Here are your Class 2A and 5A South State predictions as picked by James Pugh.
Current record: 80-30 (72.73 winning percentage).
Class 2A: Scott Central (12-2) at Taylorsville (13-1)
I'll start with the game that's a little more clear cut than the other.
Taylorsville advanced to the Class 2A South State Championship for the third straight year after an impressive win over Philadelphia last Friday night, 47-30. Coming into the game, both teams held an impressive 12-1 record.
In an interview Tuesday morning, head coach Mitch Evans had this to say about Scott Central: “I've preached to our guys all week that to be the champs, you must beat the champs. And right now, Scott Central is still the champ until someone beats them [here in the playoffs]."
After its loss to Rebels in the Class 2A State Championship game last season, Taylorsville and Scott Central came together and agreed to play each other in Week 1 of the 2019 season. Taylorsville, with a healthy Ty Keyes, defeated Scott Central, 32-12.
But that was then, and this is now.
I don't see anything changing as the two meet for a second time this season. Taylorsville is the superior team, and while I understand what Evans meant, Taylorsville, not Scott Central is the team to beat.
Prediction: Taylorsville 35, Scott Central 14.
Class 5A: Picayune (13-0) at West Jones (13-0)
Alas, we have it. The matchup everyone has been waiting for this season - No. 1 Picayune vs. No. 2 West Jones (rankings according to the latest Associated Press poll).
West Jones is the team best suited to beat Picayune - the best defense in South 5A versus the best offense in South 5A. But that doesn’t necessarily mean a West Jones win. It’s just a statement of fact - if anyone is positioned to upset Picayune, it’s West Jones.
While I don't intentionally mean to create "bulletin board material" this go around - as I did with West Jones in Round 1 of the playoffs - I have to pick with my head instead of my heart and say that Picayune wins this matchup six out of ten times, if played consecutively.
Teams have thrown everything they've had at Picayune, and for a half, it's worked. Both Wayne County and Laurel entered halftime tied with Picayune, but as its ground-and-pound offense is conditioned to do, the Maroon Tide beat both into submission as the game lingered on.
Is there a path to a West Jones victory? The short answer is yes. Stop Picayune drives twice in the first and second half and force the Tide in an uncomfortable situation late. The question is, will it be enough?
It's head coach Dodd Lee's last season at Picayune. The Maroon Tide players are doing everything they can to send Lee out with a state title.
Prediction: Picayune 28, West Jones 24.