Madison Central is hosting fellow 6A powerhouse Brandon High Friday, in an early season contest that pits two of the metro area’s top football teams.
The Jaguars (1-0) are hoping to avenge last year’s opening season loss to the Bulldogs.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs are looking for their third win in four years against the 2018 Class 6A North State runner-up.
While previous games were defensive struggles, Big Blue is poised to light up the scoreboard on offense and special teams.
Head coach Anthony Hart said the Jaguars have returned “quite a few starters” on offense, including senior quarterback Jimmy Holiday (6’1”, 181 lbs.) and junior running back Duke Arnold (5’10”, 186 lbs.).
However, the team lost eight starters on defense, meaning this year’s contest could be an offensive shootout rather than a defensive struggle.
“From the defensive standpoint, we’re going to be playing some 10th graders and juniors who haven’t been on the field much,” Hart said. “Their level of growth going into the game will be a big factor for us.”
With a fresh defense, Hart will rely on his offensive veterans.
Leading the charge will again be Holiday. Last year, the then-junior quarterback completed 103 passes for 1,518 yards and 16 touchdowns. He rushed for another 1,457 yards and 18 touchdowns in the Jaguar’s march to the North State championship game.
Duke Arnold was also key to the Jags’ success. The then-sophomore carried the ball 185 times for 979 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Special teams could also be a factor. Starting kicker this year is senior Luke Bridges. Bridges beat out two fellow teammates for the starting job.
“We have three really good kickers this year. They’ve been very consistent in practice making field goals and kicks,” Hart said. “We feel very good about them.”
In a close game, Bridges (5’11”, 182 lbs.) could be the deciding factor.
Last year, the Bulldogs defense held the Jaguars to just one touchdown, which came in the second quarter. Brandon went on to win that contest 14-7.
“We struggled offensively,” said Hart. “We played a good ball game, because Brandon was a good team. Maybe the best out there. Brandon is always a tough one.”
Hart is 1-2 against the Bulldogs. In 2016, the Jaguars fell 33-24 in an offensive shootout. In 2017, the Jaguars avenged that loss, defeating the Bulldogs 10-3.
Brandon (1-0) comes into the game after a touch matchup against Starkville.
The Bulldogs finished the 2018 regular season with just one loss and made it to the South State Championship.
Madison Central will face off against Brandon at 7 p.m., Friday, August 30. The game is a home game for the Jaguars.
Jimmy Holiday, Duke Arnold, Greg Hollins, Creek Robertson, Blake Gunter, Javarius Jordan, Hayes Bufkin, Logan Reed, Andre Mack, Tate Collins, Luke Robertson, Clein Bailey, B.J. Washington, John Henson, William White, C.J. Barney, Vic Hollins, Antoine Brown, Ben Davis, Robert Dumas, Nick Carter, Joseph Perryman, Josiah Perryman, Jackson Mize, Ke’Shawn Cornelius, Dalton Stevens, Chase Trisler, Banks Hover, Mason Mayo, Carson Smith, Tyler Austin, Braxton Merritt, D’mario Williams, Ashton Smith, Alex Carter, Fred Russell, Michael Russell, Gatlin Sanders, Lantavius Johnson, Cole Towler, Jack Clunan, Alexander Ray, Walker Rhea, Sam Rice, Chandler Welgos, Matthew Reed, Elijah Miller, Hunter Hines, J.T. Evans, Sedarius Davis, Brooks Bolden, Daz Galloway, Courtland Northington, Zander Henderson, Jayson Nelson, Ethan Metlock, Collin Opdyke, Martin Linebarger, Maurice Jackson, Tyler Cresap, Simon Tipton, Nicholas Raffaelle, Makelti Ingram, Trent Patton, Malcom Kent, Jack Houston, Cameron Stancil, Braxton Bolden, Gurnoor Khera, Camron Richardson, Ethan Thomas, Daniel Gomez, Dylan Spencer, Zyrek Peagues, Jackie Johnson, Craig Evans, Isiah Wilson, John Malourf, Justin Lairy, Carl White, Caleb Patrick, Jordan Taylor, Dylan Huerkamp, Nathan Burgemaster, Kelsey Singleton, Jalen Robinson, Jayden Mitchell, Reagan Bosarge, Arther Dampier, Creighton King, Luke Bridges, Matthew Huerkamp, Logan Smith, John Smiley, Malyk Peagues, Ashton McLin, Quintavius Hogan, Jai Sanders, Aiden Duncan, Winner Brown
JAGUARS KEYS TO VICTORY
-Ball control: With an inexperienced defense, Madison Central’s offense can’t afford many three-and-outs.
-Take the points: Even with veterans at quarterback and running back, the game could turn into a defensive struggle. With a strong kicking game, the Jaguars shouldn’t be afraid to try for three if the offense stalls out.
-Limit mistakes/penalties: If history repeats itself, this will be a one-possession game. Too many penalties or turnovers could be the deciding factor.
AT A GLANCE
-Class/Division: Class: 6A, Region (MHSAA)
-Head Coach: Anthony Hart
-Assistant Coaches: Mike Davis, Dusty Finley, Eric Robertson, Jay Jones, Blakely Walden, Jonathan Brooks, Jay Livingston, Nick Griffin, Mike Hendershot, Seth McDonald, Erik Stensaas
-2018 record: 10-4, 5-2