By Gene Phelps and John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
All kickoffs at 7 p.m.
Tupelo (4-0) at Starkville (3-2)
– This week: Tupelo defeated Columbus 21-14 last week in its Division 1-6A opener while Starkville beat DeSoto Central 38-16 in division play. Both teams are 1-0 in league play. “The value of every division win is incredible,” Starkville coach Jamie Mitchell said. “There are five legitimate teams fighting for three playoff spots.”
– Recent history: Starkville defeated Tupelo 14-7 last season.
– Tupelo: RB Ashton Shumpert rushed for 95 yards and scored a TD against Columbus. He has rushed for 518 yards and scored seven TD. … QB Luke Hobson has completed 21 of 41 passes for 402 yards and 3 TD. He threw a 42-yard TD pass to Terrell Pinson in the fifth play of the third quarter against Columbus. … “Our offense has to be balanced,” THS coach David Bradberry said. “If we’re forced to throw, we’ve got to complete the passes. If we’re forced to run, we’ve got to be do that. We have to be prepared to do what’s necessary.” … LB Damion Dillard recorded 8 solo tackles, 8 assisted tackles, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 1 hurry, 1 INT and 1 fumble last week. … DE P.J. Jones recorded 9 tackles and 2 TFL in the win. … “They are fundamentally sound. You’re never going to get them out of position,” Starkville’s Mitchell said of Wave’s “D”.
– Starkville: QB Jaquez Johnson makes the Yellowjackets offense go. Last week,he threw for 2 TD, a one an 87-yarder to Martavious Foster, and rushed for 1 TD against DeSoto Central. … Mitchell says: “It will be hard to find somebody who has played a tougher schedule than we have.” The Yellowjackets have a pair of 14-7 losses to powers Noxubee County and Meridian, along with victories against 5A state champion West Point, 21-20, and Louisville, 34-0. … K Daniel Fumo kicked a 37-yard FG last week.
Kossuth (3-3)at Belmont (5-0)
– This week: Kossuth, the Daily Journal’s fourth-ranked Class 3A team, faces the Daily Journal’s second-ranked team, Belmont in the Division 1-3A opener for both teams.
– Recent history: Belmont won the last 2 meetings: 42-6 last year and 36-28 in 2008. Kossuth won at Belmont in ’07, 30-14.
– Kossuth: Aggies head coach Pete Seago says his team’s offense is “very vanilla,” and, “We’re an 80 percent running team, if not more.” Seago added that his team was coming off one of its worst offensive games, a 17-13 loss to Mooreville last Friday. “We had 20 offensive plays of zero or negative yards.” … Belmont head coach Kerry Moody says the Aggies run downhill well and will run some power running plays, which they block well on and execute well. … Moody said he is impressed with Kossuth’s LBs. “They play fast and they run to the ball well,” he said. … The Belmont coach added that the Aggies do a lot of blitzing and moving around on defense.
– Belmont: The Cardinals had to replace 4 out of their 5 OL from last year’s 9-4 team. With solid play from its offensive line – C Stephen Moore, RG Tyler Wooten, RT Zack Daniel, LG Brody Rogers and LT Casey Inmon – and a veteran backfield featuring RBs Dustin Poole and Cody Sartain, the Cardinals are averaging 43.4 points per game this season out of their Wing-T offense. … The Cardinals feature 8 seniors on defense. “On defense we returned a lot of kids who started last year,” Moody said. “Those kids are familiar with our system.” … Moody says his team is pretty healthy.
Tishomingo County (1-5) at Shannon (3-2)
– This week: Tishomingo County lost 31-14 last week to Wilson, Ala., while Shannon went on the road to beat Cleveland, 29-3. This is the Division 1-4A opener for both teams.
– Recent history: Shannon defeated Tishomingo County 26-0 last season.
– Tishomingo County: QB Bobby Felker has completed 18 of 50 passes for 200 yards and rushed for 266 yards this season. … DB Johnny McDuffy leads the team in tackles with 65. … LB Jonathan Phifier is second with 49 tackles.
– Shannon: WR Jake Scott played QB last week against Cleveland for the injured Legilbert Bogan. … RB Marcus Thornton has rushed for a team-high 327 yards and scored 5 TD. … WR Keyon Lowery has caught 10 passes for 173 yards and a TD. Scott and Lowery hooked up for a 45-yard TD pass last week. … LB Shawn Goree has recorded 45 tackles. … The Red Raiders have won three straight games since kicking off the season with back-to-back losses.
Mooreville (6-0) at South Pontotoc (2-4)
– This week: Mooreville, which defeated Kossuth 17-13 last week to remain unbeaten, goes on the road for its Division 2-3A opener. South Pontotoc defeated Mantachie 45-40 last week. “A new season starts Friday night,” Mooreville coach Kevin Austin said.
– Recent history: Mooreville defeated South Pontotoc 35-21 last season.
– Mooreville: RB Devonte Williams got the Troopers started on the right foot last week when he capped their opening drive – 65 yards, 8 plays – with a 12-yard TD run. … QB Griff Loftis and his top WR, Errick Dillworth, connected for a 3-yard TD pass. … K Matthew Pannell booted a 28-yard FG with 3:06 remaining against Kossuth. … “When we were looking at our schedule before the season, we thought we had a chance to be 5-0. We thought Kossuth might be one that would trip us up. It wasn’t one of our better games, but you have to win some like that,” Mooreville’s Austin said.
– South Pontotoc: QB Wesley Barefield has completed 32 of 70 passes for 422 yards, 1 TD and 4 INT. He rushed for 108 yards and scored 4 TD against Mantachie. He has 304 rushing yards and 9 TD for the season. “He’s big and he runs the ball well,” Mooreville’s Austin said. “He can throw the ball, too. We played them in 7-on-7 this summer. He may be the best QB in our division.” … RB Matthew Berry rushed for 145 yards last week. … RB Deonte Dilworth is the team’s top rusher with 449 yards and 4 TD.
Baldwyn (2-4) at Calhoun City (6-0)
– This week: Baldwyn, the Daily Journal’s fourth-ranked small school, takes on top-ranked Calhoun City in the Division 1-2A opener for both teams.
– Recent history: Baldwyn won last year’s meeting, 35-7, at home.
– Baldwyn: The Bearcats did some different things on offense last week against Ripley, according to their head coach Michael Gray. As a result, the Bearcats rushed for 260 yards in a 26-13 win. Credit the Bearcats’ O-line – C Sam Griffin, RG Joshua Harkey, RT Cody Wolf, LG Mike Barnett and LT Xavier Gamble – for paving the way for RB Tyler Estes to rush for 160 yards and 3 TDs and RB Bradley Boose to gain 89 yards. … Calhoun City head coach Perry Liles says the Bearcats like to run plays – especially speed sweeps – out of a double-wing formation. … On defense, Baldwyn plays a 4-4, cover 1 man-up type defense and blitzes a lot, according to Liles.
– Calhoun City: Gray says the Wildcats “pitch and catch very well.” QB J.R. Jennings has completed 54 of 75 passes for 785 yards and 10 TDs. He has only been picked off once. WR Demarius Howard has 24 receptions for 392 yards and 6 TDs. … According to Gray, the Wildcats are big across the front, averaging close to 275 pounds. “They got one kid who weighs around 325, a defensive end at 195 and the rest are, like, 270,” said the Baldwyn coach. … LB Dantrell Parker (ACL), who was injured 2 weeks ago vs. Eupora, will be out for at least 2 or 3 more weeks.
Hernando (2-3) at Saltillo (3-2)
– This week: Both teams suffered a loss in last week’s Division 1-5A openers. Saltillo lost 56-13 to powerful Clarksdale while Hernando lost 20-6 to Lake Cormorant.
n Recent history: Hernando defeated Saltillo 38-6 last season.
– Hernando: QB Kedric Merriweather struggled against Lake Cormorant last week. He rushed for 43 yards and completed 4 of 9 passes for 37 yards and suffered 2 INT. … RB Brandon Dennis was held to 28 yards on six carries in the loss. … LB Eli Canton has averaged 8.8 tackles per game. He recorded 10 last week.
– Saltillo: RB Obrien Stewart is closing in on 1,000 yards rushing. He has 82 carries for 746 yards (9.1 per carry) in five games and scored 7 TD. He rushed for 138 yards against Clarksdale. … QB Chase Watson has completed 12 of 48 passes for 231 yards and 2 TD. … DB Khary Staggs recorded 8 tackles last week and has 41 for the season.
New Albany (6-0) at Pontotoc (4-2)
– This week: New Albany, which is tied with Starkville for second in the Daily Journal’s large schools’ rankings, begins division play on the road against a Pontotoc team that is coming off a poor offensive performance against Amory.
– Recent history: Pontotoc swept the last 3 meetings: 31-14 last year, 21-20 in ’08 and 29-26 in ’07.
– New Albany: The Bulldogs run a spread offense and like to run inside zone plays and traps. “They do a lot of play-action stuff,” said Pontotoc head coach Charlie Dampeer. “The key to their whole offense is their quarterback (Tyler Basil). He throws it to the right spot and turns it loose at the right time.” … Dampeer said the Bulldogs are tough to run on, and their defensive secondary is somewhat of a mystery. “We haven’t seen anybody throw on them yet,” said the Pontotoc coach. “With the films we had, we didn’t see any of their opponents really throw the ball against them. We don’t know what they have in the secondary.” … New Albany head coach Ron Price credits his senior class for his team’s 6-0 start. “We just got a great senior class this year,” he said. “They’re leading our football team from week to week. They just want to win. They got a taste of it last year; they got to the playoffs. Their leadership has been one of our keys to success this season.”
– Pontotoc: Price said he believes the Warriors will try to establish their running game early due to their troubles passing the ball vs. Amory (5 INTs) last week. He expects a healthier Randall Crayton (ankle) to get plenty of carries early on. … According to Price, the Warriors are fast all over the field on defense. “From their defensive line to their secondary, they really come off the ball well,” said the New Albany coach. “They’re very fast and very athletic. They do a good job of scheming for other teams and are very prepared. They’ll be the fastest defense we’ve faced so far this year.” … As far as injuries go for the Warriors, Dampeer says his team is OK and will try to play as hard as it can. “No excuses,” he said. “We’re playing at home.”
Smithville (4-1)at Vardaman (3-2)
– This week: QB Austin Spann and the second-ranked Smithville Seminoles return to Vardaman for a key Division 1-1A contest. Both teams are 1-0 in the division entering tonight’s game. Spann played for the Rams last year as his father, Eric Spann, was Vardaman’s defensive coordinator. Eric Spann is coaching at another school this season.
– Recent history: Although Vardaman has won 2 of the last 3 meetings, the Seminoles won last year’s game, 28-19, at Smithville.
– Smithville: Seminoles head coach Bubba Tacker said Austin Spann will likely not be too pumped up for tonight’s game – enough to take away from his play. “He’s pumped a little,” Tacker said of Spann, who played most of his career at Smithville. … With Spann having played in both programs, both teams will have some tremendous insight on one another. “We know his strengths and weaknesses,” Vardaman head coach Justin Hollis said about Spann, “but he’s a smart enough kid to know some of our strengths and weaknesses.” … Hollis said Smithville doesn’t try to do anything too fancy on offense, but likes to line up and go right at you. “They got big offensive linemen and big running backs,” said the Vardaman coach. “The Freeman boys (Antwune, Datrune and Damontrio) can flat out play. They win games on the line of scrimmage.” … Hollis said the same big offensive linemen for Smithville play on its defensive line. He added that the Seminoles are very athletic at the LB position, with Antwune Freeman and Turner Sanderson being ast and physical players. … Tacker said the criminal charges filed against former Smithville head coach Dwight Bowling – who had recently been coaching in Sulligent, Ala. – won’t be a distraction for his team. “That’s not an issue for us,” Tacker said. “It didn’t have anything to do with us. It had to do with Sulligent.”
– Vardaman: Tacker said the Rams’ offense is a spread offense that does like to run the football. He added that the Rams tend to “throw screens out to their splits” and will test you deep every now and then. “They’ll throw a lot of screens,” he said. … Hollis said his team tends to run inside and outside, and likes to stretch the field horizontally, creating mismatches out in space. “We like to be physical. We want to have a physical running game. We run inside and outside zone plays.” … In their two losses, the Rams have been minus-3 and minus-4 in the turnover margin, says Hollis. … The Rams have suffered from the injury bug. Among the key losses are LB Jamie Jenkins (neck) and LB/RB Jason McKinney (knee) – who both are out for the season – while RB Lavorriss Hatchett will miss some time with a torn ACL.