Wildcats, Indians clash for 3A title
JACKSON – Since the 2013 season kicked off in August, 240-plus teams in the Mississippi High School Activities Association have gone through a rigorous heat and training regimen and tough regular season to vie for 12 slots (two each for six classifications) in the Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Mississippi Gridiron Classic State Championships at Jackson’s Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium Friday and Saturday.
Those 12 teams met Monday morning at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in Jackson for their introductory press conference.
Action gets under way Friday morning at 11 a.m. with the 1A title game featuring Smithville and French Camp, followed by Calhoun City and Bassfield in Class 2A at 3 p.m. The 6A finale pits Tupelo and Oak Grove at 7:30.
On Saturday morning at 11 a.m., the North 3A champion Louisville Wildcats (15-0) will take on the South 3A and defending 3A State Champion Hazlehurst Indians (14-1).
Lafayette County and Forrest County AHS battle for the 4A crown at 3 p.m., followed by Oxford and Picayune in the 5A title at 7:30 p.m.
Louisville captured the North title with a 35-0 shutout win at Charleston. Hazlehurst defeated Wilkinson County 36-22 for the South crown last Friday night in Woodville.
The Wildcats are no strangers to Jackson; having claimed state titles in Class 4A in 1985, 1986, 1991, 1993, 1995 and Class 3A in 2007 and 2008.
Louisville averaged 39.9 points per game this season, while giving up 5.7 points per game. The Wildcats put up 343 yards of offense (191 passing) per game.
“We like to throw the football a lot,” said veteran head coach M.C. Miller who has had previous head coaching stints at Louisville, Noxubee County and Harrison Central. “We have several receivers who can catch it and run.”
Senior quarterback Wyatt Roberts has passed for 2,876 yards and 37 touchdowns. His main targets are Desmond Goss (1,011 yards – 17 touchdowns) and Dontae Jones (727 yards – 10 touchdowns). Demarcus Brooks leads the ground game with 954 yards and 12 scores.
Defensively, the Wildcats pitched seven shutouts and only allowed more than 20 points once. Louisville has been ranked as high as No. 2 in several polls during the season.
“We don’t play a specific set on defense. We preach 11 players going to the football at all times,” Miller commented. “We will need that kind of an effort against a very good and sound Hazlehurst ball club.”
Under the tutelage of third-year head coach Randal Montgomery, Hazlehurst captured championship gold in last season’s 21-20 victory over Charleston. In the 2011 3A title contest, Hazlehurst fell to Charleston 34-8.
The Indians also won the 3A title in 2005.
“It is our goal every year to get Jackson,” Montgomery echoed. “Our kids, coaches, school and community have bought into what we are trying to do here; establishing a tradition here.”
Hazlehurst has put up similar numbers to Louisville, averaging less than 35 points per game, while giving up 15.5 points per game on defense. Montgomery’s team will spread the field but focus primarily on the run, averaging 369 yards (252 on the ground) of total offense.
Senior running back D’Alex Rockingham has led the way with 1,479 yards on 166 rushes and 16 touchdowns, followed by junior Dycelious Reese with 692 yards and 10 scores. Quarterback Jarvis Warner has triggered the offense with 1,710 yards passing and 24 touchdown passes. Senior Dedric Reese has topped the receiving corps with 536 yards and seven touchdowns.
“We must be able to defend the pass and slow down their offense,” said Coach Montgomery. “We must play hard for 48 minutes with mistake-free football. Louisville has a good football team and is very physical.”
Montgomery will count heavily on a bend-but-don’t-break defense, led by senior defenders Johnkil Skipper (91 tackles), Jarvarius Tanner (82 tackles) and Dycelious Reese (six INTs).