December 28, 2017 10:22:43 AM
1. West Point repeats as Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 5A State champions in football. Behind senior quarterback Marcus Murphy and senior running back Chris Calvert, coach Chris Chambless' squad won all 15 games it played, including a 41-15 victory against Hattiesburg in the state championship game in Oxford.
2. Noxubee County football team continues its decade of dominance. Coach Tyrone Shorter's squad won its fourth state championship this decade with a 41-35 victory against East Central in the MHSAA Class 4A State championship game in Oxford. Just like the 2015 state championship squad, Noxubee County battled back from a 2-4 start to the season. This time, the Tigers rode the arm of senior quarterback Armoni Clark and the pass-catching talent of junior Kyziah Pruitt to win nine-straight games to finish 11-4.
3. Columbus made news during the offseason when Columbus Municipal School District Superintendent Dr. Philip Hickman elected not to renew the contract for football coach Randal Montgomery after four seasons. The Falcons made back-to-back playoff appearances for the second time in program history with back-to-back first-round Class 6A playoff losses in 2015 and 2016. After the graduation of Mississippi State signee Kylin Hill and Southern Mississippi signee Tahj Sykes, the Falcons slipped to a 2-9 in 2017. Columbus lost its final six games.
4. Starkville football team returns to the state's biggest stage. The Yellow Jackets were back in the football state championship game after missing the playoffs in 2016. Starkville lost a heart-breaker as Pearl scored in the final minute to record a 21-17 victory in Oxford. Junior running back Rodrigues Clark and junior linebacker Zach Edwards already give the Yellow Jackets a nice starting point for what should be a loaded squad in coach Chris Jones' second season. Jones' first squad finished 13-3.
5. After an upset loss in the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) Class AAA playoffs in 2016, the Starkville Academy Volunteers beats reigning state champion Indianola Academy 21-14 in overtime in Jackson. With senior quarterback Noah Methvin helping engineer the championship game win, coach Chase Nicholson's third squad won the final 11 games to finish 13-1.
6. Starkville celebrates its first girls basketball state championship since the 1992 season. In March, Starkville dropped a heart-breaking 57-54 decision to Olive Branch in the MHSAA Class 5A State championship game in Jackson. Kelsey Jones was the lone senior on the team as the Southern Mississippi signee helped lead the Lady Jackets to Jackson for a third straight year. Later in the year, the MHSAA vacated Olive Branch's championship due to the participation of an ineligible player and awarded it to Starkville.
7. West Lowndes makes another run at a state championship in boys basketball. West Lowndes fell to Ashland 71-67 in the quarterfinals of the MHSAA Class 1A state tournament played at Jackson State University. Torrey Dale coached the Panthers last season. He has since left for Durant High. Nick Christy, who was an assistant coach for Dale last season, is coaching the team this season. A year prior, Danny Crawford led West Lowndes to the state championship game -- a 60-49 loss to Ashland.
8. Few baseball programs have been as dominant as New Hope High School. Coach Lee Boyd's team made another run in the MHSAA Class 5A playoffs earlier this year, with a series loss to Oxford in the North State Championship. Oxford and New Hope have formed quite the rivalry. This time, Oxford eliminated New Hope with 5-4 and 11-5 wins to take the best-of-three series. Led by senior Thomas Stevens, New Hope finished 21-14.
9. If it is postseason time in volleyball, it's a safe bet coach Samantha Brooks will have her Caledonia squad involved in the activity. This season, Caledonia dropped a 3-0 decision to New Albany in the first round of the MHSAA Class II playoffs. Led by senior Bailie Cross, Caledonia finished 25-11.
10. Robert Woodard II signs a scholarship offer with MSU in the opening month of the basketball season. A three-time Dandy Dozen selection, Woodard II continues to excel on the court for Columbus. In his sophomore season, Columbus won its first MHSAA Class 6A boys basketball state championship. A year ago, a young Columbus squad finished 16-11. This season, new coach Anthony Carlyle again has the Falcons flying high. A chance to play for another gold ball would be a fitting end for a standout career by Woodard II.
-- Scott Walters
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter
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