By NEMS Daily Journal
All games to be played at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson
Class 1A Championship
11 a.m. today
Mount Olive (10-4) vs. Durant (14-0)
- This week: In a rematch of last year’s state championship game, the alma mater of Fred and Steve McNair will aim for its second consecutive state title against former Mississippi State quarterback William “Sleepy” Robinson’s Durant team.
- Recent history: Mount Olive came back from a 13-point deficit to defeat the Tigers, 27-26, in overtime of last year’s 1A title game. The Pirates also defeated the Tigers, 33-6, in the 2008 quarterfinals.
- Mount Olive: The Pirates’ four losses were to Collins, Mize, Puckett and Natchez Cathedral. They haven’t lost since Oct. 1 when Cathedral beat them 22-21. … The Pirates are averaging 28.1 points per game while surrendering 13.2 a game. … QB Reuben Duckworth has rushed for 2,715 yards. … As a team, the Panthers are averaging 243.3 yards per game rushing. They are clearly a running team as they are only averaging 32.9 yards a contest passing. … Fred McNair is an assistant coach on Perry Murphy’s staff.
- Durant: Mount Olive head coach Perry Murphy noted at Monday’s MHSAA Football Championships news conference that his team only features two players who can match up with Durant’s biggest players. So, the Tigers will have a distinctive size advantage against the Pirates. Durant has a defensive line that weighs a collective 940 pounds among three players. … The Tigers are holding teams to a mere 2.36 points per game. They have only allowed 33 points in 14 games. Meanwhile, the Tigers are averaging 45.1 points per contest. … RB Cortez Frizell has rushed for 1,800 yards and 41 TDs. He’s averaging 8.53 yards per carry. Frizell is two TDs away from tying Dicenzo Miller of Weir for most TDs in a season. … QB William Robinson Jr. has thrown for 913 yards, 17 TDs and 4 INTs.
Class 2A Championship
3 p.m. today
Lumberton (13-1) vs. Calhoun City (15-0)
- This week: Two similar teams with a lot of history and speed will be going at it this afternoon in a rematch of the 1983 Class BB state championship game. Calhoun City will be going for history today, as the Wildcats try to become the first MHSAA team to go 16-0 in a season.
- Recent history: Lumberton scored 21 unanswered points in a 27-14 comeback win over the Wildcats in the 1983 title game.
n Lumberton: “We’re going to run spread stuff in a shotgun and we also like to get in the ‘I’ and run out of the ‘I’ some as well,” said Lumberton coach Brian Ford, who compared his team to Calhoun City. … WR Derell McLemore added that his team usually starts out in the ‘I’ and if it has success running the ball out of it early on, it will continue to line up in it. If they aren’t successful on the first couple of possessions, they’ll go to the shotgun formation and let QB Darius Holder “get to work,” said McLemore. … The Panthers have two 900-plus yard rushers in RB Keshod Willis (992) and Holder (955). Holder – who is being recruited by Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Southern Miss, and probably will play CB in college – has thrown for 1,208 yards, 16 TDs and 4 INTs. “He’s very athletic and has a lot of speed. He always makes the first person miss,” McLemore said. … Defensively, Ford said his team is “pretty basic,” just trying to get athletes to the ball. Calhoun City offensive coordinator Travis England had more to say, however, about the Panthers defense. “They try to confuse you a lot,” England said. “They show a lot of blitzing looks. They have a lot of team speed, so they just try to keep your blockers confused and let their athletes make plays.” … The Panthers’ lone loss was to Bassfield Oct. 29.
- Calhoun City: The Wildcats have several playmakers: QB J.R. Jennings has thrown for 2,680 yards and 30 TDs while rushing for 376 and 8 more; RB Avery Hill has rushed for 868 yards and 15 TDs; and WR Demarius Howard has caught 73 passes for 1,178 yards and 12 TDs while rushing for 256 and 1 more. “I tell folks that going into the year our plan was to try to be 50-50, rush-pass,” said England, who utilizes a variety of formations. “We’re about 37 yards from being that at this time of the year. … I think if we had to, we could have rushed for 4,000 yards or could have passed for 4,000 yards. It’s been a good mix.” … In its last two playoff games, Calhoun City has fallen behind its opponents. “I’m always one of those who defers (the opening coin toss),” head coach Perry Liles said. “I want to play defense first. Sometimes they will get to you first and sometimes we’ll have a turnover. I feel very confident in our offense that I would really like having the ball at the beginning of the second half.” … Other than a 53-yard touchdown pass, West Bolivar head coach Henry Johnson said the Wildcats man-handled his team in the first half of last week’s semifinal game and “knocked us off the football.” … The Wildcats are holding teams to 9.87 points per game.
CLASS 3A: Aberdeen (14-1) vs. Forest (14-0)
11 a.m. Saturday
- This week: It’s the Class 3A state championship game between two teams that many think have the best offenses and defenses in the classification. Forest was here two years ago, losing to Baldwyn in the Class 2A title game. Aberdeen lost here last season, 34-20, against Tylertown. The head coaches were once teammates at Delta State – Aberdeen’s Chris Duncan a senior offensive lineman and Forest’s Jud Boswell a freshman linebacker.
- Recent history: This is the first meeting between the schools.
- Aberdeen: Last season’s Class 3A title game featured a pass-happy Bulldogs team. This year’s team is as capable passing, but relies on the run. “I expect a very physical game,” Boswell said. “We’re going to have to be more physical than they are.” … RB Victor Hodges has 2,033 yards and 34 TDs.. .. WR Aaron McMillian has 28 catches for 718 yards and 9 TD. … QB Desmond Jones has completed 93 of 154 passes for 1,143 yards and 24 TD. … No opponent has scored more than 14 points against the Bulldogs. … DL Channing Ward, a junior, has recorded 119 tackles, 19 TFL and 13 sacks. LB Johnny McMillian has 110 tackles, 10 TFL and 5 sacks…LB Justin Lucas has 102 tackles, 14 TFL and 4 sacks.
- Forest: A mirror image of its opponent, Forest runs to set up the pass and has a defense that has nine shutouts. “They’re very athletic, very gifted and coached really well. We’ve got our hands full,” Aberdeen coach Chris Duncan said. “They’re very good on the defensive line, probably the best we’ve seen all year.” … WR Josh Pinkston has 9 TDs, 5 receiving on 11 catches for 350 yards, 31.82 yards per catch. …WR Cameron Stowers has 25 catches for a team-high 486 yards and 10 total touchdowns. …WR Treshawn Mitchell has 10 TD on 28 catches for 478 yards. … RB Jonthan Warnsley has rushed for 649 yards on 133 carries for 13 TDs. … RB Quillian Jones has 16 TD on 82 carries for 473 yards. … QB Matthew Evans has thrown for 1,675 yards on 84 of 182 with 24 TD. … DL Randell Boyd has 131 tackles and 15 sacks. … DL Justin Robinson and DL Terrance Shepard have combined for 206.5 tackles and 28 sacks.
Class 4A Championship
3 p.m. Saturday
North Pike (14-1) vs. Lafayette (15-0)
- This week: On Monday, North Pike head football coach Chris Smith said he had seen enough film of Lafayette to realize that his team’s in for an “uphill battle.” The Commodores, who are making their second consecutive appearance in the 4A championship game, will also be looking to make history. They, too, are looking to become one of the first MHSAA teams to win 16 games in a season. But winning their first state title in football is No. 1 on their wish list. Lafayette lost 35-16 to St. Stanislaus in last year’s championship game.
- Recent history: Haven’t played in the last three seasons.
- North Pike: LB Tariq Johnson, the Jaguars’ leading tackler, said his team hasn’t played a QB as big as Lafayette’s 6-foot-3, 235-pound Jeremy Liggins, but is used to tackling big players – their teammates in practice, including a 6-foot-4 WR. Liggins has rushed for 1,036 yards on 146 carries and 14 TDs. Said Smith: “We gotta do a good job of tackling and a good job of playing good, responsible defense: taking care of your gaps and that kind of stuff, because they do run a little veer and little misdirection stuff that we gotta take care of.” … On another note, Smith hinted that LB AJ Jefferson and Liggins will be a good matchup to watch in Saturday’s game. … Johnson said his team has one of the best offenses in the state, averaging 37.9 points and 429.4 yards of total offense per game. “We run a spread offense,” Smith said. “We run an offense a lot like what they (Lafayette) run. We like to think we have a pretty good quarterback ourselves.” QB Revis Butler has thrown for 2,360 yards and 19 TDs, while rushing for 1,467 yards and 17 scores. “Right now, he’s actually the leader in total offense in the state,” added Smith. “We’re going to put him out there and let him make plays.”
- Lafayette: Commodores DE Demetri McIntosh said if they allow Butler to gain yards both through the air and on the ground – similar to what St. Stanislaus QB Dylan Favre did against them in last year’s title game – the Jaguars will likely win the game. … The Commodores will also do their best to avoid a 4-turnover performance, such as the one they had against St. Stanislaus last year. “I feel that if we didn’t fumble, there would have been a different outcome in the game,” said senior RB/WR Anfernee Gooch. “It would have been a different game. Last year, it wasn’t a game.” … The Commodores defense is only allowing 7.87 points per game and has surrendered just 19 points in 4 playoff games, including shutouts on the road against New Albany in the quarterfinals and Noxubee County in the semifinals. … RB Demarkus Dennis has rushed for 2,135 yards on 281 carries and 26 TDs. Often times when Dennis and Liggins march their team to within their opponent’s 5-yard line, Jamel Dennis finishes drives off with runs up the middle. Jamel Dennis has scored 9 rushing TDs.
Class 5A Championship
7 p.m. Saturday
Brookhaven (9-4) at West Point (13-1)
- This week: A surprise team out of the South will try to knock off the defending state champions. Brookhaven knocked off large school powers Wayne County and West Jones in the playoffs. The Green Wave, which defeated Wayne County 35-14 in last year’s title game, has won six state championships.
- Recent history: Haven’t played the last three seasons.
- Brookhaven: DB E.J. Henderson described his team’s defense as being a very fast, physical unit that can get to the ball and pursue. West Point head coach Chris Chambless agreed with that assessment, adding the Panthers are more than likely to knock you off the ball quite a bit during the game. “You might hit us with a pass or two over the middle,” Henderson said. “Other than that, we stop the run really well. We defend the pass really well. We just gotta contain the quarterback.” West Point offensive coordinator Lee J. Grisham added that the Panthers are big and physical up front and their linebackers and secondary can all run and tackle well. “Probably one of the best defenses I’ve seen this year,” Grisham said. … According to Henderson, the Panthers have a spread offense with an athletic QB in Duwone Harris. … The Panthers got several players back from injuries to make their late-season run. … Panthers head coach Tucker Peavey said West Point is his team’s biggest challenge of the season.
- West Point: It’s no secret what the Green Wave will do on offense. “They love to get in the power-I formation and run the ball,” said Henderson, whose Panthers pride themselves in stopping the run. “They run the ball, run the ball, run the ball. Then they’ll get out in the spread and try to pass and hit you with a big play down the field. You just gotta contain the run and watch the receivers.” Grisham said his team’s WRs also block well. Added Peavey, “I think that’s what makes West Point as good as they are, because they can pretty much line up and run it at you and run it over you. We gotta be able to stop that.” … Henderson also described Green Wave QB Justin Cox as a really athletic player who can make plays happen down the field. “He can escape out of the pocket,” Henderson added. … Although his team lost a number of key players from last year’s team to graduation, Chambless said many of this year’s starters got some playing time in last year’s state title game and that should help in this year’s game as well.
Class 6A Championship
7 p.m. today
Meridian (14-0) vs. South Panola (14-0)
- This week: In a rematch of the 2008 Class 5A state championship game, Meridian will look to knock off the defending champions and the country’s top-ranked team, according to Rivals.com.
- Recent history: Meridian defeated the Tigers 26-20 in the 2008 5A championship game. The Tigers happened to defeat the Wildcats 28-21 in the 2006 championship game and 52-14 in the 2005 title game.
- Meridian: QB Antoinne Adkins has completed 45 of 76 passes for 702 yards, 12 TDs and 3 INTs. He has also rushed for 876 yards on 105 carries and 8 TDs. … Meridian is holding teams to 6.57 points per game – a whole point better than South Panola’s points allowed per game average – while scoring 29.8 themselves. … The Wildcats share a common opponent with South Panola. The Wildcats defeated Starkville 14-7 on Sept. 3, while the Tigers defeated the Yellowjackets 47-13 on Oct. 29. … Meridian is ranked 37th in the nation, according to Rivals.com.
- South Panola: The Tigers are averaging 47.1 points per game. … South Panola has garnered 245 first downs, with 179 of those coming from rushing plays. The Tigers are averaging 307 yards rushing per game, while holding their opponents to just 23.5 on the ground. In all, the Tigers have rushed for 4,298 yards and have only allowed 329 rushing yards. RB Qyendairs Griffin has rushed for 2,533 yards on 263 carries (9.3 ypc) and 35 TDs. … South Panola is averaging 8.4 yards per play on offense. … The Tigers’ D has forced 6 safeties and 28 turnovers and recorded 4 shutouts.
Capsules compiled by Brandon Speck and John Wilbert