September 20, 2017 10:33:21 AM
Well friends, we are here.
Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) region play begins Friday for Class 6A football teams.
We will know in the next seven weeks if Columbus will make consecutive playoff appearances and if Starkville will return to the postseason after a one-year absence.
In Region 1, Columbus (1-3) will play host to DeSoto Central (3-2).
Columbus had to take a deep breath and sigh of relief after dominating Vicksburg 27-7 in the home opener Friday night.
Columbus had more than 400 yards of offense, had few penalties, and dominated both sides of the line.
Under the direction of fourth-year coach Randal Montgomery, Columbus will try to make the playoffs for a third-straight season for the first time in program history. Montgomery has talked about the playoff streak and how important it would be for the program to extend it.
With seven region games in Class 5A and Class 6A, most teams with 4-3 region records make the playoffs. Occasionally, a 4-3 team is left out due to a tiebreaker. Other times, a 3-4 team gets in when a region is top heavy.
With that being side, most teams shoot for four region wins. That will put you in a position to play for something on the final Friday of the regular season.
Tupelo (4-0) appears to be the class of the region. Columbus will play at Tupelo this season. Tupelo handled a Kylin Hill-led Columbus team last season.
South Panola is 4-1. Coach Ricky Woods' squad has been a nemesis of Columbus. A year ago, South Panola won 6-0 in Lowndes County. This will be Columbus' second-biggest challenge in the region, and again it's on the road.
This year's new member to the region is Oxford. The Chargers have been a power in Class 5A. At 4-1 this season, Oxford will play at Columbus.
That leaves another quartet of teams -- Horn Lake, Hernando, DeSoto Central, and Southaven -- Columbus might have to beat each of them. Columbus should win two of those games with little effort. Horn Lake isn't a traditional power, but it has been good the last two years. Horn Lake took care of business last year against Columbus. The Falcons didn't play well that night. That can't happen two years in a row.
The challenge will be tall for Columbus. However, the Falcons have some positive film. They have seen themselves make winning plays. The victory against Vicksburg should serve as a springboard.
The Falcons are used to making the playoffs. Failing to do so this season would hurt.
In Region 2, Starkville looks to return to the top after an atypical playoff miss last season.
Coach Chris Jones has the Yellow Jackets flying in the right direction. Starkville (4-1) will begin region play at Jackson Provine (4-0).
From 2011-15, Starkville won 34 of 35 region games. That is why last season's 4-3 region mark left some head scratching.
This is a new group of Yellow Jackets, and owning the region is possible this season.
Starkville has scored 28 or more points in all four victories. It has scored 40 or more points in three wins. The Yellow Jackets also are playing strong defense. Meridian and Columbus were held to a late touchdown against reserves, while Noxubee County didn't penetrate the end zone.
In the region, Provine is the only undefeated team. Madison Central, Northwest Rankin, and Warren Central are 3-1. Losses to Northwest Rankin and Madison Central derailed the playoff hopes a year ago.
This season, Northwest Rankin, Madison Central, and Clinton (the other team to beat Starkville a year ago) come to Starkville. The Yellow Jackets will play the other region teams on the road.
That's why the game Oct. 27 at Warren Central might be huge. The regular-season finale is against Clinton. However, the Arrows aren't the same without Cam Akers, who has moved on to Florida State.
A year ago, Starkville didn't handle adversity well. When a game turned against them, the Yellow Jackets had a hard time righting the ship, which is why Jones was anxious to see his team play after a 28-3 loss to West Point. After that setback, Starkville routed Columbus (44-7) and Meridian (40-6).
Region 2 is weaker than Region 1, so Starkville making the playoffs is usually automatic. However, last season proved there are exceptions to any rule.
This Starkville team is different. It is much better in several key areas.
We will see if Starkville and Columbus can stand tall as the season hits the stretch run.
Scott Walters is a sports writer for The Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @dispatchscott.
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter
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