JMake's 10 Takes Coming In Hot: Postseason 3
Starkville running back and Elite 10 member
Rodrigues Clark prepares for the Yellowjackets'
season-opener against Noxubee County on Aug. 17.
(Photo by John Macon Gillespie)
Today is Friday, but hopefully you already knew that.
Welcome back to my 10 Takes, and you should know how this works by now. If not, here's a rundown:
I'm going to talk for a little while, and then I'm going to make some bold (or not-bold) predictions about this week in high school football. At the end, you will all hate me more than you did when you clicked on this story.
Got it? Good.
It's hard to believe that the 2018 season is almost over. It seems like just yesterday we were sweating at jamborees and cursing the humidity and August sun. It's been a fun ride, and it's going to get even more fun this week.
Before we delve into the greatness that is going to be this week's action, I'd like to make a statement. The man who reached out to me in October 2016 and told me I would be a good fit for SES Mississippi, John Luke McCord, is parting ways with us, and we're all mourning his departure. John Luke, you've done great work here at SES, and I know you'll do great work at the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal as a digital producer. Your future is bright and holds big things, and it's been a pleasure working with you for the past two years.
With John Luke's departure, I'm stepping into the role of Editor-In-Chief here at SES, and I'm excited for the opportunity. Football in this state is special, and I hope you will all continue to turn to us as your source of coverage. You (the fans) and our staff are here for the same reason: because we love this sport, and it's going to be a fun ride for the foreseeable future.
Okay, that's enough small talk. In my two years at SES Mississippi, I don't remember a week as jam-packed with top-notch matchups as this one, so you better strap in. Let's get started.
1. Starkville goes to Horn Lake and knocks off the Eagles.
Since the season started, I have wanted this game to happen, and here it is.
I firmly believe that this could be the best gridiron matchup we'll see all year, and that's counting the state championships in December. Strong offenses. Stout defenses. Elite 10 members. A Mr. Elite finalist. Where else can you find a game like this?
Starkville has scored more than 70 points in three games this season, whereas the most points Horn Lake has allowed in one game is 21. The Eagles still won that game against Southaven by 31 points.
I believe these two squads are as close to perfect teams as you'll see, but I give Starkville a slight edge in this one. I think the Yellowjackets slipped up once this season against Northwest Rankin and won't let that happen again. This one could even go to overtime, but I think Starkville wins 23-20.
2. West Point squeaks past Lafayette...again.
If you ask the Oxford-natives on the SES staff, they have full faith in the Commodores to get redemption tonight. They also picked Lafayette to knock off the Green Wave in the regular season, and that almost came to pass.
I haven't seen either of these teams play in person this season, but West Point has narrowly escaped defeat multiple times this season, and that's what elite teams do. This game could legitimately go either way, but I like the Green Wave to repeat their narrow victory over Lafayette tonight.
3. Water Valley stays alive with win over Houston.
Jalen May isn't human. He actually is, but I just wanted to make a point.
The Hilltopper quarterback has played phenomenally this season, but I believe this will be his toughest test yet.
Water Valley's defense is elite (*ignores 52-19 loss to North Panola*), and if they can contain May on the ground tonight, they'll win. I think they do just that and advance to take on...well...North Panola again.
4. Picayune knocks off Laurel.
This is one of my hotter takes in this installment, especially considering I saw Laurel in person last week. Both the Golden Tornadoes and the Maroon Tide enter tonight's game at 10-3 on the year and have talented offenses that can put up a lot of points. While Laurel's attack is a little more balanced, Picayune will run right at whoever they're playing with no remorse. The Tide's Jortin Raine is averaging about 210 rushing yards per game.
This game is really a toss-up in my mind, but I went against the grain with my pick and went with Picayune. It'll be a fun one to watch if you're in that area.
5. Northwest Rankin holds off Madison Central.
Another pick that the staff was divided on this week was Northwest Rankin and Madison Central.
In the regular season installment of this game, Northwest Rankin trailed 28-13 at halftime but roared back to claim a 32-28 win on the road. The Cougars are also the only team that has knocked off Starkville this season.
While I expect this game to be close, I didn't feel right picking against NWR after their showing in the regular season against the Jaguars. Give me the Cougars.
6. Brandon ends Pearl's season.
In all the years of this rivalry, this is the first time that these two teams have met in the playoffs, and, friend, I'm here for it.
The regular season installment of this game saw Brandon escape with a 14-10 win. I believe we all counted out the Pirates a little too early this season. Pearl actually led that game 10-7 heading into the fourth quarter, and I believe that we'll see another close game tonight.
Although rivalry games are always weird (especially in the playoffs), I think that Brandon is just the better team. Look for a thrilling finish, but expect the Bulldogs to pull it out in the end.
7. JDC gets revenge against Columbia.
There are a lot of playoff matchups this week that were also played in the regular season. No matter.
Jefferson Davis County fell to Columbia 14-12 back in October, which means that this game could go either way tonight.
Y'all: "But, JMake, why are you picking against the team that won the regular season game?"
I have seen too many seasons of Bassfield football (who is now a part of JDC) to ever count them out in a postseason game. Give me the Jaguars staying alive after a thrilling finish.
8. Smithville tops Okolona again.
This divisional rivalry was played in the regular season as well, and saw the Seminoles escape with a 27-22 win. When predicting the outcome of the regular season game, I expected Okolona to win without much trouble. Of course, at the time, I, along with many others, thought Okolona was going to waltz their way to another region title.
That obviously didn't happen.
I think that Smithville is good enough to get it done again. The Noles haven't lost a game against a region opponent all season, and I don't think they start now. Again, look for a close finish, but I think the Seminoles get it done.
9. Nanih Waiya takes care of Stringer.
Nanih Waiya is 12-1, and Stringer is 11-2. This one will be fun to watch.
When I saw Nanih Waiya earlier this season, I immediately believed that they were the class of 1A South. They still have a tough road ahead of them if they want to make it back to the state championship game, but I believe that they have enough talent to get it done. This game will have a heavy dose of run on both sides, but after seeing what I saw earlier this year, I can't pick against Nanih Waiya.
Give me the Warriors.
10. Pontotoc's season ends against Louisville.
For some of you, this may not be too hot of a take, but I decided to include it anyway because of the names involved in the game.
Not only are Pontotoc and Louisville two blue-blood programs, but they have a lot of blue-blood names on their rosters. If this prediction comes true, Pontotoc's all-time leading rusher, Gabe Harmon, will never play another down for the Warriors, and that is cause for remorse. Harmon has been a thrill to watch as his career has progressed, and whenever that career comes to an end, we'll miss seeing him play in The Hollow on Friday nights.
Although anything can happen in the postseason, I think that Louisville is too talented for Pontotoc tonight. Give me the Power Cats.