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MHSAA playoffs: Wilkinson Co. hosts Crystal Springs, Jefferson Co. hosts Raleigh

WOODVILLE — The Wilkinson County High School Wildcats wanted to make sure they took momentum into the MHSAA Class 3A South State Playoffs. They did so with a 34-7 win over the Morton High School Panthers last week.

Now the Region 7-3A co-champions and No. 1 seed look to keep it going when they host the Region 6-3A No. 4 seed Crystal Springs High School Tigers in a first-round match-up. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

“The main thing was we were able to come back after a loss,” Wilkinson County head coach Kenneth Brown said, referring to the Wildcats’ 22-12 loss to a Port Gibson team that didn’t even make the postseason. “Other than that, we’ve got to make progress and not make the mental mistakes. We learned that they have to pay attention to detail. Formation, assignments, recognition, keeping their minds focused on football.”

Brown said that the Wildcats are going into the playoffs in good shape health-wise.

“We don’t have an injuries. That shouldn’t be a problem. We’ll be okay on that end,” Brown said.

Which is a good thing considering that Wilkinson County (8-2) will be facing a Crystal Springs team that is not your typical No. 4 seed. The Tigers head into this game with a 6-4 overall record despite going 2-3 in Region 6-3A.

“That’s what I’ve been telling the team, telling the fans. This is not a typical No. 4 team. They’re not a bad team,” Brown said. “They’re big. They’re athletic. They like to run the ball more than they do pass. They give you different formations out of the spread, double wing, power-I. The main thing is they’re big and they’ve got some athletes. So we’ve got our hands full.

Defensively, the Tigers’ size up front could be a problem for the Wildcats to deal with, Brown said.

“They get to the ball. They’re probably the biggest team we’ve faced as far as size. They’re as big if not bigger than us. They give you a lot of fronts, from a 4-front to a 3-front depending on who they play. If we can maintain that, we can do some things,” Brown said.

As for who will need to have a big game for Wilkinson County to come out victorious and advance to the second round, Brown said, “Everything starts down front. Terrell Coleman (Jr.) did a good job on special teams, running the ball, playing linebacker last week. Treveon Miles, playing all three ways. (DreQuan) Cage had an interception. Hopefully, they’ll continue what they’re doing.”

Raleigh at Jefferson County

FAYETTE — One year after failing to make the postseason, the Jefferson County High School Tigers are back and they look to extend their winning streak to three in a row when they host the Raleigh High School Lions in the first round of the MHSAA Class 3A South State Playoffs.

Kickoff between Region 6-3A No. 3 seed Raleigh and Region 7-3A co-champion and No. 2 seed Jefferson County is set for 7 p.m. The Tigers clinched that spot after defeating Franklin County High School, the same team that knocked them out of playoff contention a year ago, 28-6.

“We were consistent with the passing game. We played pretty tough defense,” Tigers head coach James Herrington said.

And while the Tigers had a solid running game throughout the regular season, including 370 yards on the ground last week, they also put the ball on the ground seven times, with Franklin County’s defense recovering three of them.

As for how Jefferson County (6-2) is injury-wise heading into the playoffs, Herrington said, “After playing eight games, we’re pretty healthy. Thank the Lord.”

Raleigh goes into Friday night’s game with a 4-7 overall record, but that was because of a brutal pre-region schedule that included the likes of Taylorsville, Lawrence County, Seminary, and Mendenhall. After the loss at Mendenhall on Sept. 21, the Lions were 1-5 overall.

That didn’t seem to phase the Lions as they went 3-2 in Region 6-3A, including a narrow 63-56 loss at Velma Jackson High School last Friday night.

As to what concerns him the most about Raleigh, Herrington said, “Their wing offense. They’re a true wing team. They don’t run a lot of plays or a lot of formations. They’re not big, but they’re a tenacious defense. They get after you pretty well. We’ve got to prepare to stop the run and run the ball (ourselves).”

Herrington said that while teams will always have to get solid play from their quarterback, offensive line, and defensive line, he also said it will take a team effort for the Tigers to come out on top Friday night and move on to the second round.

“We have to make sure we play as a team. Play for each other and with each other. Not let adversity shake us. This time of year everybody that makes the playoffs is supposed to be a good ball club. We’ve been focusing on playing together,” Herrington said.

Franklin County at Velma Jackson

MEADVILLE — For the second consecutive season, a one-win Franklin County High School team made the postseason, this time getting in because of its 7-6 win at Port Gibson High School three weeks ago.

For its reward, Franklin County (1-9) will hit the road to Camden to take on the Region 6-3A champion and No. 1 seed Velma Jackson High School Falcons in a first-round game. Kickoff on Friday is set for 7 p.m.

Despite the home loss to Jefferson County to finish 1-3 in Region 7-3A, the Bulldogs got in after Hazlehurst defeated Port Gibson to knock the Blue Waves out of playoff contention.

Yet Bulldogs head coach Trey Woodard said he was not surprised that his team advanced to the playoffs because of the way the system is set up.

“We play in a five-team (region), so 80 percent of the (region) is going,” Woodard said.

Velma Jackson (9-1) enters the playoffs on a nine-game winning streak after a 38-33 loss at Ridgeland High School back on Aug. 16. The Falcons had a couple of close calls during that run – the seven-point home win over Raleigh a week ago and a 28-24 win, also at home, over Magee High School.

When asked what makes Velma Jackson so good, Woodard said, “Everything.”

The Falcons’ offense is led by a pair of quarterbacks in senior Antavious Willis and junior Diallo Thompson, who also plays wide receiver. Willis will be playing in the 2018 Mississippi-Alabama All-Star Football Game later this year.

“They’re good. They can block. They’re fast. Both quarterbacks are good. They can run. They can throw, They’re good,” Woodard said. “Defensively, they run a 4-front with multiple coverages.”

As for what it will take for Franklin County to pull off what would be a huge upset, Woodard said, “Velma Jackson scored 123 points the last two games. We have to go in there and take some chances and see what happens.”

The Bulldogs may have finally found some success in their passing game. Charles Hunt went 7-for-13 for 169 yards and one touchdown while Jaquan Brown was 6-for-10 for 47 yards last week.

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