Hamilton playing for home-field advantage

Football stockBy Brandon Speck

Daily Journal

Three of the state’s six MHSAA football classes open the playoffs tonight. But while Classes 2A, 3A and 4A begin the postseason, one 1A team is trying to start at home when the rest of the state playoffs begin in a week.

Hamilton is quietly 8-2, and at Coffeeville with a chance to win Division 1-1A.

“The thing about this group is they’re very unselfish. They work hard and they play together,” Hamilton coach Ray Weeks said. “That’s been key to their success.”

Hamilton got here when Byron Butler threw a game-winning touchdown to Keshon Heard to beat Smithville last week.

Class 4A

Itawamba AHS did not get a first-round breeze. The Indians finished second in Division 1-4A and are rewarded by hosting a Lafayette team that may be finding its groove at the right time.

“They’re a young team that seems like they’re peaking at the right time,” Itawamba coach Toby Collums said. “We’ve got our work cut out for us, for sure.”

Itawamba lost a dominating backfield of Ashton Shumpert and Charles Moore last year, but a steady stable has kept the pace, led by sophomore Hunter White’s 800 yards and nine touchdowns.

Lafayette back DK Buford, an Ole Miss commit, has 794 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns.

Class 3A

North Pontotoc went a perfect 5-0 in Division 1-3A and earned a home opener against Independence, a team that runs for more than 240 yards per game and has 28 rushing TDs.

“They’re really athletic. I know everybody’s looking that we’re a 1 and they’re a 4, but they’ve played in a tough division,” North Pontotoc coach Brian Sutton said. “They run the ball a lot. We’ve got to do a good job on the defensive side.”

North Pontotoc has lost in the first round the past three seasons, all on the road.

Class 2A

Mantachie can match its highest win total since the playoff system came into effect in 1981 with a win against visiting Strayhorn.

The 8-3 Mustangs are hosting their first-ever first-round home playoff game. It’s been since 1998 that Mantachie hosted a playoff game – second round.

“Everybody is excited. The ones that need to be excited, the players are. All of our community is excited,” coach Lynn Moore said. “It’s kind of a big deal.”

brandon.speck@journalinc.com