Football is Back! Week one High School football previews
Published 8:09 am Friday, August 23, 2019
High school football in Mississippi and around the nation picks up this week, as well as two national college football games.
After a long offseason and a hot summer, football is officially back in our lives beginning Friday. The LOU community will host just one game this week, Oxford’s home opener, with both Lafayette and Water Valley opening their seasons on the road.
Lafayette at Cleveland Central, 7 p.m.
For the second straight year, the Commodores will open their season against a fellow 5A team Cleveland Central. One year ago, playing at Lafayette, the Commodores were simply dominant. Lafayette rushed for over 550 yards against Cleveland Central, including 119 yards and two touchdowns from quarterback Randy Anderson.
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The Commodores lose their two leading running backs from a season ago. But Anderson is back, along with all of their starting offensive line and three of the four members of the defensive front. Really, Anderson is the key. He’s going to play quarterback, wide receiver and defensive back for Lafayette, occasionally being spelled by sophomore Tyrus Williams at quarterback. Anderson missed practices earlier this week dealing with a bad bruise to his hip and glute area suffered in last Friday’s jamboree game, but the team expects him to be ready to go come the opener.
**From earlier this week – Why Lafayette can win state
Oxford vs Northwest Rankin, 7 p.m.
An interesting matchup to start the year, Oxford hasn’t played Northwest Rankin in the modern era. Online records go back as far as 2004, when a handful of these Charger players were born, and in that time the schools have never met.
It’s not the easiest opening game of the season by any means. Last season, Northwest Rankin went 11-2, going undefeated in their 6A region, before losing in the second round of the playoffs. The good news for Oxford is that this Cougar team will look incredibly different than last year’s. Jamari Jones, the Cougar quarterback who accounted for over 2,800 yards and 30 touchdowns a season ago, has graduated.
Northwest Rankin will surely be a team in turnover, trying to find their new identity without Jones. It’s quite the opposite of the Oxford team, one that knows exactly who they are and returns a bevy of starting talent from the team that went 9-3 a year ago. Northwest Rankin will surely be a test for the Chargers, there are numerous players back other than Jones from the team that won 11 games last year.
**From earlier this week – Why Oxford can win state
Water Valley at Ripley, 7 p.m.
Coming off their 3A State Championship, their first since 1990, Water Valley is going to need to retool a bit on the fly in 2019. The Blue Devils lost their top two weapons from the offense that scored 42 and 34 points in the 2018 playoff semifinals and finals. Kenterrious Rucker and Quaterrius Tolbert accounted for 45 touchdowns last season. It’s hard to ask any individual player to single-handedly pick up the slack, but the Blue Devils have a legitimate chance of doing so, due to the improvements of senior quarterback Jacob Truss.
Playing Ripley on the road opening weekend is playing a classification up for Water Valley. The 3A Blue Devils will be traveling to 4A Ripley to start the year, a test against a larger school, yet one that simply was not very good at football a year ago. The 2018 Ripley Tigers went 3-7, winning just one game in their region. The team returns their starting quarterback and their leading running back, so they should at least be marginally better.
Water Valley has a lot to replace and playing up a classification should challenge the Blue Devils. Yet it should be a good benchmark for where the Blue Devils are at coming off their state championship.
**From earlier this week – Why Water Valley can win state
Nathanael Gabler covers Ole Miss and high school sports for the Oxford Eagle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org with news tips, suggestions or comments. Follow @ngabler4 on Twitter.