October 17, 2018 9:19:59 AM
While it doesn't seem possible, the end of the regular season is here for some of the classifications in the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools (MAIS).
Next week, we will break down first-round playoff games for Heritage Academy and Starkville Academy.
That will be the beginning. The Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) will follow with playoff action the first Friday in November for Classes 2A, 3A and 4A and the following week for Classes 1A, 5A and 6A.
As we prepare for postseason play, here are some storylines:
Starkville High has work to do
The MHSAA Class 6A, Region 2 race has become far more delightful than first thought.
Starkville's quest for the region title features a 27-24 loss at Northwest Rankin and a 21-17 win at Madison Central.
After dusting off Murrah, Starkville has games against Warren Central and Clinton remaining. A year ago, Warren Central handed Starkville its lone region loss, while we all know how great the Starkville-Clinton rivalry has been throughout the years.
The good news is Starkville will enter the Class 6A playoffs battle-tested. The close games will serve the team well when it needs that extra push in the fourth quarter.
Also, the strength of Class 6A resides mainly in Starkville's region. Fighting through those wars will strengthen the team when the calendar hits November.
West Point won't win in walk-over
West Point won its four playoff games by 134 points last season.
This year, the Green Wave look to be ready to contend for another state championship. However, the road to the title will be more challenging.
At 4-0 in MHSAA Class 5A, Region 1 play, West Point is well on its way to home-field advantage. However, the fast start in the region includes a 14-13 victory against Lafayette and a 34-33 come-from-behind victory against Olive Branch.
The good news is West Point has been prepared to take other teams' best shots. Much like Starkville, playing a pair of tough region contenders (one on the road) will help give this team more resolve when it comes time to make a playoff push.
While Starkville still has work to do to move back up to No. 1 in its region, West Point should have no problem running its region winning streak to 27 games and securing another crown.
The Class 5A North State field has more contenders this season. However, it's hard to count the two-time reigning state champions out.
Heritage Academy, Starkville Academy are in good shape
The biggest mystery of the final week of the MAIS regular season involves where Heritage Academy and Starkville Academy will be slotted when the final power points figures are released for the season.
Heritage Academy beat Starkville Academy 21-7 last week in Starkville to move a step closer to clinching the top spot in the MAIS Class AAA, Division 2 race. A top-five seed in the field of 16 goes to the district champion. Starkville Academy enters its final regular-season game at No. 6 in the power points -- the highest spot for a non-district champion.
It will be interesting to see the final numbers and to find where the teams wind up in the bracket. The question then becomes how quickly they could face one another in a rematch.
The teams have combined to go 15-3 and have established themselves as favorites in Class AAA.
It should make for a fun postseason. Here's hoping we will have stories to track well into December.
Scott Walters is a sports writer for The Dispatch. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @dispatchscott.
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.
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