MRA (11-0) vs. JACKSON ACADEMY (10-3)
Kickoff: Saturday, 1 p.m., at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Satdium
Jackson Academy at a Glance
Coach: Lance Pogue
State Championships: 2011, 2010, 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2001, 1996, 1995.
State Championship Appearances: 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2007, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 1998, 1996, 1995, 1984.
Players to Watch: QB Jackson Conn; RB Marcus Harris; WR Dan Smith; LB Donovan Veasley; DB Lardarius Webb.
How they got here: def. Parklane Academy 35-7; def. Jackson Prep 28-21.
Coach Speak: “It has been a long road and taken a lot of lumps to get back here. JA hadn’t beaten Prep since 2013 and to get that off our back, but now we got turn around get ready for a really good MRA team,” Pogue said. “We got our work cut out for us and that’s what it should be. They do a really good of taking what you give them defensively and that’s what coaching is all about and we got to prevent the deep ball. Offensively we got to score points and we are playing our best ball right now and we have to be balanced on offense and not one-dimensional.”
MRA at a Glance
Coach: Herbert Davis
State Championships: 2019, 2004, 1992.
State Championship Appearances: 2019, 2018, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2010, 2008, 2006, 2004, 2003, 2002, 1997, 1992, 1985.
Players to Watch: QB Zach Beasley; RB Rayf Vinson; RB Tylor Latham; WR Davis Dalton; LB Stone Blanton.
How they got here: First Round Bye; def. PCS 42-14.
Coach Speak: “JA has some playmakers and we’re going to definitely going to have to our job of keeping them in front and not give up the big play,” Davis said. “Last time we did a great job of stopping the run and we have to do that again this week. In a big game like this you cannot turn the ball over. We got to go out and do like we’ve been doing and execute.”
Buzz: Jackson Academy is playing their best football at the right time, but MRA has been on a roll all season long and has been on a mission to get back to the state championship and hoist that blue trophy for a second straight year. The Patriots beat the Raiders 20-10 back on Sept. 4 in the first district game of the season. Offensively, MRA is averaging 38.7 points per game, 181 yards rushing per game and 214 yards passing per game anchored by quarterback Zach Beasley along with running backs Rayf Vinson and Tylor Latham. Receiver Davis Dalton has 14 touchdowns and is the big target for the Patriots on the outside. Four-star junior linebacker Stone Blanton leads the defense for MRA that only gives up 12.4 points per game. Jackson Academy has been rolling over the last month averaging 37.5 points per game offensively along with 186.9 yards rushing per game and 139.2 yards passing per game led by quarterback Jackson Conn along with running back Marcus Harris and receiver Dan Smith. Linebacker Donovan Veasley and defensive back Lardarius Webb leads the defense that gives up 18 points per game. This will be a close game, but the Patriots repeat with too much offense.
Pick: MRA 28-21
LEAKE ACADEMY (12-0) vs. ADAMS CHRISTIAN (10-2)
Kickoff: Thursday, 7 p.m., at Jackson Academy
Leake Academy at a Glance
Coach: Brian Pickens
State Championships: None.
State Championship Appearances: 2010, 1975, 1974.
Players to Watch: QB Rhett Atkinson; WR/DB Thomas Cheatham; RB/DB Riley Myers; TE/DE Jarrett Watkins; RB/DB Canon Parks; RB Whitt Welch.
How they got here: First Round Bye; def. Hartfield Academy 42-35; def. Lamar School 45-14.
Coach Speak: “This group has been a very hard-working group all season and every week they’ve worked to get better. Another big thing with this team is how they respond adversity during a game and as a coach it’s fun to watch,” Pickens said. “ACCS is a hard nose football team and they going to run the ball right at us, so we have to match their physicality on both offense and defense. They are so physical on defense and have been controlling the line of scrimmage all season and our offensive line is going to have to step up. Offensively we have to be patient and take what the defense gives us. It is going to be four quarters of hard nose football.”
Adams Christian at a Glance
Coach: David King
State Championships: 2018, 1982.
State Championship Appearances: 2018, 2016, 2014, 1982.
Players to Watch: RB/LB Corey Sewell; RB/DE Blake LaPrairie; OL/DL Kamron Barnes; OL/DL Kyron Barnes; QB/DB Tripp Cotton.
How they got here: First Round Bye; def. Pillow Academy 30-17; def. Heritage Academy 22-20.
Coach Speak: “We’ve battled some injuries this year and basically have played the year without a quarterback. We took some losses early in the year and grew up from those games and gotten it together along with kids in the right spots,” King said. “We’ve had two really had two physical playoff games with Pillow and Heritage. Leake is the cream and the crop in our league, so we feel like we don’t have the stress on us and we’re going to enjoy this week. We’ve got to have to handle the pressure of playing in the game and also Leake is so quick and physical and well coached. We’ve got to stay in the game in the first half and let our kids know they can believe and that’s the key.”
Buzz: Coming into the season there was not much talk about neither of these two teams playing for the state championship, yet here we are as it will be an all-Rebel matchup on Thursday night. Leake Academy is back in the state championship game for the first time since 2010 and seeking their first state championship in football. The Rebels have been on a roll all season on offense averaging 41.5 points per game, 231 yards rushing per game and 128.5 yards passing per game anchored by quarterback Rhett Atkinson, running backs Whitt Welch, Canon Parks and Riley Myers. Receivers Levi Brown and Thomas Cheatham have been huge for the Rebels all year. Adams Christian will heavily on the run game led by running backs Corey Sewell and Blake LaPrairie. The ACCS defense only allows 18.9 points per game and has carried the team most of the year. The Leake defense anchored by Jarrett Watkins, Gunter Scott along with Myers and Cheatham are the difference.
Pick: Leake Academy 35-21
RIVERFIELD (LA.) (11-1) vs. WAYNE ACADEMY (9-3)
Kickoff: Friday, 3 p.m., at Jackson Academy
Riverfield (La.) at a Glance
Coach: Kyle Stracener
State Championships: 2019, 1991, 1977.
State Championship Appearances: 2019, 2011, 1991, 1977.
Players to Watch: RB Hudson Brakefield; QB Trent Ginn; LB Bailyn Sorensen; WR/S Ty Skeldon; LB Ryan Albritton.
How they got here: First Round Bye; def. Canton Academy 40-14; def. Winston Academy 49-22.
Coach Speak: “This doesn’t get old and this year it has been no different. We’ve played very well the latter part of the season and the kids are playing really well right now” Stracener said. “What’s crazy in this game is both teams like to run the ball. We’re going to have to hang onto the football as much as we like to run the ball. Hudson and Trent do such a great job with the ball in their hands and we will need them to step up again Friday. Defensively we’ve got to stop the run and they got a big offensive front. Stopping the run has been a strong point for us this year and this game plays into what we like to do.”
Wayne Academy at a Glance
Coach: Todd Mangum
State Championships: 1999, 1998.
State Championship Appearances: 1999, 1998.
Players to Watch: QB Stone Ross; RB/LB Cross Kittrell; RB/DE Will Hodo; OL Lowery Skinner; LB Davion Woulard; LB Colin Trigg.
How they got here: First Round Bye; def. Tri-County Academy 28-10; def. Brookhaven Academy 49-21.
Coach Speak: “It’s such a great opportunity for the kids because I tell them all the time things like this don’t happen every year and need to take advantage of the opportunity,” Mangum said. “Riverfield is outstanding and they have an outstanding team that likes to run the ball and play good defense. Two characteristics in winning programs is running the football and playing good defense and they do both. We got to get them to third and long defensively and slow down the run, on offense we got to execute on third down and make them defend the whole field.”
Buzz: This will be an old-school style football game when the Jaguars and Raiders meet for the 4A state title on Friday afternoon. Both teams like to run the ball. Riverfield, the defending 4A state champions, is led by a potent tandem in quarterback Trent Ginn and running back Hudson Brakefield to lead the offense that averages 34.5 points per game. Brett Whorton will also see time in the backfield and receiver Ty Skeldon is one to watch for the Raiders. Linebackers Bailyn Sorensen and Ryan Albritton lead the Riverfield defense that only allows 10.9 points per game. Wayne Academy is also led by a ground game that is led by quarterback Stone Ross along with running backs Cross Kittrell and Will Hodo. The Jaguars are averaging 35.2 points per game offensively. Linebackers Davion Woulard and Colin Trigg along with Hodo and Kittrell lead the Wayne Academy defense that gives up just 20.1 points per game. Experience is always key in state championship games and that edge goes to Riverfield.
Pick: Riverfield (La.) 31-20
CARROLL ACADEMY (11-0) vs. GREENVILLE CHRISTIAN (10-1)
Kickoff: Friday, 7 p.m., at Jackson Academy
Carroll Academy at a Glance
Coach: Bo Milton
State Championships: 1990.
State Championship Appearances: 1998, 1990, 1989, 1984.
Players to Watch: OL/DL Cooper Beck; OL/DL Hunter Brower; RB/LB Hunter Brackin; WR/FS Braxton York; QB Brennan Blaylock
How they got here: First Round Bye; def. Glenbrook (La.) 42-16; def. Greenville St. Joseph 15-6.
Coach Speak: “Our kids, school, community is excited it’s been 22 years since we’ve played for a state championship and 30 years since we won one and a lot of these kids that are playing their parents were playing that was on 1990 state championship team,” Milton said. “We are who we are, and we will get after you on both sides of the ball. We try to dominate upfront with the offensive and defensive line. Offensively we run the ball and opened up the passing game a little bit more this year. We got to be satisfied with 4-5 yards at a time and just get first downs and score. Defensively we got some good athletes that just get after it and swarm to the football. Greenville has a lot of playmakers all over the field and starts with their quarterback and we got to contain him and not give up the big play.
Greenville Christian at a Glance
Coach: Jon Reed McClendon
State Championships: 1982.
State Championship Appearances: 1993, 1982.
Players to Watch: QB Deandre Smith; RB Marlon Palmer; WR Daylin Metcalf; LB Daishun Scott; DE J.D. Stewart.
How they got here: First Round Bye; def. Indianola Academy 26-6; def. Winona Christian 50-7.
Coach Speak: “It’s an honor to get back here and it was before I was even born that Greenville Christian played for a state championship,” McClendon said. “It’s been a lot of fun to just watch these kids play and special group with super talented kids that have made my job as a coach a lot easier. Friday it will be two teams with different styles, we like to throw the ball around and they like to run. Those games are more challenging because they are completely opposite of us. We have to step up and be physical on defense and on offense we will have to score just about every time we get the ball. Their key is going to be controlling the clock and keeping our offense off the field.”
Buzz: Both teams are back in the state championship game for the first time in 20 years or more. This matchup will be between two teams that run completely different offenses. Carroll Academy is back in the state title game for the first time since 1998 and seeking first state title since 1990. The Rebels will be led by a fierce rushing attack that is anchored by quarterback Brennan Blaylock and running back Hunter Brackin to carry the offense that averages 39.6 points per game. Receiver Braxton York is the key target on the outside. Offensive/defensive linemen Cooper Beck is one to watch for Carroll that only gives up 6.8 points per game. Greenville Christian is led by a explosive offense that averages 39.7 points per game anchored by promising junior quarterback Deandre Smith along with running back Marlon Palmer and receiver Daylin Metcalf. Linebacker Daishun Scott and defensive end J.D. Stewart lead a defense that only gives up 12.1 points per game. The Saints offense just too much.
Pick: Greenville Christian 38-24
MANCHESTER ACADEMY (12-0) vs. RIVERDALE (LA.) (8-3)
Kickoff: Thursday, 3 p.m., at Jackson Academy
Manchester Academy at a Glance
Coach: Bryan Dendy
State Championships: 2019, 1984, 1983.
State Championship Appearances: 2019, 2018, 2000, 1984, 1983, 1981.
Players to Watch: QB/DB Jon Riley Poe; RB/DB Michael Williams; RB/DB Parks Poe; FB/DE Dylan Dendy; OL/DL Reese Ragland; OL/DL Tyler Johnson.
How they got here: First Round Bye; def. Sharkey-Issaquena 54-8; def. Humphreys Academy 52-12.
Coach Speak: “These seniors come to practice every day, work hard, have a good attitude and a mind set for our younger players and I’m proud of them for what they’ve accomplished,” Dendy said. “Experience is a good teacher. Two years ago we got to this game and lost, last year we were able to win it so experience helps and hopefully it will help us again this year. Riverdale has a lot of speed and we’ve got to tackle in space. We got 11 seniors on this team and it’s a special group and very proud to have them with the leadership they provide.”
Riverdale (La.) at a Glance
Coach: Jared Smelser
State Championships: None.
State Championship Appearances: First appearance.
Players to Watch: QB Witt Almond; WR/DB Parker Almond; RB/LB Paul Messenger; WR/LB Jake Messenger; TE/LB Ty Jones; DE Brennan Edie; OL/DL Denver Williams
How they got here: First Round Bye; def. Delta Streets Academy 50-24; def. Delta Academy 30-14.
Coach Speak: “The state championship game is the goal of every team. It’s about working hard, desire, heart, and passion. It’s an amazing feeling when your players buy into your coaching philosophy and start to see that their goal can be a reality. They realize that there is still more work to be done and what it must take to win,” Smelser said. “We face a great team in the championship game. Coach Dendy is a great coach and has his players all-in. It’s hard to find any weaknesses with his teams. This is what you look forward to, to play the best. We have to play great football. Minimize any mistakes, match their physicality, and play with intensity in order to be successful on offense and defense.”
Buzz: Manchester has been on a mission the last two seasons and this year has been no different. The Mavericks are led by an explosive offense that averaging 50.8 points per game anchored by quarterback Jon Riley Poe along with running backs Michael Williams and Parks Poe and fullback Dylan Dendy. Manchester defensively is only allowing 7.5 points per game. Riverdale is in the state championship for the first time as a member of the MAIS. The Rebels are averaging 36 points per game led by quarterback Witt Almond along with running back Paul Messenger and receivers Parker Almond and Jake Messenger. The Maverick offense too much.
Pick: Manchester Academy 40-20
BRIARFIELD (LA.) (10-0) vs. TALLULAH (LA.) (8-3)
Kickoff: Friday, 11 a.m., at Jackson Academy
Briarfield (La.) at a Glance
Coach: Beau Travis
State Championships: 2019, 2017.
State Championship Appearances: 2019, 2017, 2006.
Players to Watch: QB/DB T.J. Baker; RB/LB Crews Fortenberry; WR/LB Markaylon Carroway; OL/DL Noah Payne.
How they got here: def. Tensas (La.) 50-26; def. Wilkinson Christian 50-35.
Coach Speak: “It’s been a weird season with us having played just one game in one month and now this late in the year we are starting to hit our stride,” Travis said. “Playing our rival for state championship for the first time is always big. As long as we can stick to our game plan and do what we do and we’ve been here before then everything else will take care of itself.”
Tallulah (La.) at a Glance
Coach: Bart Wood
State Championships: 2015, 2016, 2018.
State Championship Appearances: 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018.
Players to Watch: RB/LB Walker Sullivan; RB/LB Carter Sullivan; TE/DE Marsh Wood; OL/DL Jacob Martin; OL/DL Gentry Tullos.
How they got here: def. North Sunflower 50-30; def. Desoto (Ark.) 70-52`.
Coach Speak: “These teams know each other so well that there’s not much you can change or do different. I think it’s great we finally meet in the state championship,” Wood said. “We’re 30 miles apart the kids know each other well. We’ve got to play assignment football and solid defense. Offensively we do what we got to do and that’s run the ball up the middle. That’s how we play. We got to grind out drives and keep their offense off the field and another thing is we have to get a turnover.”
Buzz: Briarfield and Tallulah have combined won the last five state championships in 8-Man and this is the first time that the Rebels and Spartans will play each other for the state championship. These two District 3-1A teams played back on Sept. 25 that saw Briarfield winning 16-6. Offensively, Tallulah is averagagin 35.7 points per game and will be led by a potent rushing attack led by the Sullivan twins in Walker and Carter. Briarfield, the defending Class 1A state champions, is a more explosive offense averaging 45.6 points per game led by quarterback T.J. Baker and receiver Markaylon Carroway. The Rebel defense only gives up 14.3 points per game led by linebacker Crews Fortenberry and comes up big late
Pick: Briarfield (La.) 27-17