Starkville High junior quarterback Malik Brown (1) has thrown for 1,800 yards and 24 touchdowns this season. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
November 21, 2017 9:45:35 PM
Many of you will be sitting down with family members for a Thanksgiving feast Thursday.
You know the routine.
Lots of food and fellowship. Hugs and handshakes. Football games blaring on the television in the other room.
You will know everybody in attendance except for your cousin's new girlfriend. You get a name and say hello but won't need to remember her. He will bring someone new to the Christmas gathering.
With two weeks remaining in the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) football playoffs, the storylines are familiar.
While there might be a new face here or there, the dance card features several regulars for this time of year.
In Class 6A, Starkville will play host to Madison Central. In Class 5A, West Point will play host to Olive Branch. In Class 4A, Noxubee County will play host to Louisville.
Each winner will play for the state championship in their respective classifications next weekend at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford.
At Starkville, West Point and Noxubee County, football games are won. They are won on a regular basis.
Starkville coach Chris Jones lifted the gold ball at Kemper County and is now trying to do the same at Starkville.
West Point coach Chris Chambless bagged a gold ball last season after his team beat Laurel for the Class 5A title in Starkville.
Noxubee coach Tyrone Shorter has been part of state championship squads as an assistant and head coach at Noxubee. The Tigers last won the title in 2015.
For West Point, playing on Thanksgiving weekend was a foregone conclusion.
A year ago, the Green Wave won their final 13 games and breezed to the school's first title since 2010.
All of the offensive firepower you ever wanted returned in the form of running backs Marcus Murphy and Chris Calvert. Jason Brownlee has emerged as one of the top pass-catching targets in the state.
The offensive line remains virtually intact from last season.
On defense, the West Point squad is sorely under-valued. We saw a glimpse of how good they could be last season with a shutout of Oxford in the playoffs before holding the high-flying Laurel offense to one score in the championship game.
Again most of the talent is back.
With a veteran coach like Chambless, there was no way this team was going to get too high or too low. The only challenge was to keep the squad from being bored to death.
Close game have been non-existent. Now, with the season's finish line in site, that does not look to change.
While West Point was a lock to be playing on Thanksgiving weekend, some might be mildly surprised to see Starkville in this scenario.
Yet, here are the Yellow Jackets. Starkville had the good fortune of winning the Region 2 regular-season championship. As the bracket shook out, that has meant three straight home games.
This Starkville squad has been battle-tested, while surviving both highs and lows. In a 28-3 loss to West Point and a 23-0 loss to Warren Central, this did not look like a team ready to make a state championship run.
However, the defense has been solid throughout the season. The offense finally looked like it returned to normal in last Friday's 35-7 win over Horn Lake. That victory came on the heels of tough offensive outings against Warren Central, Clinton and Southaven.
Starkville is not nearly as bad as it has looked at times this season. There may have been some over-achieving on some nights as well.
However, what matters now, is the chance to suit up two more weekends.
In the regular season, Starkville beat Madison Central, 14-6. That tells us the Yellow Jackets are certainly capable of winning again Friday at Yellow Jacket Stadium.
This won't be blowing through two final opponents to win a title (see Class 5A). However, Starkville has a chance. It has the coaching staff and talent level on the field to get this done.
In Macon, Shorter is at his best when it comes time to put together a game plan to win a playoff game.
Noxubee County won the state titles in 2014 and 2015. A youthful squad competed but fell in the third round last season.
The bounce back has been predictable this season.
Armoni Clark has taken over the reigns full-time at quarterback and blossomed. Kyziah Pruitt remains the state's best-kept secret prospect. The role players - Rashad Eades and Jaqualyn Smith for example - are exceptional.
Noxubee County has now scored 35 or more points in seven straight games. They are simply mauling people right now.
In the regular season, Noxubee County beat Louisville, 35-30. It was a slugfest. More of the same is entirely possible for Friday night.
However, it is hard to imagine Noxubee County losing a game that matters at home in the playoffs.
Stranger things have happened. But not many.
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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