Coverage Breakdown: Madison Central @ Tupelo
Players to Watch
Tupelo Golden Wave(12-0, 7-0)
Stephon McGlaun - Earlier this season I watched McGlaun torch the Columbus Falcons. I knew then that he would be able to lead the Tupelo offense as far as the defense was capable of taking them, which is a state championship game. On that night he was 12 of 17 passing for 229 yards and three scores. Last week, in the Wave’s toughest test yet, he was again 12 of 17, this time for 137 yards and three more scores. At 6’3 and 215-plus pounds his size makes him an effective runner. He has scored seven times on the ground this season to go with his 10 passing scores.
Jaquerrious Williams - Recently named the SES Mississippi PrimeTime award winner, Williams burst onto the scene for Tupelo this season. He is their first 1,000 rusher since 2014. In his previous two games he has rushed for 138 yards on just 18 carries, before that he went for 173 on Horn Lake. He has scored five times in that three-game stretch.
Donte Freeman - Freeman is capable of making plays all over the field for the Golden Wave offense. If you don’t account for where he is before the snap, it is likely you will find him in the end zone celebrating with his teammates. He has a knack for finding open space from the running back and receiver positions. So far this season he has scored five rushing touchdowns and caught four passing scores.
Jett Johnson - There is no questioning that Johnson is the heart and soul of the Tupelo defense. Heck, he was a season ago. Thus far he has registered a team-high 119 tackles to go along with five tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries. If there is a play to be made defensively, you can bet Johnson is going to make it. His 6’3 frame, combined with long arms, excellent football IQ and solid speed make him a beast for Trent Hammond’s stellar defensive unit.
Peter Gray - What an addition Gray has been for this Tupelo defense this season. He has added a pass-rushing dimension that the Wave would have struggled without. So far this season he has 87 tackles from his outside linebacker/rush end spot, to go with his five sacks and nine hurries. Furthermore, he has added three interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
Madison Central Jaguars(9-3-1, 6-1)
Jack Walker - It’s hard not to see Walker play and think some about Ben Roethlisberger. Sure, he’s not a pro bowl, elite quarterback, but he brings size to the pocket. It isn’t uncommon to see defenders hanging off of him, because his size makes him so hard to bring down. He’s not as mobile, as Roethlisberger, but he does have a big arm. However, he has rushed for nearly 300 yards and seven touchdowns this season. If any quarterback can take on, and beat, this Tupelo defense in these playoffs, it may just be the polished veteran Walker, who is committed to play for FAU on the next level.
Gabe Short - Short isn’t the only productive rusher for the Jaguars, but he has been far and away their best. He has four 100-yard games and a total of 952 yards and eight scores on the ground this season. He can run by defenders or take them on, and that is why he an every down type of back. Short is effective if you need a home run, and he is capable of being physical close to the goal line.
Kobe Cole - With 111 tackles and six sacks, Cole is the team leader in both areas, but those aren’t the only ways he has made his presence felt this season in Eric Robertson’s defense. Additionally, he has forced and recovered three fumbles to go with a blocked punt. Look for Cole to get into the backfield and disrupt the rhythm of the young duo for the Wave tonight. He will need to do so for the Jags to get a big win on the road.
Zach Causey - You don’t have to search too hard to find number 52 when you watch Madison Central play. Just look in the backfield, heck, just look. He has 73 tackles this season to go with his five sacks, nine quarterback hurried and four forced fumbles. Yes, four forced fumbles. Not only does he get to the ball carrier, often times in the backfield, but when he does he delivers a fierce blow. At times he can go into total disruption and eruption mode. Look for plenty of that against the Wave.
DeMario Mays - Don’t throw the football around Mays too often, or you’ll probably regret it. Plenty of teams have so far this season, as he has picked up four interceptions this season, and that’s with all the respect most teams have shown him. One of said picks, he returned to the house for a touchdown. He is just a playmaker, and a stopper of playmakers. He also has 13 pass deflections this season. He foreshadowed just how good he was going to be this season when he showed up and dominated the Fortius Project at MRA this past spring.
Keys to the Game
Last week Tupelo proved they can score on a really good defense by dropping 45 points on a solid Northwest Rankin defense. Can Madison Central score enough on that Wave defense to keep up with McGlaun, Williams and an offensive unit that is clicking on all cylinders?
Madison Central is a balanced team. But how balanced can they be against a Trent Hammond defense that will almost certainly look to made them one-dimensional? They must have Walker and Short on their A-game to spring the upset on the road.
Jaguar playoff magic - Madison Central pulled a huge upset by knocking off 6A favorite South Panola last season in the first round of the playoffs. Walker was the man under center then for the Jags, can he beat another 6A favorite in 2016?
Stephon McGlaun, QB, Tupelo
The way this 15-year old sophomore is playing well beyond his years right now, it is going to be tough for anyone to derail Tupelo’s title hopes. Sure, there are talented players in the Jaguar secondary, but I feel there will be no answer to the dual threat performance McGlaun is able to pull of tonight. If he is on, Madison Central will have no answer for him.