SBLive Power 10 preseason Mississippi high school football rankings: Starkville No. 1

With football practice kicking off at public schools around the state, we’re launching our 2020 Mississippi high school football preview with an early look at the top 10 teams in the state.

The SBLive Power 10 rankings are statewide, regardless of classification. The rankings will be released weekly throughout the 2020 season.

SBLive Power 10 Preseason Rankings

Aug. 17, 2020

1. Starkville

The Yellowjackets were close last season. With a slew of talent coming back – including arguably the best backfield duo in the state in Luke Altmyer and Amariyon Howard – Starkville is primed to make a run at the 6A title.

Mississippi State commit Amariyon Howard (No. 23) is back for his senior season. (File photos by Keith Warren)

2. West Point

After four-straight 5A state titles, you could certainly make the case for West Point to be at the top of this list. The Wave returns five starters on offense and six on defense, where they are particularly stout. Coach Chris Chambless must replace key pieces in the offensive backfield.

West Point coach Chris Chambless. (File photo by Keith Warren)

3. South Panola

Will this be the year South Panola ends the five-year championship drought? There’s plenty of reason to think so, starting with quarterback Anterrio Draper and a veteran defensive line led by Tymdarrius Taylor and Jalen Kirby that will certainly wreak havoc in Region 1.

South Panola QB Anterrio Draper is back for his senior season. (File photo by Keith Warren)

4. West Jones

The Mustangs return more key pieces than their peers in 5A, including starting quarterback Alan Follis and top tailback Kentrell Pruitt. The question mark is on defense, where coach Scott Pierson returns nine starters but must replace two seniors who will play at the college level this season.

West Jones coach Scott Pierson. (File photo by Keith Warren)

5. Oak Grove

Coach Drew Causey must replace eight starters on the defensive side of the ball, but with basically the whole offensive line coming back and the emergence of the Warriors’ next big quarterback Kabe Barnett, Oak Grove is primed to be a contender again in 6A South.

(File photo by Keith Warren)

6. Madison Central

Defense will be the name of the game for Big Blue until coach Anthony Hart settles on an heir-apparent for departed quarterback Jimmy Holiday, who will suit up for Tennessee this season. The good news is the Jags return nine starters on a defense that allowed just 14.4 points a game last season.

Madison Central coach Anthony Hart. (File photo by Keith Warren)

7. Picayune

Plenty of talent returns from a Picayune team that was on the cusp of greatness last season, starting with quarterback and safety Isaac Hickman. Replacing the production of 3,000-yard rusher Cameron Thomas is tough, but should be made easier with nine other starters returning on offense.

(Photo from Picayune Athletics)

8. Neshoba Central

The Rockets return arguably the state’s best running back in Jarquez Hunter, and the emergence of quarterback Eli Anderson has Neshoba Central primed for a title run in 5A. Add in that coach Patrick Schoolar returns eight starters on defense, and anything less than that would be a disappointment.

Neshoba Central running back Jarquez Hunter (No. 27) is back for his senior season. (File photo by Keith Warren)

9. Laurel

Ryan Earnest wins pretty much everywhere he goes, so you knew the results would be good when he landed at Laurel, a traditional powerhouse. Headed into Earnest’s second season at the helm, the Tornadoes return 13 starters from last year’s squad that went 10-3, including do-everything back Xavier Evans and one of the state’s best receivers, Kanarius Johnson.

(Photo from Laurel Athletics)

10. D’Iberville

The Warriors may not have the depth of their contemporaries in the South, but if everyone stays healthy, D’Iberville is going to be a force on the coast. Coach Larry Dolan returns 14 starters off a team that went 9-3 a year ago, including starting quarterback Dwight Williams and several key pieces on defense.

(Photo from D’Iberville Booster Club)

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