August 1, 2017 8:22:55 PM
Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters will look at five prep football questions each Wednesday between now and Aug. 16, 2017, as we count down to the start of the prep football season.
By now, you know what we do on Wednesdays. Let's get it.
1. Which rivalry game do you anticipate the most this upcoming season?
Rivalry games just do not happen overnight. Rivalry games need to be between two competitive camps. Over time you fall in love with seeing them play against one another.
The latest rivalry game to win me over has been the Louisville-Noxubee County border war. These friendly neighbors meet Oct. 6 in Macon. The contest will count in the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 4A, Region 4 standings.
M.C. Miller went from Noxubee County to Louisville, leaving behind his former assistant Tyrone Shorter to run the show with Noxubee County. One could go back to when Nevil Barr left Petal for Oak Grove at the turn of the century to see a similar move.
Both teams are always among the very best in Class 4A. Noxubee County struggled in the second half of last season's 34-26 win at Hinze Stadium.
The game has a great coaching storyline but also star power. Louisville defensive end Charles Moore is considered the state's top prospect in the Class of 2019.
Noxubee County also has a pair of Class of 2019 studs in quarterback Maliek Stallings and wide receiver Kyziah Pruitt.
While Oct. 6 will be fun, it most likely be part one of a two-part play.
2. Any other rivalry games that have you either fired up or at least holding the matches?
Well, you can never go wrong with Starkville-West Point. That is always a good default answer to that question. Those teams play Sept. 1 in Clay County.
West Point had clearly the better team a year ago, while Starkville held that distinction the two previous years. This season, it appears to be an even matchup with tons of Division I players on the field for both squads.
The beauty of this rivalry is that it is not a region game. It's a measuring stick contest sure to sell a lot of soft drinks at West Point.
It will also be a chance to welcome new Starkville coach Chris Jones into the rivalry.
Due to realignment, we have lost West Point-Oxford for this season, so instead we will have to make do with some very good consolation prizes.
3. Which contest has you most intrigued at the New Hope Jamboree?
Again, the New Hope Jamboree has expanded. A total of eight games will be played over two days at Davis Wade Stadium on the campus of Mississippi State University. New Hope coach Kris Pickle should be proud that his program hosts the premier preseason event in the state each season.
The best matchup is the Saturday night finale between West Point and Tupelo. West Point is the clear-cut favorite in Class 5A, while Tupelo is on the tip of the tongue when giving Class 6A favorites.
West Point will be breaking in a new quarterback. However, the main weapons on offense will remain the same. It's a safe bet though Demarrio Edwards will be missed as well for the Green Wave.
Stephon McGlaun is back for Tupelo. As a sophomore, he threw for 1,105 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. On the ground, Jaquerrious Williams is also back, after running for 1,137 yards and 13 touchdowns in what was also his sophomore campaign.
The teams combined to win 26 games last season against two defeats. West Point won Class 5A, while Tupelo fell in the second round of Class 6A play against Madison Central.
Meanwhile, don't sleep on the Starkville-Louisville game at 4 p.m. that Saturday. It is good to have Starkville back at Davis Wade after a one-year absence.
4. What will be some keys for the Columbus football team this season?
Coach Randal Montgomery begins his fourth season with a different looking team.
Quarterback C.J. Gholar took virtually every snap the last two seasons. Montgomery feels like he has two young stars with strong arms. He feels like the Falcons could eventually become a really good deep-ball team. However, these players will be learning on the fly in the year ahead. It's hard to be a leader when you are learning what to do yourself.
The Falcons have a very small senior class. So it is imperative that this group sticks together. A difficult non-region schedule could lead to adversity. The seniors will need to keep a tight grip on the wheel when the tough times come.
At running back, the Falcons will need a monster season from Patrick Jackson. Patrick does not have to be Kylin Hill, Part II. Instead, he needs to be consistent, durable and a team leader. There is some depth behind him. However, it is inexperienced.
On defense, the Falcons have to play better than they did a year ago. There is no secret. We will see what Devon King and Josh Gray have in mind to make that happen.
Finally, the first three games are against West Point, Noxubee County, Starkville. For a young squad, it will be imperative to look at the big picture.
5. How much fun was the interview with Starkville defensive back Natrone Brooks from Tuesday's paper?
Lots of fun.
Chris Jones has already made a major impact on the football program at Starkville before even coaching a down. The Yellow Jackets have consistently been one of the best teams in Class 5A. However, last year was lacking in so many regards.
When you talk to someone like Natrone, you hear the passion. You hear the desire, commitment and focus. You hear a senior that knows his teammates will be along for the ride. All he has to do is help steer the car down the right road.
Scott Walters is a sports reporter for the Commercial Dispatch. He may be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @dispatchscott.
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter
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