Two teams currently sitting in a three-way tie for the lead in their district collide tonight to highlight the schedule of prep football games.
West Point, the No. 6 team in the AP Mississippi Top 10 and No. 1 in Class 5A, visits Cleveland Central with first place on the line. The third team in that tie, Columbus, will host Lafayette, which has split its first two district games.
Fourth-ranked Starkville faces yet another test when the Yellow Jackets head north to Tupelo for a key Class 6A-2 battle.
Lafayette (4-2, 1-1 MHSAA 5A-1) at Columbus (3-3, 2-0): In their three wins, the Falcons have allowed 12 points; in their three losses, that number is 95. The Commodores statistically have been in between, averaging 22 points per game. Junior Jayden Reed leads Lafayette in rushing with 685 yards; the Commodores, ranked fifth in Class 5A, have generated just more than two-thirds of their offense on the ground. That makes them vulnerable to a Columbus defense which has been on a roll, holding New Hope and Greenville to a combined 6 points in their first two district games.
Heritage Academy (8-0, 3-0 MAIS 5A-1) at Magnolia Heights (3-4, 1-2): Nothing on the Chiefs’ resume suggests they will be the ones to pin a loss on the Patriots. Junior Ross Johnson has had four games of 100 or more rushing yards, but the Magnolia Heights passing game has produced as many interceptions as touchdowns with six apiece. Heritage, ranked third among the state’s private schools, is already the only unbeaten team in district play. Looking for a telling common opponent? Try Starkville Academy. Heritage blanked their biggest rival 30-0, while the Chiefs were crushed 35-14 by the Volunteers last week.
Greenville (1-4, 0-2 MHSAA 5A-1) at New Hope (2-2, 0-2): While both of these teams dropped their first two district games, the Trojans might have a bit more reason for optimism than the Hornets tonight. New Hope put up a ton of points before starting district play, but Greenville’s best offensive game, 26 points against Greenwood, came against a team that has allowed more than 40 twice. Each has faced Columbus: New Hope allowed 10 points to the Falcons, the Hornets allowed 28. None of that will dictate what happens tonight, but after facing the brutal Columbus and West Point defenses the past two weeks, the Trojans will be relieved to be facing anybody else.
Starkville (6-0, 2-0 MHSAA 6A-2) at Tupelo (5-1, 1-1): We were so close to this being a titanic battle of unbeatens until the Golden Wave was shut down by Oxford last week, 22-6. The Yellow Jackets, No. 4 in the AP Mississippi Top 10, are not making it easy on themselves, repeatedly falling behind and then rallying to win behind the magic of sophomore quarterback Trey Petty, who has plenty of quality weapons. But Tupelo will be a challenge, evidenced by scoring 38 points against a Columbus team that has allowed 69 in its other five games. Still, the feeling is that the Golden Wave will need a pretty big lead going into the fourth quarter to feel secure.
West Point (3-2, 2-0 MHSAA 5A-1) at Cleveland Central (3-2, 2-0): Two of the three 2-0 teams in the district collide in Cleveland, and they could not be more different. While West Point’s offense wears down opponents, it’s the defense you notice: The Green Wave have surrendered 19 points in three games, all to Noxubee County, and have blanked Lafayette and New Hope in the past two games. Cleveland Central, meanwhile, has had games of 51, 42 and 42 points. The issue for the Wolves is strength of schedule. Their opponents are a combined 9-20, and the only one with a winning record is Class 4A Clarksdale (3-2). Beating Noxubee County and shutting out Lafayette and New Hope just looks better on a resume.
Kemper County (4-2, 1-0 MHSAA 2A-5) at Noxubee County (3-3, 1-0 3A-4): Surprisingly, the common opponent in this matchup of a 2A and a 3A school is a 4A school: Louisville, the top-ranked team in the class. Looking for clues there is pointless, as the Wildcats lost 41-7 and the Tigers lost 42-6. Don’t bother looking at recent history, either, as the teams haven’t met since 2016. KC senior Aaron Steele has proved himself dangerous, throwing for 899 yards and rushing for 878. His favorite passing target is senior Jamar Grace, who is averaging nearly 20 yards per catch and has 7 TDs.
Starkville Academy (4-3, 1-1 MAIS 5A-1) at Pillow Academy (4-3, 1-1): These two have played every year since 2013, and the Mustangs have won six of those eight to take a 16-12 lead in the series. But Pillow has lost back-to-back games, allowing 90 points in the process, while the Vols have won two in a row in resounding fashion. Despite winning records, both teams have allowed a few more points than they have scored. The game means a lot to both teams, and as each have Bayou Academy on the upcoming schedule, second place in the district is within reach of the winner.
“We’re looking forward to a great ball game,” Vols coach Chase Nicholson said. “It’s always a battle against Pillow. Should be a lot of fun.”
Oak Hill Academy (3-4, 2-1 MAIS 4A-1) at Carroll Academy (3-4, 0-2 MAIS 4A-2): The Rebels are on a three-game skid, but don’t think Raiders coach Bill Rosenthal is looking past them.
“Carroll is big and physical,” he said. “Run power on offense and are very good on defense. Kicking game is very good. They played for the state championship last year.”
That they did, going 12-0 before losing to Greenville Christian in the title game. Along the way was a 45-0 rout of Oak Hill. This year’s Rebels have scored more than 18 points just once, while the Raiders are allowing more than 31 points per game.
Columbus Christian Academy (2-5, 0-4 MAIS 2A-1) at Manchester Academy (6-1, 3-0): Riding a three-game losing streak with an offense limited to 18 points over their past two games, the last thing the Rams need to see this week are the Mavericks. Five-time defending district champion Manchester Academy shares the 2A-1 lead with Marvell, and while they have not dominated all year, they are coming off their best performance of the season, a 52-20 romp over a Tunica Academy team which blasted CCA 72-42 three weeks ago. .
Victory Christian Academy (1-3, 1-3 CFA) at Cornerstone Christian Academy (Ala.) (3-2, 2-2 CFA): After two weeks of rough going offensively, Cornerstone erupted for 62 points last week against East Central Home School in its last nonregion game of the year.
“This will be our first time to play Cornerstone,” VCA coach Chris Hamm said. “They look to be an athletic team with a fair amount of speed.”
Hamm says his defense has shown improvement as the season has progressed, while offensively eliminating mistakes and sustaining drives are the goals. The Eagles will have to do a better job of that tonight; they only have scored 74 points in four games, a low number for the eight-man game.
Jackson Academy (Ala.) (5-1, 2-0 AISA Region 2) at Pickens Academy (Ala.) (4-2, 1-1): The Pirates will face an Eagles team coming off of its first loss. After rolling to a 5-0 start, allowing just 14 points, Jackson Academy fell 28-12 last week to Macon-East Montgomery Academy. The Pirates, on the other hand, have won three in a row since a 36-12 loss to Sparta Academy.