Between COVID-related reasons and one team lacking players, there are as many games canceled this week as there are games being played.
Thursday’s New Hope-Caledonia game went first, when Caledonia High School announced last week it was going to virtual learning for two weeks. Other casualties include West Point-Louisville, Philadelphia-Noxubee County, Marvell-Columbus Christian and Unity Christian-Victory Christian.
But while their numbers have been cut, there are still games to be played on the opening night for football in the public schools.
Jackson Prep at Heritage Academy: The visitors are coming off of a 48-13 beatdown at the hands of Greenville Christian in their first game under new coach Tyler Turner. Turner has the unenviable task of replacing Ricky Black, who won 21 state championships during his 24-year tenure. Heritage Academy had a very different opener, cruising to a 42-16 win over Lamar.
In last season’s game between these teams, the scoreboard read Jackson Prep 41, Heritage Academy 13. While the game was closer statistically (Jackson Prep rushed for 65 yards and threw for 143), that’s the kind of score that the losing team remembers the following year.
Biggersville at West Lowndes: Speaking of games the losing team remembers the following year, these two met in the playoffs a year ago. The Panthers trailed 20-14 entering the fourth quarter, but the Lions put up 16 points to post a 36-14 win on their way to the MHSAA Class 1A championship game.
On the bright side for West Lowndes, the Lions graduated the player who caused the most trouble, Goldman Butler, who rushed for 174 yards on 20 carries as Biggersville won while completing just one pass. Despite going 4-4 in district play and 6-6 overall, the Panthers scored almost 100 more points than they allowed a year ago, a trend that could continue if, as expected, Marquez Shelton slides into the starting quarterback job vacated by two-year starter Melvin Crawford.
Lamar School at Starkville Academy: Neither of these two teams put its best foot forward on opening night, with Lamar getting buried 42-16 by Heritage Academy and Starkville Academy suffering through a rough third quarter on the way to a 37-0 blanking at the hands of Jackson Academy.
But it will the Volunteers at home, and the opening-night crowd figures to help them bounce back from that shutout with third-year starting quarterback Randal Futral at the controls. It should make for a pretty noisy evening with the Vols opening at home while Starkville High School entertains Columbus in their opener just up the road.
Benton Academy at Oak Hill Academy: These teams opened the season a year ago with a high-scoring affair, as Benton posted a 42-34 win. This year, these teams opened the season by not playing, with Benton winning by forfeit against Sylva-Bay Academy and Oak Hill losing by forfeit to East Rankin. Despite coming off of a 2-6 season and moving up to MAIS Class 4A, Oak Hill has visions of making the playoffs. Getting off to a strong start before district play begins would be a good start.