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 19-9 record (67.8 percent) last week and is 25-11 (69.4 percent) this season.
By Robert Wilson
Toby Collums and Sam Williams had similar games in their new head coaching debuts at Madison Central and Brandon against two very difficult opponents, but in the end had different results.
Collums’ Madison Central team jumped out to a 21-0 lead over defending MHSAA Class 5A state champion West Jones in the first 1 ½ quarters, watched West Jones rally to tie it at 21-21 before the Jaguars scored early in the fourth quarter and hung on for a 27-21 victory.
Williams’ Brandon team led 14-7 at halftime, watched 2020 MHSAA Class 6A runner-up Oxford score 17 points in the second half while the Bulldogs couldn’t get in the end zone, and Oxford won 24-17.
The two former coaches with strong Northwest Rankin ties meet against each other Friday at 7 at the Jungle in Madison.
Collums, the 2020 Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Coach of the Year, came to Madison from Northwest Rankin where he led the Cougars to a 9-4 record last season in one of the biggest turnarounds in Mississippi, coming from 3-8 in 2019 and winning a second-round playoff game for the first time in school history. Collums has a 78-42 record, 31-14 in four seasons at Itawamba AHS and 46-28 in six seasons at Northwest Rankin.
Williams played at Northwest Rankin and at Mississippi State and coached at Northwest Rankin for five seasons as a receivers and special teams coach, including three years at offensive coordinator, two years with Collums. Williams left Northwest Rankin to take his first head coaching job at Pelahatchie. He had a 27-11 record at Pelahatchie and took the Chiefs to the Class 2A playoffs each season. Williams then went to Ridgeland where he led the Titans to an 10-3 record and the Class 5A semifinals behind senior quarterback Zy McDonald, the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Football Player of the Year.
Now, the successful coaches try to do their magic at new places. Madison Central finished 7-4 last season, 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 Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson 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.
Sutton, who completed 10 of 18 passes for 117 yards and three touchdowns, had the game-winner Friday. He completed a 10-yard TD pass to Gunter with 9 minutes, 36 seconds to play.
Brandon finished 5-6 last season, but returns 15 starters, including junior-to-be offensive lineman Luke Rogers, brother of former Brandon quarterback and Mississippi State freshman school record-setting quarterback Will Rogers. Luke Rogers made the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard All Metro Jackson second team.
Sophomore quarterback Landon Varnes, making his first high school start, passed for 134 yards and one touchdown and junior running back Jarvis Durr had 77 rushing yards and 45 receiving yards against Oxford. Senior Braylon Washington also returned a fumble for a score.
Madison Central and Brandon are two of the most winningest Class 6A football programs in the past six seasons. Madison Central has won 56 and Brandon 55 games over that time, which is third and fourth behind Starkville (61) and Oak Grove (57).
This game will finish like the way both teams did last week, with Madison Central scoring in the fourth quarter to pull out a victory.
Madison Central 21, Brandon 17.
Lake Charles (La.) College Prep (0-0) at Germantown (1-0)
This game was scheduled because Germantown’s opponent, Canton, had covid issues and Lake Charles’ opponent, Plaquemine High located near Baton Rouge, had Hurricane Ida issues. A friend of one of Germantown’s coaches had a connection with Lake Charles and helped get the game scheduled, Germantown coach Scott Brown said.
The rescheduled game will feature two of the best senior running backs in the country in Germantown’s Branson Robinson, a Georgia commitment and rated as the No. 1 player in Mississippi and the No. 3 running back in the country by 247 Sports, and Lake Charles Prep’s TreVonte Citizen, rated as the No. 10 player in Louisiana and the No. 11 running back in the country by 247 Sports.
Robinson – a member of the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Elite Eleven – had 140 yards on 17 carries and two TDs in Germantown’s 34-14 victory over Vicksburg in the season opener. An Under Armour All-American All-Star Game selection, the 5-10, 220-pound Robinson gained 1,179 yards with 15 TDs last season for the Mavericks. He had one of the best games by a running back in Mississippi last season when he gained 281 yards and scored five TDs in a 72-38 victory over Cleveland Central. Robinson announced this summer he verbally committed to Georgia after narrowing his final three choices to Georgia, defending national champion Alabama and Tennessee.
The 6-foot, 215-pound Citizen had 615 yards and six TDs last season. Also a starting linebacker, he had 66 tackles a year ago. He picked LSU over Arkansas, Texas, Texas A&M and Southern Cal. He will be primarily used as a running back this year, according to Lake Charles coach Eric Franklin. “TreVonte wants 2,000 yards and I’m going to feed him just like we’ve been doing,’” said Franklin to KPLCTV.com. “He played both ways so much for us the last two years, it’s his time to get the ball so we’re going to feed him like we need to.”
Lake Charles finished 9-1 last season, losing to Union Parish 43-42 when Union Parish made a two-point conversion with 20 seconds to play in the LHSAA Class 3A semifinals. Lake Charles – which averaged 38.6 points with a high of 73 last season – finished ranked No. 38 in Louisiana, three spots behind Arch Manning’s Newman team, in MaxPreps. Lake Charles is ranked No. 3 in 3A and No. 25 in Louisiana this season.
Lake Charles also has senior wide receiver and Louisiana Tech commit Keshon Jackson, rated No. 39 in Louisiana by 247 Sports, on its offense.
Lake Charles’ defense, which has nine returning starters, is led by four-star recruit and junior cornerback Curly Reed, rated as the No. 9 best junior in Louisiana. Reed has 10 Division I offers, including LSU and Mississippi State.
Germantown, which finished 4-5 last season, is ranked No. 16 in MHSAA Class 6A and No. 36 in Mississippi by MaxPreps. The Mavericks are led on defense by 6-8, 335-pound senior defensive lineman Zxavian Harris, an Ole Miss commit and Elite Eleven selection who rated as the No. 4 player in Mississippi and No. 24 defensive lineman in the country by 247 Sports. He had 48 tackles, 9 for loss, 4 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 1 fumble recovery last season for the Mavericks. Germantown is the only team in Mississippi with two players rated in the Top 20 players in Mississippi by 247 Sports.
Lake Charles has to travel 4 ½ hours to get to Germantown. The long trip and Germantown being a much bigger school should give Germantown the edge. Germantown’s Robinson and Lake Charles’ Citizen both have great games, but the Mavs come out on top.
Germantown 28, Lake Charles 27.
Ridgeland (1-0) at Pearl (0-1)
Three members of the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Metro Jackson Elite Eleven – Pearl’s Jeremy Jackson and Jerry Johnson and Ridgeland’s Ayden Williams – will be playing in this game as the Class 5A Titans will try to take down their second straight Class 6A team from Rankin County.
Williams had five catches for 100 yards and two TDs in Ridgeland’s 42-26 victory over Northwest Rankin in Teddy Dyess’ debut at Ridgeland’s head coach. A pair of new Titans – Magee transfer and senior quarterback Thomas Dyess (Teddy’s son) and Forest transfer and junior running back Kamari Payne – had big games last week. Dyess passed for 219 yards and three TDs and Payne ran for 167 yards on 30 carries and two TDs.
Williams caught 58 passes for 765 yards and six TDs and helped the Titans to a 10-3 record and the Class 5A semifinals and their best season since 2010. He is rated as the No. 25 best wide receiver in the country by ESPN in his class. A selection to the 2022 Under All-American All-Star Game, Williams already has offers from Power 5 schools Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Florida from the SEC, Oregon from the Pac 12, and Florida State from the ACC.
Dyess was a backup quarterback to Class 3A Mississippi Player of the Year and Southern Miss signee Chandler Pittman last season for the 3A state champion Magee team. A backup kicker last year, Dyess is Ridgeland’s kicker this season and made all 6 of his extra point attempts in the season opener. Payne had 169 yards and four TDs in a backup role last season at Forest.
Gulfport scored with 13 seconds to play to edge Pearl 13-12 in the season opener last week. Pearl outgained Gulfport 285 total yards to 96. Pearl senior linebacker Trystin Carpenter had 13 tackles, two for losses, and 5-10, 290-pound Jackson had six tackles and three sacks and was a big reason why Gulfport had zero passing yards. Pearl’s offensive star was senior running back Jamari Thompson, who had 132 yards and two TDs on 24 carries. Johnson – who is one of the most versatile players in Mississippi and has played wide receiver, running back, quarterback, cornerback and safety and returns punts and kickoffs in his career – had 98 passing yards and 50 rushing yards.
Johnson caught 49 passes for 379 yards and two TDs, ran 52 times for 340 yards and three TDs and completed 7 of 8 passes for 197 yards and four TDs and intercepted four passes as a junior. Johnson won the Class 6A state long jump last spring, ran on the relays, and played on Pearl’s basketball team.
Jackson had 50 tackles, an amazing 25 for loss, with 5 sacks for the Pirates last season. He had 10 tackles, 5 for loss, and 2 sacks in Pearl’s 15-7 upset of Brandon in the Rankin County Super Bowl last season.
Dyess, Williams and Payne have too much firepower for the Pirates.
Ridgeland 35, Pearl 21.
MRA (1-2) at Pulaski (Ark.) Academy (1-0)
Two-time defending MAIS Class 6A state champion Madison-Ridgeland makes one of its longest football road trips in history with a five-hour trip to Little Rock to play two-time defending Arkansas Class 5A state champion Pulaski Academy, the third defending state champion MRA has played in four games. MRA lost 31-13 last week to defending Tennessee Class 6A state champion Oakland, which came into the game ranked No. 46 in the nation in MaxPreps preseason poll and lost 58-32 to defending MAIS Class 3A state champion Greenville Christian in the season opener.
Pulaski has won six state titles in the past seven years and is riding a 23-game winning streak. Pulaski – ranked No. 2 in Arkansas and No. 99 in the nation by MaxPreps – opened the season with a 69-22 victory Friday night and has averaged 53 points per game over the past two seasons. Pulaski is led by senior running back and Northwestern commit Joseph Himon II, rated the No. 9 player in Arkansas by MaxPreps. Pulaski’s long time coach Kevin Kelley – known across the country for his philosophy of rarely punting and trying onside kicks often – is now the head coach at Presbyterian College in South Carolina. Kelly’s successor, former Arkansas and NFL wide receiver Anthony Lucas, took over this season after nine seasons as wide receivers coach. Lucas said he will continue coaching like Kelley, who won nine state titles in 18 seasons.
This will be second full game for MRA’s Under Armour senior linebacker Stone Blanton – a member of the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Metro Jackson Elite Eleven. Blanton missed the Greenville Christian game and only played the first half of MRA’s 56-7 victory over Cathedral. Blanton, rated as the No. 7 player in Mississippi by 247 Sports, was double teamed for most of the game by Oakland, but his presence on the field made a difference and kept Oakland from scoring its average. Oakland scored more than 50 points 11 times in the past two seasons and only scored less than 30 points once last season.
MRA scored twice in the fourth quarter when sophomore quarterback John White completed TD passes to senior Street Toler and sophomore Matt Latham.
The road trip combined with Pulaski’s offense will be too much for MRA.
Pulaski 45, MRA 28.
Amite School Center (0-3) at Central Hinds (2-0) W
W Cathedral (0-2) at Park Place (1-1)
Clinton Christian (2-1) at Adams County Christian (1-1) W
Copiah (2-0) at Pelahatchie (1-0) W
East Rankin (2-0) at Madison St. Joseph (1-1) W
Forest Hill (0-1) at South Jones (0-0) W
Jackson Prep (0-2) at Greenville St. Joseph (1-0) W
W Jim Hill (1-0) at Port Gibson (0-0)
Leake County (0-1) at Puckett (1-0) W
Loyd Star (1-0) at McLaurin (0-1) W
Northwest Rankin (0-1) at Clinton (0-1) W
Philadelphia (0-1) at Raymond (1-0) W
Pillow (2-0) at Hartfield (2-0) W
W Pisgah (0-1) at Richton (0-1)
W Richland (1-0) at Florence (0-1)
St. Andrew’s (0-1) at St. Patrick (0-1) W
W Tensas, La. (0-2) at Rebul (0-2)
W Tri-County (2-0) at Central Holmes Christian (0-2)
W Velma Jackson (1-0) at Yazoo County (1-0)
W Wayne (1-1) at Hillcrest (1-2)
W Callaway (0-1) at Murrah (0-1) (Saturday) (Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium)
Lanier (1-0) at Provine (0-1) W (Saturday) (Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium)