Pine Belt high school football: The Big Games

By Andy King

Mississippi south state football is always interesting. This season is expected to be even more interesting as the rivalries intensify. Much like the SEC in college football, the teams within the Pine Belt Region will have a tough time going without a blemish on their schedule. The best rivalries in the state of Mississippi reside here in the south.

1A  Rivalry: Mt. Olive vs. Bogue Chitto

For many years, the Mt. Olive Pirates and the Bogue Chitto Bobcats have had a series of good teams. For Mt. Olive, they never seem to run out of players with the popular last name McNair for obvious reasons. Mt. Olive has always been a team with solid speed all over the field offensively and defensively. Not only can they outrun you, but they also are a very physical and hard hitting team.  It is almost a certainty that the Pirates will make an appearance in the playoffs and make a run for the state championship.  It will be tough to win it all when there are teams like Ray Brooks in the North.

Bogue Chitto could give Mt Olive fits this season. The Bobcats have always been a tough team in the 1A ranks.. You can expect this team to come at the Pirates hard and give them a game they will never forget. Bogue Chitto should make the playoffs in 2010.

2A Rivalry: Taylorsville vs. Mize

The two Smith County rivals have showed a lot of hatred over the last several years. Bud Blackledge is entering his fourth season as the Head Coach for the Tartars. He is regarded as one of the best offensive minds around and his high powered spread offense, which was also successful under Coach Pierson at West Jones, is extremely tough to defend. The Tartars will look to end their 6 year drought of winning a state championship. If the Taylorsville could do so this season, it would be the first for Coach Blackledge as the head man.

For Mize, this could be the best talent they've had in a couple of years.  They will be led by 6ft. senior quarterback Davin Burch, who has a really good arm. The baseball and football standout could be looking to sign with a college in one of the two sports.  Mize has not been as good though since making the transition from 1A to 2A in the last couple of years. The Bulldogs hope this is the year that they will shine once again on the gridiron like they did for many years at the 1A level.  Taylorsville and Mize are by far competing in the toughest division in 2A football. It seems to be one of the toughest divisions in the State of Mississippi 1A-6A.  Both the Tartars and the Bulldogs will have their work cut out for them as the season progresses.

3A Rivalry: Perry Central vs. Collins

The Collins and Perry Central game will most likely be the best 3A rivalry this season. Collins will have extremely good coaching and a lot of good talent as always. Collins has had Division 1 prospects come and go over the years like former Tennessee center Josh McNeil. You can expect them to show a lot of speed this season and make yet another appearance in the playoffs.

For the Perry Central side of things, they appear to always be just as talented. They've had plenty of Division 1 potential come through in the past. They did lose assistant coach Tim Coats as he left to take on a job at Newton High School, but that should not affect the team in any way. 3A football is just as competitive when Tylertown and Hazlehurst are in the mix of things. This cat fight between Perry Central and Collins could be better than ever as the 2010 season is approaching quickly.

4A Rivalry: Laurel vs. Northeast Jones

As expected, these two cross-county rivals will be battling it out for the top spot in Region 5-4A.  This division has been known as the toughest division in the State of Mississippi for more than a decade. With Wayne County and West Jones leaving the division for the 5A ranks, it doesn't make it any easier. Most likely, the winner between Northeast Jones and Laurel will have a good shot to win the State Championship. As many might remember, Just three short years ago, the Laurel Golden Tornadoes won the State Championship in the 2007.  Northeast  Jones and Laurel as well have had extremely talented players sign with Division 1 schools like Akeem Davis, who plays with the Memphis Tigers.  Former Mississippi State Center Royce Blackledge was the most recent Division 1 player from Northeast Jones.

5A Rivalry: West Jones vs. Wayne County

The best rivalry in the state of Mississippi is back once again. It's West Jones and Wayne County. The two rivals have gained a lot of attention throughout the country on the new Fox Sports South Show, "Y'all vs. US."  The two legendary coaches Scott Pierson and Marcus Boyles know each other's team up and down. The question in this game is always who wants it the most.  It appears though that the best thing to do for these teams is lose during the regular season, and win when it counts in the playoffs. That's been the result almost every year since this rivalry has intensified. I guarantee you that you will want to be at this game because it doesn't get any better than this in the State of Mississippi.

6A Rivalry: Petal vs. Oak Grove

Oak Grove and Petal will be very competitive this upcoming season. Both schools are always trying to have the nicest facilities and fields.  Tradition is everywhere you look when you go on these two campuses.  Petal just recently caught up with Oak Grove with the addition on the new turf field.  Oak Grove lost Jason McNair and James McMahon from last season, but that shouldn't matter much because Oak Grove from year to year has tremendous talent. Who will win this game? It's tough tell at this point, but it will be a good one to watch.