MHSAA State Football Championship Predictions: Vote for the winning teams

Published 1:57 pm Thursday, November 30, 2017

With the MHSAA State Football Championship kicking off Friday at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, we asked The Oxford Eagle’s Jake Thompson and Donica Phifer to give us their take on which teams will walk away with state titles.
Check out their predictions and cast your own votes!

Class 1A: Nanih Waiya (15-0) vs. Simmons (14-0)

When: 11 a.m.FridayDec. 1

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Where: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium

Semifinals: North Half – Simmons 20, Okolona 14; South Half – Nanih Waiya 36, Resurrection Catholic 32.

Simmons returns to the Class 1A title game for the third consecutive year, and the two-time defending state champions will rely on a potent Blue Devils defense to claim a third-straight title in a battle of the unbeaten.

Simmons enters the game having allowed just four points per game, while Nanih Waiya has allowed 11 points per game. Offensively, Simmons will turn to senior running back Marquez Pam who totals 1929 yards on 198 carries and 35 touchdowns on the season. Junior running back Demarrius Turner could be another threat on the ground for Simmons as the running back has 817 yards on 80 carries for 13 rushing touchdowns.

Nanih Waiya will also feature two stout running backs that will be key to their offensive success. Senior Teamaus Glass has posted 1728 rushing yards this season for the Warriors, averaging 9 yards per carry for 26 rushing touchdowns this season. Glass’ classmate Chris Smith has also eclipsed the 1000 rushing yard mark with 1172 and 23 touchdowns.

Prediction: Simmons 35, Nanih Waiya 28

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Class 2A: Winona (11-3) vs. Taylorsville (11-2) 
When: 3 p.m. Friday Dec. 1
Where: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium
Semifinals: North Half – Winona 22, Calhoun City 14; South Half – Taylorsville 48, Collins 32
Friday afternoon’s matchup consists of a team brand new to the state championship spotlight and a team who considers this old hat. Winona is going up against a Taylorsville team that has five state championships and four more second-place finishes in 2A.
The Tartars of Taylorsville have a potent offense led by freshman quarterback Ty Keyes. Keyes has thrown for 4,223 yards and 42 touchdowns this season. Keys has also been lethal with his legs, rushing for 510 yards and eight touchdowns on just 57 carries.
Senior Tycarius Roberts leads the Tartar ground game with 923 yards and 11 touchdowns. Winona’s defense held opponents in checking, giving up just under 23 points a game. Taylorsville has an offense that is averaging 42.1 points a game. Friday’s contest will come down to who can impose their strength first and then control the game.

Prediction: Taylorsville 35, Winona 21

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Class 3A: Yazoo County (14-0) vs. Jefferson Davis (14-1)
When: 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 2
Where: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium
Semifinals: North Half – Yazoo County 59, North Panola 26; South Half – Jefferson Davis County 26, Hazlehurst 16
Whoever wins the Class 3A championship will make school history as neither the Yazoo County Panthers or the Jefferson Davis Jaguars have ever won a state title. Saturday is already historic for both teams as neither has ever played for a football state championship.
Both teams will rely heavily on their ground game in this matchup. The Panthers will turn to senior quarterback Kenny Gainwell, who has committed to Memphis, and is second on the team in rushing with 1119 yards this season. Jaguars rushing leader Jafharis McKines has 1419 yards this year with an average of 12 carries per game.
Jefferson Davis County enters the game with a stingy defense that has allowed only 17.9 points per game this season, led by Southern Mississippi commit Malik Short. Deandre Shorts and Ronald Baker will also contribute to the Panthers defense to try and stop a Yazoo County offense that has put up an average of 41.9 points per game.

Prediction: Yazoo County 41, Jefferson Davis 38

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Class 4A: Noxubee County (10-4) vs. East Central (13-0)
When: 3 p.m. Saturday Dec. 2
Where: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium
Semifinals: Noxubee County 35, Louisville 28; East Central 52, Poplarville 45
This is another game where a team joins the first timers’ club. East Central is making their debut appearance at the state championship round. Noxubee County is finding themselves in their sixth state championship game since 2007. The Tigers have won every state title they’ve played for except their first time in 2007, falling to Laurel 19-16.
Noxubee County is looking for their third state title in four years but they will have to try and slow down East Central’s Tony Brown who is riding a wave of momentum this playoff season. Brown is averaging 365 yards a game and has scored 42 rushing touchdowns this season.
East Central will have to try and control their emotions once the game begins as they are playing a Noxubee County team who has been here, done that and can treat this as any other game. The Tigers will lean on quarterback Armani Clark and his arm to get past an East Central defense that can slow opponents down.

Prediction: East Central 24, Noxubee County 17

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Class 5A: West Point (14-0) vs. Hattiesburg (14-0)

When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2

Where: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium

Semifinals: North Half – West Point 39, Olive Branch 6; South Half – Hattiesburg 33, Laurel 22

West Point, the defending Class 5A state champions, returns to the state title game to face off against a Hattiesburg team that hasn’t been in the hunt for a title since 1989, though the Tigers have never taken home the trophy.

The Green Wave boasts Mississippi State commit Marcus Murphy at running back with 1630 yards of offense earned this season for West Point and Murphy is joined by senior classmate Chris Calvert who has earned 1342 yards on the ground this season. Quarterback Jake Chambless could also provide another threat with his arm. West Point also enters the game carrying the longest winning streak in the state at 27 games and average 46.1 points per game offensively while holding opponents to only 6.9 points on the defensive side of the ball.

Hattiesburg’s points per game average sites at 48.2, led by the arm of junior quarterback Jarod Conner with his 2301 passing yards. Conner is also a threat to the ground game with 1416 rushing yards. Combined Conner has accounted for 26 touchdowns for the Tigers this season. Joining Conner will be wide receivers Darius Ruffin and DeAndre Humbles, both who are flirting with 1000 yard seasons and running back Fabian Franklin who comes in second in rushing with 734 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Prediction: West Point 28, Hattiesburg 25

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Class 6A: Starkville (13-2) vs. Pearl (15-0)
When: Friday Dec. 1 7 p.m.
Where: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium
Semifinals: Starkville 27, Madison Central 24; Pearl 52, Meridian 12
Pearl was here before just a year ago, playing Clinton and standout Cam Akers. Things did not go well for the Pirates at Davis Wade Stadium, falling to the Arrows 49-35. It as deemed Clinton’s year all season long a year ago, this year the sentiment has been bestowed upon Pearl.
The Pirates have gone undefeated and in search for redemption. Starkville is looking for their second state championship in three years after defeating Petal at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in 2015. This is only Pearl’s third state title game appearance in program history. Before 2016 the Pirates had not made it this far since 1985.
Coach John Perry has a Pirate offense led by quarterback Jake Smithhart and running back Tylan Knight. Smithart had a weapon wide receiver — and Mississippi State commit — Johnquarise Patterson. Pearl’s defense has held opponents to under 10 points a game (9.5) while be able to score at will.
Starkville is paced by running back Malik Brown and their 187 yards per game on the ground. Brown has help from running backs Andreaus Swanigan and Rodrigues Clark in the ground attack. It could be a low scoring game as Starkville has held opponents to just two points more than Pearl has per game at 11.2.

Prediction: Pearl 21, Starkville 18

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