Mississippi's best high school football teams, preseason players of the year and games to watch.
Mississippi Preseason Top 10
1. Brandon Bulldogs
Brandon returns the bulk of its Class 6A runner-up team, including junior quarterback Gardner Minshew (3,001 yards, 27 TDs). Senior defensive end Michael Brooks Jr. and junior tackle Fletcher Adams each bring more than 130 tackles back on a loaded defense.
2. South Panola Tigers (Batesville)
The Tigers won their seventh title in the last 10 seasons, beating Brandon in December. Now a senior, quarterback Rip Kirk threw for 2,358 yards and 27 touchdowns in 2012.
3. Olive Branch Conquistadors
The Conquistadors went 11-2 but will have to replace Memphis football and basketball recruit Sam Craft, who combined to run and throw for nearly 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns.
4. Meridian Wildcats
The Wildcats return a talented backfield, and the defense features one of the nation’s top safeties in C.J. Hampton.
5. West Point Green Wave
Running back Aeris Williams is one of the state’s top recruits and will line up behind a new full-time quarterback, junior Josh Ewing.
6. Picayune Maroon Tide
The Tide’s only loss came in the playoffs to South champion Pascagoula. Preston Dedeaux (1,451 rushing yards, 20 TDs) returns.
7. Madison Central Jaguars
The Jaguars again had their championship plans foiled by South Panola, but they did beat 5A champ Starkville.
8. Petal Panthers
The Panthers welcome back top linebacker Forrest Harvey, but their top receiver, running back and quarterback all graduated.
9. Oak Grove Warriors
The Warriors return quarterback Kirk McCarty, who threw for 2,356 yards and 31 touchdowns, as well as receiver Cameron Myers.
10. Bassfield Yellowjackets
The Class 2A champions must replace their top runners, but Trodrick Daniels had 811 yards and 11 touchdowns as a sophomore.
Five Can't Miss Matchups
8.22 – Brandon at Madison Central
Brandon, the 2012 South 6A champ, battles a Madison Central team that is eager to make an early season statement.
8.29 – West Point at South Panola
These teams opened last season, and it came down to a last-second field goal for South Panola.
10.4 – Olive Branch at South Panola
Only one can get to the Class 6A championship. This will be one intense division game.
10.11 – Picayune at Pascagoula
Pascagoula ended Picayune’s perfect season in the playoffs last season.
10.18 – Ridgeland at Callaway
Callaway is loaded with individual talent. A division win here can stamp the Chargers as a team to be reckoned with.
2013 Preseason Offensive Player of the Year
Aeris Williams, RB, West Point
Senior, 6-1, 205
Williams will again be the featured ball-carrier for the Class 5A favorite — and rush-heavy — Green Wave after running for 1,893 yards as a junior. His offer sheet is starting to fill in nicely, with Florida State, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Wisconsin already on board.
2013 Preseason Defensive Player of the Year
C.J. Hampton, S, Meridian
Senior, 6-1, 190
The state’s top-ranked safety, Hampton had 48 tackles and three interceptions last season. An Ole Miss commit, Hampton added an offer from Alabama in May and also has offers from Auburn, Mississippi State, Stanford and Tennessee. He has accepted an invitation to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
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