Game of Week part two: Madison Central at Starkville

Madison Central lines up against Starkville tonight
Staff Writer

Four games are left on the schedule for both Madison Central and Starkville prior to Friday night’s massive showdown at Yellowjacket Stadium, but this game could be the most important for either team all year.

According to both coaches, it’s the biggest game because it’s the next one on the schedule. A closer look at their identical 3-0 records in Class 6A, Region 2 reveals it’s important because the winner sits alone in first place with three games to go.

“Last week was a big week (vs. Greenville) and this week is even bigger because you’re trying to set yourself up for the playoffs,” SHS coach Chris Jones said. “Hopefully we can come out and get a win to keep pushing for that home field advantage.”

The Jackets are currently the hottest team in the division carrying a five-game winning streak into this week’s monster matchup against 6-1 Madison Central. Jones got his team to get past its earlier 28-3 loss to West Point and, so far, it hasn’t looked back.

SHS now sits at 7-1 and are outscoring its opponents 45-8 on average during the winning streak. The defense has been steady for most of the season, but the offense has come out of its shell.

Mississippi State commitment Cameron Gardner has become a legitimate threat down field for big plays and in the red zone where he’s caught seven touchdowns this year. He’s currently second on the team with 21 catches and 333 yards.

“I feel like I’m getting better each and every week,” Gardner said. “At first, I was a little shaky, but I’m getting more confident in myself and believing in myself. After we lost to West Point, we all came together and we’re doing well.”

Rodrigues Clark has been virtually automatic when he’s been healthy this season. The junior running back has 683 yards and 10 touchdowns in just six games this year and he’s looking for more.

The biggest difference has been quarterback Malik Brown. The junior has really become a dual-threat weapon for this year’s team passing for 1,038 yards, 16 touchdowns and just four interceptions while rushing for 398 yards and four scores.

“He can do it all,” Madison Central coach Anthony Hart said of Brown. “He can run, pass and make good decision. He’s a good player. We had to play Cam Akers last year and Brown presents some of those same issues as Cam in what he can do in the pass and the run game.”

This will be as tough of a test that Brown and the offense has seen all year, however, with only exception being to West Point in its loss. It’s made for an interesting Friday night showdown for high stakes with the winner having a direct path toward a district crown.

After missing out on the playoffs altogether last year with one of their three division losses coming to the Jaguars, the Jackets love the position they’re in with four weeks left.

“If you want to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best and they’re one of the best right now,” Jones said of Madison Central. “Our goal is to come out this Friday and play a great brand of football. Going into this game, I’m excited based off the last few weeks.”