville Christian for a half this season, should slow down Prep’s offense enough to win.
JA 21, Prep 13.
Tupelo (5-2) at Madison Central (5-1)
First-year Madison Central coach Toby Collums has been singing the praises of his offensive line all season. The talented and hardworking front of senior Sederius Davis (5-foot-11, 290 pounds), senior Daz Galloway (6-3, 300), sophomore Joe Koury (6-1, 275), senior Makeiti Ingram (5-10, 282) and senior Cameron Stancil (6-4, 287) along with tight ends Blake Gunter and Jake Norris has been as solid as group as any for the Jaguars. They will need to be again this week, going up against one the best players in Mississippi in Tupelo senior defensive end Jacarius Clayton, an 6-foot-6 ½, 275-pound Ole Miss commitment who is ranked as the 13th best player in the state by 247 Sports.
Madison Central and Tupelo have only met eight times, five of those in the playoffs, and are playing this year because both are in Class 6A, Region 2. Oxford and Starkville are 3-0, Madison is 2-1 and Tupelo, Clinton, Germantown and Grenada are 1-2. Both Madison Central and Tupelo lost to Starkville by one touchdown.
Madison’s defense, led by senior defensive back B.J. Washington and senior linebackers Vic Hollins and Sam Rice, should keep Tupelo from getting into the end zone very often.
Madison 21, Tupelo 10.
In other games:
W Holmes County Central (4-3) at Provine (1-6), Thursday, North Jackson
W North Pike (5-0) at Wingfield (1-5), Thursday, South Jackson
W Benton Academy (7-1) at Canton Academy (6-2)
Collins (1-5) at Richland (4-3) W
W Copiah (6-2) at Central Hinds (7-1)
Forest Hill (2-5) at Canton (2-4) W
W Georgetown (3-4) at Grenada (5-2)
W Lamar (2-6) at Madison St. Joseph (3-5)
Lanier (3-3) at South Jones (2-4) W
W Loyd Star (6-0) at St. Andrew’s (2-4)
Magnolia Heights (3-5) at MRA (6-2) W
McLaurin (2-5) at Hazlehurst (2-4) W
Meridian (4-3) at Brandon (4-2) W
W Neshoba Central (7-0) at Jim Hill ((1-5), North Jackson
W Oxford (5-2) at Clinton (2-4)
W Pearl (6-1) at Warren Central (3-3)
Park Place (3-5) at Adams County Christian School (6-2) W
Pelahatchie (2-5) at Nanih Waiya (2-5) W
W Raymond (6-1) at South Pike (2-5)
W Ridgeland (4-2) at Vicksburg (5-2)
Rebul (0-8) at Prentiss Christian (3-5) W
W Sacred Heart (5-2) at East Rankin (3-5)
W Scott Central (7-0) at Pisgah (2-5)
W Starkville (6-0) at Murrah (1-6), South Jackson
Terry (1-6) at Oak Grove (5-1) W
W Tri-County (7-1) at Clinton Christian (2-7)
W Velma Jackson (6-1) at Puckett (4-3)
W West Jones (5-1) at Florence (1-5)