Pick ’em at PriorityOne Bank High School


Veteran sportswriter and high school football expert Robert Wilson makes PriorityOne Bank’s predictions column each week during high school football season on teams from Hinds, Madison and Rankin counties. Robert was 20-4 (83.3%) last week and 53-12 (81.5%) overall this season.

By Robert Wilson

Callaway (2-0) at Provine (2-0), North Jackson Field, Thursday

Anyone familiar with the history of the Callaway-Provine rivalry knows of the success of Callaway coaches Charlie Allman and Daryl Jones and Provine coaches Stanley Blackmon and Willie Collins.

Allman won 115 games from 1972 to 1986 and was part of several major Callaway teams during the Big Eight Conference days and also the early years of the MHSAA playoffs, which began in 1981. Jones, who played at Provine and Jackson State and is now the athletic director of Jackson Public Schools, won 40 games from 2009 to 2013, including winning a school-record 14 games and reaching the Class 5A State Semifinals in 2013. They are the only two coaches out of Callaway’s last 10 coaches to have winning records.

Blackmon won 79 games from 1979 to 1981 and Collins, who was a longtime assistant to Blackmon, continued the winning tradition with 167 wins from 1992 to 2013. The highlight of Collins’ era was being the MHSAA Class 5A runner-up in 1994 and 1999, the only two times a JPS football team has reached the state championship since the playoffs began in 1981.

Damean Brown of Callaway and Tim Wilson of Provine – the current coaches of both schools – bring unbeaten records into Thursday’s game, which will be the 55e meeting between these two JPS schools. Callaway leads the series 29-25 and has won nine of the last 13 meetings. Only the two teams’ streak with rival JPS Murrah is longer than this streak.

Brown, in his third season as head coach, and Wilson, in his fifth season, are off to a great start this year despite challenges with Jackson’s water issues in recent weeks.

Callaway beat Yazoo City 45-12 and Murrah 35-15. Senior Daquaavion Thompson and second Marvin Moore combined for 307 rushing yards and six touchdowns. Junior quarterback Kantrell Thomas Jr. had three touchdowns. Junior right guard Joey Anthony anchors the offensive front. Versatile senior Kedarius Wade can play wide receiver, linebacker, quarterback and return kickers and has offers from Mississippi State, Southern Miss and Arkansas State. He leads the team with 224 all-around yards (54 rushing, 82 receiving and 88 retching). Wade, Thompson and junior Tavarius Pepper led Callaway’s defense.

Provine beat Gautier 12-6 and Lanier 35-7.

Senior linebacker Tommy Kelly Jr. — a member of the PriorityOne Bank Metro Jackson Preseason Elite 11 team — leads the defense, which allowed just two scores. Kelly — the son of former Provine, Hinds Community College, Mississippi State and NFL defensive lineman Tommy Kelly Sr. — has a team-high 20 tackles, 5 for loss. Defensive back Carlando Crump and linebacker Brandon Jones are also key defensive players. Provine’s defense, coached by Kelly Sr., retained talented quarterback Gautier Kaden Irving, who committed to Ole Miss in baseball, without a touchdown pass despite 52 assists.

Junior quarterback John White passed for 236 yards and a touchdown. Junior running back Jontavous Shoemate has 193 rushing yards and a touchdown. Senior wide receiver Dan Smith has five catches for 94 yards. Kelly, who also plays backup quarterback, has two rushing touchdowns. Crump plays wide receiver and kick returner, and Jones plays running back.

These teams have come a long way since the pandemic in 2020 when JPS canceled the football season. A year ago, Callaway was 3-7 and Provine was 4-6. Callaway hasn’t had a winning season since going 7-5 in 2016. Provine went 9-4 in 2019 and won its first seven games. The Rams lost to eventual champion West Point in the first round of the 5A State Playoffs.

Kelly and Smith – two talented Division I players – will lead Provine to its third consecutive victory.

Province 12, Callaway 6

Brandon (2-0) at Clinton (1-1)

Sam Williams’ first win as Brandon head coach last year came against Clinton when the Bulldogs scored 14 points in the final 81 seconds for a remarkable 31-24 win at Brandon. Brandon running back Jarvis Durr, a Louisiana Tech commitment, scored on a 20-yard touchdown with 1:21 left to tie the game at 24-24. Then BJ Morrow recovered a Clinton fumble with 33 seconds left. Three plays later, quarterback Landon Varnes completed a 26-yard TD pass to Devin Thigpen with 3 seconds left for the game-winning score. The dramatic win came after Williams and Brandon suffered losses to Oxford and Madison Central to open the season. The win over Clinton kicked off Brandon’s 11-game winning streak, which ended with a loss to Madison Central in the MHSAA Class 6A State Championship game.

Brandon comes into this year’s game in style after beating defending 6A state champion Madison Central 28-7 and is currently considered the favorite to win his first state title in school history. .

Williams and offensive and defensive coordinators Wyatt Rogers and Greg Robinson have the Bulldogs clicking on all cylinders with the precision of Varnes, Durr’s one-two punch and hard-to-drop junior Nate Blount, the offensive front led by the senior center and Southern Miss Luke Rogers Commitment and solid defensive play. Blount has consecutive games for 164 and 162 yards. Varnes completed 70% of his passes for 437 yards and five touchdowns. Senior wide receiver Lester Miller, a commitment from Akron, Ohio, caught 12 passes for 247 yards and three scores. Senior linebacker Jack McKay (two sacks), junior lineman Jaeden Calendar (two sacks) and senior defensive back JaQuaylen Love (two interceptions) led the defense against Madison Central.

Clinton’s loss to Brandon last year was one of four losses by seven points. The Arrows finished 6-5 and lost to Southaven 14-10 in the first round of the 6A state playoffs.

Clinton coach Judd Boswell, who led the Arrows to the 6A state title in 2016 behind high school All-American Cam Akers (now with the Los Angeles Rams), believes this year’s squad has a lot of potential with 16 returning starters (eight each on offense and defense). He expects big things from 5-foot-11, 220-pound senior running back Jakobe Calvin, who gained 902 yards and scored 15 touchdowns and caught six passes for 152 yards and a touchdown last season.

There are four PriorityOne Bank Metro Jackson Preseason Elite 11 team members in this game – Brandon’s Rogers, Blount and Clinton’s senior tight end DeCoreyea Buchanan and Calvin.

Clinton offensive line coach Tyler Peterson was Brandon’s head coach for six seasons and was 55-26, including a 13-2 record and a semi-final appearance in the league. State 6A in 2018 behind quarterback Will Rogers, now a junior starting quarterback at Mississippi State. The only regular season loss that year was 19-14 to Clinton.

Clinton leads the series 41-34-1.

Brandon should have a bit of a disappointment after a thrilling win over Madison Central last week, but should hang in there for a win on the road.

Brandon 21, Clinton 14

Jackson Academy (3-0) at Madison St. Joseph (2-1)

JA freshman coach Aubrey Blackwell led the Raiders to three narrow wins over Class 5A Starkville 17-14 in overtime, Class 5A Leake 10-6 and Class 4A Winston 20-17 in overtime.

Blackwell, who succeeded Lance Pogue (now at Heritage), comes to JA from Alabama where he was 57-26 in seven seasons as head coach, six at Montgomery Catholic and one at Benjamin Russell High in Alexander City.

JA freshman lineman Dereon Albert had a team-high 17 tackles in last week’s win over Winston. Senior linebacker Adams Kennedy leads the team with 40 tackles this season. Sophomore linebacker AJ Parker is second with 32 tackles and a team-high 3.5 sacks. The Raiders forced seven turnovers, five interceptions (two by sophomore defensive back DJ Watkins) and two fumble recoveries.

If Blackwell and JA want to stay undefeated, they need to slow down the top-rated sophomore quarterbacks in the state and one of the best in the nation at St. Joe’s Emile Picarella. Picarella, ranked No. 1 in Mississippi and No. 7 in the nation in the Class of 2025 by qbhitlist.com, has completed 61.6% of his passes for 570 yards and four touchdowns this season. He has offers from Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Pittsburgh and Akron, Ohio. In addition to Picarella, St. Joe has another offensive weapon in senior running back and transfer Forest Hill High Million Kelly, who has a team-best 482 all-purpose yards (239 receptions, 158 carries, 63 returns from clearance and 22 kickoff returns) and five DTs.

St. Joe’s first-year head coach Jason Moore, who coached for 25 years as an assistant at MHSAA schools in Brandon, Florence, Puckett, Pelahatchie and Forest before coming to St. Joe in as an assistant four years ago, has his Bruins on a two-game winning streak and is coming off an impressive 50-7 win over East Rankin Academy. St. Joe hasn’t had a winning season since 2017 and has only had two winning seasons in the last eight seasons. The Bruins have 12 returning starters, increased their roster from 14 players to 42 and added five trades.

JA outscored St. Joe in all three meetings, 35-14 last season, 47-7 in 2018 and 31-14 in 2017.

Look for Picarella and St. Joe to get their first win over JA in school history and continue to improve on their three-game winning streak.

St. Joe 20, JA 14

In other games (winners in bold):

Ridgelands (2-0) at Jim Hill (0-1-1), North Jackson Field, Thursday

St. Andrew (1-1) at Richton (0-2), Thursday

Canton (1-1) to Victoria (0-2)

Cantonal Academy (4-0) at Oak Hill (1-2)

Carroll Academy (2-1) at Clinton Christian (3-1)

Discovery Christian (0-3) at Ben’s Ford, Louisiana (2-1)

East St. John, Louisiana (1-1) at Lanier (0-2), North Jackson

Florence (2-0) at Mage (1-1)

Forest Hill (0-2) at Central Neshoba (0-2)

Preparation of Jackson (3-0) at Lamar School (0-4)

Lake (0-2) to Pelahatchie (0-2)

Morton (0-2) at Pearl (1-1)

North West Rankin (0-2) at Madison Central (1-1)

Presbyterian Christian (2-1) to Hartfield (2-0)

Pillow (2-1) at East Rankin (2-1)

Pisgah (1-1) at Sevastopol (2-0)

Raymond (0-1) at Velma Jackson (0-2)

Richmond (1-1) at McLaurin (0-2)

Silliman, Louisiana (1-2) at Center Hinds (3-0)

Simpson (3-0) at ARM (2-2)

Tri-County (3-0) at Riverfield, Louisiana (2-1)

Terry (2-0) at Murrah (0-2)

Warren Central (2-0) at Germantown (2-0)

Lincoln West (0-2) at Puket (2-0)

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