The prep football batons are now in the hands of a pair of Alcorn County schools in hopes they can reach the finish line and capture a state championship.
Corinth and Biggersville are the remaining area teams still alive in the MHSAA playoffs. The Warriors are seeking to defend their 2019 Class 4A state title while the Lions are after their first championship game appearance in school history.
Both squads face stiff competition Friday with Corinth traveling to face Itawamba AHS and Biggersville hosting TCPS. The last time the Warriors faced the Indians was one year ago in the third round, a game won 44-31 by CHS at Warrior Stadium II.
The Lions and Eagles met on Sept. 4 in the 2020 season opener at the Lions Den with BHS rolling to a 46-21 win over Khi Holiday and his high-flying TCPS offense.
Now come the rematches. Join me for a few minutes as I preview each game and list my picks to win and advance.
Corinth (7-3) @ Itawamba AHS (6-3)
Many football guru’s and fans around these parts still say this matchup was the de facto 4A title game last year as the Warriors prevailed behind a 335-yard rushing effort along with a 5-6, 103-yard passing performance from DT Sheffield, who tossed two TDs.
On the flip side. the Indians were as balanced as a team can be, rushing for 187 and passing for 176.
Itawamba is just as balanced this season but scoring 13 fewer points per game than the 2019 squad. Last season the Warriors held now graduated Ike Chandler, who was proclaimed Mississippi 4A Mr. Football prior to the Corinth game, to 77 yards and – more importantly – out of the end zone.
In last years CHS victory Corinth ran 17 more plays than the Indians while winning the first down battle 22-13.
But that was last year. Things are quite different for both clubs this fall as Corinth and Itawamba graduated a large group of big, experienced road-grading linemen along with key skill position players.
This year both teams are leaning heavily on first-year starters at key positions including quarterback, running back and receiver as well as linebacker and defensive back.
Junior running back Tae Chandler has taken over for his brother while 6-2 sophomore Isaac Smith will be the primary target at wide receiver.
“They (Indians) are still a very balanced team that wants to throw the ball,” said Warriors head coach Todd Lowery who has his squad one win away from a second straight appearance in the 4A North Half championship game. “But they are just like us, they lost a lot of key players in key positions and are very young across the board, just like us.”
Itawamba’s losses this season have come to current 3A members Senatobia (28-13) and Houston (28-14)- in weeks two and three- and a 17-14 road loss to Division 2-3A champion Pontotoc on Oct. 23. The Indians defeated Leake Central 34-18 at home in a first round MHSAA playoff contest followed by a forfeit win last week against Clarksdale when the Wildcats were forced into quarantine due to COVID issues.
Corinth is more than capable of winning this contest and moving on to the North Half finals and if they play like they did against West Lauderdale last week the possibilities of success are high.
“If we play Friday at Itawamba the way we did last week against West Lauderdale I feel really good about our chances,” Lowery said. “And our guys know what the consequences of winning or losing this game are. We’ve had really good practices this week and like I always say, the way you practice usually flows over into how you play on Friday.”
Should they win Friday, the Warriors will play the winner of the Pontotoc/Louisville game next week. No matter who earns the victory in that contest, Corinth will be traveling.
“We’ve played our last home game,” Lowery specified.
Kent’s pick: Corinth.
TCPS (8-2) @ Biggersville (11-0)
I’ll crunch the numbers once again just in case anyone missed it the first time.
The Lions opened the 2020 season with an easier-than-expected 46-21 home win over the Eagles. The following week TCPS narrowly lost to two-time defending 1A state champion Nanih Waiya 41-33 on their home field. TCPS is coming off a first round 62-0 pasting of Ashland and will be seeking revenge and payback for their opening loss.
Holiday’s numbers this season are staggering. The 5-9, 160-pound super-quick lightning bug is 154-250 through the air for 2,658 yards with 40 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Three of those picks came against the Lions stout defense, who zoned him to death first time out. Holiday is also the Eagles leading rusher with 1,279 yards and another 25 TDs. He would likely be the leading receiver if he could throw the ball to himself.
Holiday easily leads the state in total touchdowns responsible for with 65.
Speaking of receivers he has two of the top 10 in the state when it comes to receiving yards. Senior John Avery Herrod leads the WR corp with 877 yards and 15 touchdowns while fellow senior Noah Foster is close behind with 805 yards and 12 scores.
When Biggersville and TCPS met in the season opener the Eagles won the total yardage battle 321-279. It was on defense where coach Stan Platt’s team earned the win. And it wasn’t only the three interceptions, it was the constant pressure coming from the BHS defensive line led by players like Di’Renzo Shields and Bryson Pollard.
Dylan Rowsey had two of the Lions three steals in week one, but the biggest might have been Zyonn Mayes’ 100-yard pick-6 as TCPS was driving to score and cut Biggersville’s lead to at least three just before intermission.
That turned a 16-7 BHS advantage into a 24-7 halftime lead. The Eagles never recovered, despite 306 total yards and three touchdowns from Holiday.
That contest was also the debut of Biggersville freshman quarterback Drew Rowsey, who was 5-7 for 83 yards and two TDs through the air with another 37 yards on the ground and a third score.
Senior all-state running back Goldman Butler bulled his way through the TCPS defense for 136 yards and two touchdowns. In fact the Lions physical ground game, coupled with an opportunistic and physical defense, was the reason the maroon-and-white began the season with a convincing ‘W’.
Biggersville has won two of the last three in the series and would love to make it three of the last four with another dominating performance. If that happens they will likely travel to face Nanih Waiya next week for the North Half championship game with a state title game appearance on the line.
But as Platt always says, “We‘re not looking past anyone. We wanna win this game and be 1-0 this week.”
That philosophy has worked every game this year so there’s no reason to change now.
Kent’s pick: Biggersville.