JACKSON – Will history be made Friday at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson when Biggersville faces Lumberton for the Class 1A state football championship?
It will definitely be historic for the Lions. The Panthers are four time champions, having earned state titles in 1983, 2004, 2005 and, most recently, in 2010.
They were also runners-up in 2016 and 2019.
Until this season the Lions had not advanced pa st the second round of the MHSAA playoffs, accomplishing that feat three times. However, 2020 has been their year with no one coming within 15 points of them when TCPS fell 32-17 at the Lions Den three weeks ago.
It was the second win of the season in two attempts over the Eagles for head coach Stan Platt’s BHS squad.
Along the way this season, Biggersville blasted perennial powerhouse Smithville 64-0 for their first win over the Seminoles in 40 years.
Before the season began, Platt had decided to retire following the 2020 campaign. Then came the season-ending lower leg injury to starting senior quarterback Quinton Knight before the first game was played.
No one, not even myself, knew who would start at QB as the Lions prepared to face TCPS in the season opener. It was freshman Drew Rowsey who got the starting nod and led Biggersville through an unbeaten regular season.
Rowsey suffered a collarbone injury in the Lions first round playoff game against West Lowndes, ending his season. His older brother Dylan, a sophomore, took over at that point and has guided the 13-0 Lions to the cusp of the 1A state championship.
Lumberton sixth-year head coach Zach Jones, who has led the Panthers to two MHSAA 1A runner-up finishes, said he is very impressed by Biggersville’s offense, but there is another part of the BHS team that impresses him the most.
“That defense they (Lions) have is ferocious,” said Jones. “They swarm to the ball and attack as a group. They are like us in a lot of ways, but their defense is just like a pack of junk-yard dogs. And I mean that as a huge compliment.”
Even Biggersville players refer to themselves by the same moniker. Multiple times this season BHS players have referred to the defense as ‘Dogs’, similar to the way the Washington Football Team – formerly the Redskins – offensive line was known as ‘The Hogs’ in their heyday.
“They are extremely physical on the line and they fly to the football on defense,” Jones said. “And they are not in this game by mistake. They have earned everything they have achieved so far. To go on the road and defeat the two-time defending champions (Nanih Waiya) like they did last Friday says all anyone needs to know about their team.”
Jones is also impressed with the offensive exploits of BHS running back Goldman Butler and athlete Zae Davis, who can line up just about anywhere and often does.
“Butler is a ‘man’ and is a load out of their backfield,” Jones continued. “And Davis is lightning fast and runs like a deer.
But the thing about Biggersville is they have so many other weapons who can cause a lot of problems for the opponent.”
To take it a step further, most of those ‘weapons’ Jones spoke of play on both sides of the ball and are just as effective on one side as they are on the other.
Case in point is Davis. The junior ran for 128 yards and two touchdowns last week against the Warriors and came up with a key fourth quarter interception to thwart a Nanih Waiya drive. The steal aided in BHS’ shutout win that earned them the school’s first North Half championship.
The general consensus around the state is that Goldman Butler is the ‘star’ of the Biggersville football team and that would be a fair assessment. But football is not a one-man game. In fact there is no ‘I’ in football. The same goes for other sports such as basketball and baseball.
If football was a one-man game, then Lumberton would be the favorite going in simply based on the fact that the Panthers have Mississippi’s two-time 1A Mr. Football Robert Henry at running back. The Jones Community College commit also plays defensive back and has stepped in at quarterback on occasion.
He, like Butler, simply does many things well for Lumberton.
Not to be lost in the ebb and flow of the game is that these are two of the best, if not the two best, defenses in the state in 1A. Need evidence? No problem.
The Lions allow seven points per game, based on actual games played (11). Two of Biggersville’s wins this season came by forfeit, the final two weeks of the season vs Byers and Thrasher. The Panthers allow eight points per game.
Another interesting note ahead of Friday’s championship bout is that both Biggersville and Lumberton are coming off impressive shutout North Half championship wins. The Lions blanked two-time defending state champion Nanih Waiya on the road while the Panthers held Simmons, who won three state titles in a row from 2015-17, to a goose egg in their 30-0 home win.
Now comes the game most of 1A has been talking about and looking forward to for several weeks now: Once-beaten Lumberton (11-1) against unbeaten Biggersville (13-0).
Nanih Waiya rolled past the Panthers 28-13 in the 2019 1A championship game in Hattiesburg, so common sense says Lumberton will be working hard to redeem themselves and win it all this year.
The Lions, on the other hand, are playing as loose as a goose and showed no signs of letting up against the defending state champs a week ago. They have nothing to lose and everything to gain, similar to the situation Corinth found themselves in last season when they won their first state football title.
With run-heavy offenses, and mirror-like defenses that attack with passion, pride and purpose, this game could come down to who has the ball last. According to both head coaches, they expect it will come down to which team controls the lines of scrimmage and forces the most turnovers.
I predicted an 18-14 win for Biggersville against Nanih Waiya last week. What will I do this week with the 1A state championship at stake?
Kent’s pick: Biggersville 22-20