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Rowdy's Five: Week 10


South Panola quarterback Anterio Draper gets set to release the football. Photo courtesy of Keith Warren, MHSAA.

Welcome to Week 10 of the Mississippi high school football season, where Thursday is the new Friday. Kind of at least.


Mother Nature continues to make her presence felt as we get closer to postseason play. The scary part is, there are even more games being moved to today than there were two weeks ago. There are around 75-80 games being played today or Saturday. Like some coaches say, however, we just have to control what we can control.


Here’s some things to look out for tonight.


Classic Playoff Foe Turned Regular


It’s pretty rare to see these two teams square off in the regular season, but here we are.

South Panola and Madison Central have a storied history in the postseason throughout the past two decades. Most of the time, this game was played to see who would represent the state’s highest classification in the state championship the following week. The Tigers have usually been that thorn in MC’s side. But that was then, this is tonight.


Both teams fell victim to Starkville in region play. To date, this is the only loss for either team. The Jaguars were dethroned from their No. 1 rank last week after traveling to Starkville. The Tigers fell to Starkville to opening region play and lost Janari Dean in the process. Dean’s status is questionable for tonight’s game, but the Tigers have really had players step up, especially on offense. Anterio Draper continues to just get better and better at quarterback. Martez Clark and Nate Harris have handled the rushing duties the past few weeks. Elite 10 member Jimmy Holiday will need to have more Craddock Trophy worthy numbers in order to win.


With everything that has happened in 6A Region 2 and what could possibly happen, this very well could be a battle for home field advantage three weeks from now.


Who’s On First?


Yes, the title is a baseball skit reference, but it does apply to this crucial 6A Region 1 matchup Friday. Oxford and Olive Branch might be the most talented and deepest teams in the region. They are also two teams that really haven’t played up to their full potential yet.


Oxford is on a roll with six straight wins and a 4-0 start in region play. However, they haven’t made it easy on themselves. The Chargers have trailed at halftime in two of their last three games, including last week at Horn Lake. They did what good teams do and find different ways to win, but being hampered with injuries hasn’t helped matters. Elite 10 J.J. Pegues hasn’t had much production as of late being hampered with a few minor issues and the offensive line is dealing with quite a few of them. Their defense has been absolutely nasty, only giving up a 10 points or less in their last five games. Throughout this stretch, they haven’t ran into a team like they will this Friday.


Olive Branch is loaded from top to bottom. Things started a little rough in non-region play with a season opening loss to Clinton and an agonizing loss to legit 4A contender Corinth. Fortunately for them, they’ve returned to form. Gary Banks is having another outstanding year in the backfield, having already 1,000 yards rushing. Jevon Banks and Johnny Setchfield are making all sorts of things happen on the defensive side of the football. They did beat a decent Tupelo squad earlier in region play, but their biggest challenge awaits.


This game remains on Friday. With a favorable schedule ahead for both teams following this game, this game very well could be for a No. 1 seed in the 6A playoffs.


3A Region 2 Battles


Other than 3A Region 8, this region has proven to be an exciting one once again. This week, there’s not one, but two real good games with playoff implications.


The first one, the rematch of last year’s 3A North Half Championship. Water Valley and North Panola are T-1 and No. 4 in the region respectively. They both played a tough non-region schedule to prepare them for their runs starting in two weeks. North Panola is looking to rebound after being shocked by Independence. Water Valley beat Independence 21-17 earlier in the season, but have to face the other top dog in the region. Good athletes on both sides should make this fun to watch.


Speaking of top dogs, Senatobia is having an impressive year thanks to that defense that has given up 85 points all year long. They will face an Independence team full of athletes. We’ll see if that win for the Wildcats last week was a flash on the pan, or something real. They look pretty good, but here’s another big test.


1A Push


As we get closer to the playoffs, 1A is looking pretty interesting. There are two games in particular to keep your eye on.


The first one is a “SEC West” 1A battle between TCPS and Smithville. One team likes to get it done in the air and the other on the ground. If you’re guessing which team does which, consider that Khi Holiday plays for TCPS. Oh yeah, he can run that thing too. Holiday and company will travel to Smithville to take on Octavion Miller and his offensive production. Both teams are 6-2 and are in the middle of the pack in 1A Region 2. Who will emerge will be determined.


Moving down towards the coast, Lumberton and their stud, Robert Henry, will travel south to face Resurrection. The Eagles are another team that can have balance, but find an identity in their defense. It won’t be easy to stop Henry, but it will be interesting to see if they can.


Both teams have just about separated themselves from the pack in 1A Region 4. Expect this to be a region championship if everything else goes as planned.


Short Weeks… Again


Please refer back to the opening statement of this installment. Yeah.


Some of these teams found out yesterday that they were playing just over 24 hours later. Those team’s resiliency will be on full display tonight. Ballers ball. That is all.

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