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 went 6-2 (75 percent) last season.
By Robert Wilson
Ridgeland (0-0) at Northwest Rankin (0-0)
The following stat tells it all about first-year Ridgeland coach Teddy Dyess. He has an amazing, 82.5 winning percentage (212-45) in his 20 seasons as a head coach. Only former Jackson Prep coach Ricky Black, a member of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and 2019 National Coach of the Year has a better winning percentage (83.3) among Mississippi football coaches with at least 200 victories.
Dyess wins championships, too. He has won six state titles, two as a player at Bassfield, one as an assistant coach at Madison Central, two as a head coach at Lumberton and one as a head coach at Magee last season when he went 12-0 and defeated Noxubee County 49-26 for the MHSAA Class 3A state title.
He has never had a losing season and has won at least 10 games in 15 of his 20 seasons as a head coach, averaged 10.6 wins per season.
Dyess hopes to bring some consistency to the Titans program. He is the third coach in three seasons. Dyess replaces Sam Williams, who left for Brandon after taking Ridgeland to a 10-3 record and the 5A state semifinals.
Dyess does not have back Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Player of the Year, Louisiana-Lafayette signee and quarterback Zy McDonald, who passed for 2,984 yards and 35 touchdowns and set a school record with 3,883 yards of total offense last year. But he does return 13 starters (seven on defense and six on offense), including possibly the best junior in Mississippi in talented wide receiver Ayden Williams, a member of the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Elite Eleven Preseason Team and the only junior on the team. Williams caught 58 passes for 765 yards and six TDs. He also plays defensive back.
There is also a state championship coach on the other sidelines, first-year Northwest Rankin coach Devin Cooper, who led Scott Central to a 35-6 record (85.3 winning percentage) in the last three seasons, including a 15-1 mark and MHSAA Class 2A state title in 2018, his first year at Scott Central. Prior to coming to Scott Central, Cooper was an assistant at Clinton High for six seasons and was the defensive coordinator on Clinton’s Class 6A state title team in 2016, which featured All-American Cam Akers, now with the Los Angeles Rams.
Cooper doesn’t have the numbers back that Dyess does, but he does return two players – senior running back Cam Marion and senior defensive back Jalen Nelson – who were both on the Elite Eleven Preseason Team. Marion gained 1,486 yards and scored 19 TDs and helped the Cougars to a 9-4 record and their first second-round playoff win in school history last season. Nelson had 58 tackles, 2 interceptions and 12 pass last season. Northwest Rankin has an excellent kicker in junior Christian Baglione, who was the second-team kicker on the All-Metro Jackson team last season.
Dyess should continue his winning ways at yet another school. Ridgeland has too much offense for Northwest Rankin to slow down.
Ridgeland 35, Northwest Rankin 21.
Oakland, Tenn. (1-0) at MRA (1-1), Saturday at 2 p.m.
Oakland, the defending Tennessee public school Class 6A state champions, could be one of the most talented high school football teams ever to come play in Mississippi when the Oakland visits Madison-Ridgeland Academy in one of seven games on the ESPN GEICO High School Kickoff Series televised on ESPN2. Oakland finished 15-0 and ranked No. 16 in the USA Today National Top 25 last year. Oakland finished No. 21 and MRA No. 97 in the final High School America Top 100 last season. Oakland is ranked No. 46 in the preseason MaxPreps national poll this year. By comparison, Oak Grove is the highest rated Mississippi team at No. 97. Oak Grove is rated No. 1 in Mississippi, MRA is No. 21.
Oakland defeated Hendersonville 42-7 Friday to open its season. Senior running back Jordan James is committed to Georgia and is rated as No. 3 player in Tennessee and No. 16 running back in the country in his class by 247 Sports. Jordan scored two rushing TDs and one receiving TD against Hendersonville. Senior wide receiver Isaiah Horton, a Miami commitment, is rated No. 8 player in Tennessee and No. 39 wide receiver in the country in his class by 247 Sports.
If MRA fans thought defending MAIS Class 3A state champion Greenville Christian was good – it ended MRA’s 19-game winning streak with a 58-32 victory two weeks ago to open the season – Oakland is much better.
Oakland has lost only two games – both to Maryville, Tenn. – in the last three seasons and won the 6A state title in 2018 and 2020. It has scored more than 50 points 11 times during that stretch, including 86 and 80 in 2019.
MRA regained some confidence last week with a 56-7 victory over Cathedral and welcomed the return of Under Armour All-American and senior linebacker Stone Blanton, who missed the Greenville Christian game still recovering from shoulder surgery this spring. Blanton – a member of the Elite Eleven and rated as the No. 7 player in Mississippi and the No. 34 linebacker in his class in the country by 247 Sports – started and played the first half and helped MRA to limit Cathedral to only 80 total yards. Blanton has listed Mississippi State, South Carolina, and Texas A&M as his three top choices to go play college football and baseball next season.
Jones is ranked No. 202, Blanton No. 248, and Horton No. 272 on ESPN’s Top 300 senior list in the country, possibly a first that three Top 300 players have played in the same game in Mississippi.
Despite a six-hour bus ride from Murfreesboro to Madison, Oakland shouldn’t have any trouble getting its 17th straight victory.
Oakland 42, MRA 14.
West Jones (0-0) at Madison Central (0-0)
Toby Collums, the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Coach of the Year last season for Northwest Rankin, makes his debut as the new coach at Madison Central. Collums had quite a turnaround at Northwest Rankin last season, going from 3-8 in 2019 to 9-4 last season and won a second-round playoff game for the first time in school history. He won’t have to make such a turnaround at Madison Central, but he would like to make an improvement at Jaguar Nation.
Collums begins his second decade as a head coach, with a 77-42 career record, 31-14 in four seasons at Itawamba AHS and 46-28 in six seasons at Northwest Rankin. He has had nine winning seasons.
Madison Central finished 7-4, losing to eventual Class 6A state runner-up Oxford 25-23 in the first round of the playoffs. The Jaguars lost four games by a total of 18 points. Collums has 13 returning starters, including senior tight end Blake Gunter, a member of the Elite Eleven Preseason Team. Also, two other players – senior defensive lineman C.J. Barney and senior defensive back B.J. Washington – made the All-Metro Jackson second team last season. And then there is quarterback Vic Sutton – one of the top juniors in Mississippi who has already received six Division I offers, including Arkansas from the SEC and Maryland and Virginia Tech from the ACC.
West Jones is one of the top Class 5A programs in Mississippi, winning 12, 13 and 13 games over the past three seasons and winning the 5A state title last season and being runner-up in 2018. The Mustangs come into the Jungle riding a 10-game winning streak.
The Collums era gets off to a great start with a victory over a defending state champion.
Madison Central 24, West Jones 14.
W Clinton at Ocean Springs (Thursday)
Crystal Springs at Lanier (South Jackson) (Thursday) W
Yazoo City at Callaway (North Jackson) (Thursday) W
Amite School Center (0-2) at Clinton Christian (1-1) W
Brandon at Oxford W
Canton at Velma Jackson W
W Cathedral (0-1) at Madison St. Joseph (0-1)
Columbia Academy (1-1) at East Rankin (1-0) W
W Florence at Pelahatchie
Forest Hill at Warren Central W
W Germantown at Vicksburg
W Hartfield (1-0) at Magnolia Heights (1-0)
W Jackson Academy (1-0) at Leake (1-0)
Jackson Prep (0-1) at Heritage (1-0) W
W McComb at Jim Hill (North Jackson)
Murrah at Cleveland Central W
Park Place (1-1) at Central Hinds (1-0) W
W Pearl at Gulfport
W Pisgah at Bogue Chitto
W Provine at Gautier
W Puckett at McLaurin
Raymond at Newton W
W Richland at Wingfield (South Jackson)
Rebul (0-1) at Deer Creek (0-1) W
St. Andrew’s at Loyd Star W
W Tri-County (1-0) at Bowling Green, La. (0-1)
Winston (0-1) at Canton Academy (2-0) W