Note – David Wheeler has been contributing to the high school coverage in Northeast Mississippi since 1985.
Hey people, I have not taken finger to keyboard like this in many pages of the calendar, but this 2014 high school football season is about to get interesting, and my interest is starting to peak because all divisions involving Northeast Mississippi teams will play a league game Friday.
And do not hold it against me if my math of off, there might not 18 items, I just like the phrase.
Just picking a starting point, both Divisions 1-4A and 2-4A have at least one game that will head perhaps the entire division to certain playoff scenarios. Kind of like a traffic cop directing traffic.
In 2-4A, Lafayette (2-4) at Ripley (4-2) will have a big impact. Lafayette is not as bad as its record, and the winner has the inside track on a first-round home playoff game. The other school that will have a piece to say about home-field advantage is Senatobia (4-1), which is at New Albany (0-6).
In 1-4A, all eyes should be on Amory (3-3) at Itawamba AHS (1-4). I feel the winner of this game will challenge Corinth (4-2) for the No. 1 spot in this division.
Corinth might not be a lock for a home playoff game, and is at Pontotoc (1-5), and Shannon (1-4) is at Tishomingo County (1-5). The winners of these two contests have a nice start toward a playoff spot.
Just to mention 4-4A, Houston (3-3) is at Caledonia (3-3). What kind of momentum can the Hilltoppers gain as they look to challenge Noxubee County (4-2), Leake Central (5-1), or Kosiusko (5-1)?
In 1-3A, how about a headliner right out of the blocks – North Pontotoc (5-1) at Kossuth (5-1)? Again, winner with big edge on one of two top spots.
I surely think Booneville (3-2) will challenge for one of those two first-round home games, and they host Alcorn Central (1-5), while Belmont (2-3) is at Mooreville (3-2).
In 4-3A, Louisville (2-4) is the defending state champion, but graduation losses brought them to mortal status.
The Nettleton (2-4) at Aberdeen (4-2) winner could start the shuffling in this division.
A spotlight should certainly be on 4-2A, and beaming specifically on Bruce (2-4) at Calhoun City (6-0). This could be the toughest small-school division in the state, and the what a great county (Calhoun) rivalry as well.
But do not forget about Okolona (2-3) at East Webster (6-1). Throw out the records in both of these matchups.
In 1-2A, would it be safe to say Baldwyn (5-1) is the favorite? Good teams not only win the games they are suppose to win, they score style points as well. Baldwyn is at Mantachie (3-3) this week.
Having mentioned all these good 2A teams, Walnut (5-1) should not be overlooked, and is at Hatley (3-3). New Site (4-2) is at East Union (3-2), with the winner perhaps on the road to the playoffs.
In 1-1A, Smithville (5-1, 3-0) gets a week off, resting in first place along with Coffeeville (5-1, 3-0), which is at Coldwater (1-4, 1-1).
Perhaps the best matchup in this division is Falkner (3-2, 2-0) at Thrasher (2-3, 1-2); and do not forget Hamilton (3-3, 1-1) at Houlka (1-4, 1-2). The winner of Vardaman (0-6, 0-3) at Biggersville (0-6, 0-3) might get back in the playoff hunt as well.
Moving to a bigger class, Oxford (4-1, 1-0) got a good leg up in 1-5A with its victory over West Point 43-22 last week. This week, Oxford hosts playoff hopeful Saltillo (5-1, 1-0). Win or lose, perhaps the key games down the road for Saltillo are against West Point and New Hope. Saltillo beat Lake Cormorant last week 51-35.
West Point (3-3, 0-1) looks to get on track at Clarksdale (2-3, 0-1), while the other key game to me is New Hope (5-0, 1-0) at Center Hill (4-2, 1-0).
Throughout the two North division of Class 6A, there were certainly some games last week that began weeding out some of the pretenders.
I picked Tupelo (5-0, 1-0) to go undefeated through the regular season before any kickoffs, and I stand by that.
Still, with a significant number of players who did not go through the battles of that great 2013 season (which I had the honor to watch every game), I was a little nervous for the Golden Wave in their first 1-6A game, which they handled 43-6 over Hernando (2-3, 0-1). Now I am nervous as Tupelo goes on the road after four straight home games against a team that will try to run through them – Grenada (5-1, 1-0).
Remember what a bus looks like?
Of note, if Tupelo continues with its winning ways, that Oct. 17 game hosting South Panola (yes, if Tupelo is undefeated during the regular season, I pick Tupelo to win this game) could approach 9,000-plus spectators, making it the largest home Tupelo crowd ever.
Also last week in 1-6A division-openers, South Panola over Horn Lake 63-26, Southaven over Olive Branch 40-21, and Grenada over DeSoto Central 28-7.
Down in 2-6A, perhaps the key game last week was Clinton (4-1, 1-0) with a 47-35 win over Madison Central. What about a Tupelo-Madison Central first-round pairing in the playoffs?
And that beast Starkville (5-0, 1-0) hit Columbus 43-0. Perhaps a team under the radar in this division is Murrah (6-0, 1-0), which is at Madison Central (3-2, 0-1) this week.
There is football before Ole Miss hosting Alabama, and Mississippi State hosting Texas A&M, so enjoy.