We’re down to four teams in the MHSAA Class 3A Football Playoffs, and it’s still a complete toss-up as to who is going to raise the Golden Ball at the end of the season.
Here’s a look at both 3A games set for this weekend, and what to expect in each of them.
Amory (9-3) at North Panola (9-1)
Amory coach Brooks Dampeer probably hoped for the best when he took the reins of the program earlier this year, but even he couldn’t have imagined he’d have the Panthers on the verge of a state championship berth in year one.
The Panthers swept Region 4-3A on the legs of tailback Charleston French and behind a defense that has only given up seven touchdowns in seven games since the end of September.
They have blown through the playoffs, beating Mantachie and Independence by a combined score of 99-12 in the first two rounds and shutting out Kossuth 14-0 last week.
The Panthers face another big test against an explosive North Panola team that is averaging 43.8 points a game offensively, led by quarterback Q.D. Walls.
The Panthers can take a lot of stress off the defense with long, sustained drives, so French is going to have to have one of his best nights of the season. If they get into a shootout, the Cougars can score with the best of them.
Jeff Davis County (7-5) at Raleigh (9-2)
Don’t let Jeff Davis County’s five losses fool you — the Jaguars are for real.
Their non-region schedule included stops at Picayune, which is still alive in the 5A South race, D’Iberville, Mendenhall and at home against Columbia, which is playing for the 4A South title Friday night.
The Jaguars are led by 3A Mr. Football Malcolm Hartzog, a two-way star who can do a little bit of everything. They have blown through the first two rounds of the playoffs, beating Clarkdale 54-19 in the opening round, Hazlehurst 40-14 in the second round and walloping previously unbeaten Enterprise-Clarke 34-7 last week.
Raleigh comes in riding an eight-game winning streak and after knocking off previously top-ranked Tylertown 7-6 last week.
The Lions’ offense is centered around junior tailbacks Suntarine Perkins (112 carries, 1,132 yards) and Javarious Walker (89 carries, 788 yards), but if those two lull the defense to sleep, quarterback Jay Jones has flashed the ability to hit opposing teams over the top with 12 touchdowns.
This matchup might be the most even across all six of the MHSAA’s classifications.