Opposing viewpoint: Madison Central

Staff Writer

Just recently the series between the Starkville Yellow Jackets and Madison Central Jaguars has become a major rivalry with only 17 meetings all-time.

SHS leads the series 9-7 but is 3-7 at Madison Central.

There hasn’t been a team in Class 6A, Region 2 with more consistency over the last three years than Madison Central under head coach Anthony Hart.

Bobby Hall had tremendous success at the school over the course of over 10 years and Brad Peterson made it to the 6A North State championship against the Jackets in 2015, but Hart has kept things as steady as anyone in his first three years and continues to compete for district and state titles.

In the first year, Hart led the team to a 10-4 record and a trip to the North State championship before being upended by the Cam Akers-led Clinton Arrows 38-34. Last year, Hart’s sent the Jaguars to a third-straight North State title as they came to Starkville for a instant classic that ended with the Jackets prevailing with a 27-24 win.

To this point, Hart is 27-8-1 in three years at Madison Central and 15-2 in Region 2 play. He’s had all the success he could imagine with the exception of a district title and a state championship trip and eventual win. The Jaguars have got a chance to make a major statement this weekend against Starkville as they’re currently ranked No. 7 in the state at 6-1 while the Jackets are ranked No. 5.

SHS head coach Chris Jones said that the key for Madison Central under Hart has always been the defense and they’re continuing its strong ways this year.

“Their defense is going to be good," Jones said. "Last year they were really good up front and I don’t think they are there this year yet, but they’re still a really good unit. They tackle well and don’t miss many. They’re well-coached and they do the little things right.”

Madison Central began the year with a 14-7 setback to Brandon, but it has followed that up with six-straight wins over Ocean Springs, D’Iberville, defending state champions Pearl, Clinton, Murrah and Warren Central. The 3-0 start in district play has them sitting in full control of their destiny with the Northwest Rankin match in two weeks possibly being the deciding factor.

The Jaguar defense has been leading the way and already has 23 sacks this season through seven games and five interceptions. Junior linebacker Nick Carter leads the way with his 53 tackles and eight tackles for loss. Senior defensive end Tyrese Swan has had a big season as well with 35 tackles, seven tackles for loss and a team-high six sacks this season.

“Madison Central has always been a good team and you can never take them lightly,” SHS quarterback Luke Altmyer said. “We’ve had good practices this week so the mindset is there and we’re in the zone trying to get a gold ball.”

The intensity that Madison Central brings on defense also translates on offense where the rushing attack has been key to the big start. The Jaguars have a highly-skilled player leading the offense in junior Jimmy Holiday, who has thrown for 721 yards and 11 touchdowns and run for 602 more yards and 10 scores on just 89 carries.

Along with Holiday in the backfield is sophomore Duke Arnold with 618 yards rushing and six touchdowns. It’s an offense that Jones said his defense feels prepared for on Friday.

“Offensively, they’ll control the ball and be heavy in the run game,” Jones said. “We’ve got to match their intensity and be physical up front. I feel like we have the game plan in place to be successful against that.”