While West Lowndes and Starkville appear to be facing overmatched opponents on their marches to district titles, Noxubee County has a chance to take charge of the Class 3A, Region 4 race when the Tigers host Amory tonight.
Meanwhile, Heritage Academy and Oak Hill Academy go outside their districts in home contests, New Hope and Columbus have opportunities to show that their improvement can translate into key wins during the stretch run, and West Point faces the last team on its schedule currently with a winning record.
Cleveland Central (2-3, 2-1 MHSAA 5A-1 at Columbus (3-4, 2-1): The Falcons are at a point where their season could go either way, and the Wolves represent a pretty good barometer. Within Region 1, Cleveland Central has clobbered the weak (Saltillo, 51-6), been clobbered by the strong (West Point, 48-14) and won the “in-between” game, beating Lake Cormorant 25-14 two weeks ago. If this is the season the Falcons turn a corner, this is the kind of game they need to win. Coincidentally, the three district teams the Wolves have beaten are the three teams the Falcons will have left after this one.
Leake Academy (7-1, 4-0 MAIS 5A-2) at Heritage Academy (9-0, 4-0 MAIS 5A-1): On the one hand, the Rebels look like a team that can give the undefeated Patriots a run for their money. Heritage Academy (9-0) is unbeaten in its district, as is Leake Academy (7-1). The Rebels, who took a forfeit last week, have outscored their past two opponents 76-15 and have not lost since a 27-13 defeat to Jackson Academy on Aug. 27. On the other hand, the Patriots own the Rebels. Heritage holds a 32-10 lead in the all-time series, including a 35-0 whipping in 2019. The Rebels are giving up fewer than 12 points per game; the Patriots are scoring almost 40. Looking for a common opponent? They both played Starkville Academy, with Heritage winning 30-0 and Leake winning 48-17.
New Hope (4-2, 1-2 MHSAA 5A-1) at Lafayette (5-2, 2-1): The Trojans (4-2, 1-2 MHSAA) already have made positive strides within their program, but they might not be ready to win this type of game. If they do, progress is quicker than even they might think. Lafayette (5-2, 2-1) is coming off of a 21-12 win over a Columbus team that shut out New Hope. In fact, every game the Trojans have played has been a shutout: wins over Shannon (34-0), Itawamba (24-0) and Greenville (38-0) and losses to Columbus (10-0) and West Point (31-0). (They also have a forfeit win.) If the Trojans’ offense can score against a quality opponent, they will be right there.
West Lowndes (5-2, 4-0 MHSAA 1A-3) at Hamilton (1-6, 0-3): On paper, this is no contest. The Panthers’ ability to wear down opponents should be especially effective against a team that has scored 22 points this season. Yes, three of Hamilton’s losses were forfeits, but that’s still 5.5 points per game. That won’t get it done against the Panthers, who are allowing 12.9 points per game. During their current four-game winning streak, West Lowndes has outscored its opponents — all district foes — 147-33. Don’t expect anything different tonight.
Starkville (7-0, 3-0 MHSAA 6A-2) at Murrah (1-6, 0-3): The Yellow Jackets, ranked fourth in the AP Mississippi Top 10, have won four consecutive games in come-from-behind style. That should not be necessary tonight. The four teams Starkville has defeated are a combined 18-8, including No. 9 Louisville and No. 5 Madison Central. The Mustangs just aren’t close to those teams; their only win was by 3 points over Port Gibson, and they have allowed 216 points. Murrah has never beaten Starkville, with the Yellow Jackets winning all eight games the teams have played. Nothing on the teams’ resumes suggests that will change.
West Point (4-2, 3-0 MHSAA 5A-1) at Lake Cormorant (4-3, 2-1): The Gators have won just one of the 13 games these teams have played, but it was last year, and while the Green Wave don’t need any extra motivation, that 35-26 defeat will provide it anyway. Lake Cormorant is a good team, but West Point makes a habit of making good teams look, well, not so good. Noxubee County will compete for the 3A championship; the Green Wave won 38-19. Lafayette is 5-2 but couldn’t score a point against the Green Wave. A .500 Cleveland Central team got blasted 48-14 just last week. Senior Telvin Amos is a competent dual-threat quarterback, rushing for 576 yards and eight touchdowns while throwing for 989 yards and 10 touchdowns. But the Green Wave — who are undefeated on the field — have two shutouts among their four wins.
Amory (4-3, 2-0 MHSAA 3A-4) at Noxubee County (4-2, 1-0): The winner of this game will have the inside track for the district title. The Panthers’ two district wins have been shutouts, beating Aberdeen 28-0 and routing Hatley 49-0. The Tigers also have played Hatley, winning their only district game 52-0. But the biggest difference between these teams is their schedule: Amory has lost to good teams, specifically 4A schools Caledonia (30-18) and Itawamba (35-14), but the two teams that have beaten the Tigers are among the Top 10 teams in the state, No. 6 West Point (30-18) and No. 9 Louisville (42-6). Figure battle-tested Noxubee to be just a bit tougher.
Starkville Academy (5-3, 2-1 MAIS 5A-1) at Bayou Academy (6-2, 2-1): The Volunteers have won three in a row since losing to unbeaten rival Heritage Academy, while the Colts have won back-to-back games since their loss to Heritage. Bayou plays two quarterbacks, seniors Joseph Smith and Larson Ingram, with Smith getting more snaps. He’s the Colts’ leading rusher with 741 yards and 10 touchdowns, averaging 9.9 yards per carry, while completing 42 of 68 passes for 675 yards. In last week’s 43-0 rout of Lee Academy, Smith finished with 134 passing yards, 70 rushing yards and 29 receiving yards, while Ingram threw for 125 yards. The winner of this game will be alone in second place in the district.
Central Holmes Christian (3-5, 2-1 MAIS 3A-2) at Oak Hill Academy (3-5, 2-1 MAIS 4A-1): After a rough start, the Trojans have won three of four, while the Raiders have lost two straight, scoring just one touchdown in each game. The Raiders defeated the Trojans 48-20 last season, when CHC went 2-7.
Victory Christian Academy (1-4, 1-4 CFA) at Jacksonville Christian Academy (Ala.) (1-6, 1-6): Aside from the two more games the Thunder have played, these teams are a lot alike. Each has one win, each defeated New Life Christian, and each gives up a ton of points. Scanning scores gives a very slight edge to JCA: the Thunder’s win was more impressive (40-12 vs. 32-26), the Thunder are giving up 46 points per game to the Eagles’ 51, and the Thunder have been just a bit more competitive in their losses. Still, this is an opportunity for VCA, if the drive that will take the Eagles practically to the Georgia-Alabama line doesn’t knock them out.
Pickens Academy (Ala.) (4-3, 1-2 AISA A-2) at South Choctaw Academy (2-5, 1-2): The Rebels come in on a four-game losing streak, two of the losses by shutout, while the Pirates had won three in a row before getting thumped 58-0 by Jackson Academy last week. But those Eagles also blanked the Rebels 40-0 earlier this season, so the loss means little here. More pertinent is the fact the Rebels’ two wins came against 0-7 teams, and while the Pirates’ schedule isn’t too much better, they have shown they can beat teams that have beaten somebody else. Look for Pickens to even its district record.