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MHSAA 6A Football Championship - Starkville vs. Brandon at a glance

Here's an in-depth look at the matchup in the Class 6A Championship between the Yellowjackets and Bulldogs

It’s championship week in Mississippi, and all six games are set for Friday and Saturday at M.M. Roberts Stadium in H.

Here’s a look at the MHSAA Class 6A State Championship game, set for 7 p.m. Saturday.

More: Click here for the full MHSAA 6A Football Playoff bracket

Brandon (12-1) vs. Starkville (11-3)

Brandon at a glance

  • Record: 12-1 (6-1 in Region 3)
  • Head Coach: Sam Williams (2nd year, 23-4)
  • Key Players: QB Landon Varnes, RB Nate Blount, WR Lester Miller
  • State Championships: None

2022 season

The 2021 state runners-up had the dubious distinction of being the No. 1 team in the state to start the year, and they didn’t disappoint.

The Bulldogs crushed Oxford in Week 1, then got revenge on Madison Central for the 2021 championship game with a 28-7 win over the Jaguars in Week 2.

They beat Clinton 42-35 in a final show-stopping non-region game before opening the district slate with convincing wins over Terry, Warren Central, Petal and Meridian.

Their only loss came on Oct. 21 at Oak Grove, when the Bulldogs turned it over five times and lost 25-20. They’ve won all five games since then, capping off the run with a dramatic 34-31 win over 6A Mr. Football Bray Hubbard and Ocean Springs in South State.

The skinny

Speaking objectively, Brandon is still probably the best team in the state at any level.

The Bulldogs have a proven leader at quarterback in Landon Varnes, who has passed for 3,066 yards and 24 touchdowns as a junior. They have one of the best tailbacks in the state in Nate Blount, a bruising junior who has bowled his way to 1,805 yards and 24 touchdowns in 13 games.

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Wide receiver Lester Miller’s 1,316 yards and 14 touchdowns leads a capable wide receiver group, and the offensive line has been rock solid all year.

Defensively, however, the Bulldogs have struggled as of late. They’ve faced some explosive offenses down the stretch, but the Brandon defense has given up at least 28 points in four of their last five starts.

That group has their work cut out for them against Starkville.

Starkville at a glance

  • Record: 11-3 (4-3 in Region 2)
  • Head Coach: Chris Jones (6th year, 66-16 overall)
  • Key Players: QB Trey Petty, DL Ny’jadus Holloway, DL Eric Thomas Jr.
  • State Championships: 6 (1984, 1994, 1995, 2001, 2012, 2015)

2022 Season

The Yellowjackets have perhaps the best comeback story of any title contender this year.

Starkville came out of a 21-20, Week-3 win over Louisville more than a little banged up. They were without 12 starters in their Region 2 opener against Madison Central, and got clobbered 41-21. They lost to Clinton 35-28 the next week and fell 24-17 to Tupelo to move to 0-3 in Region 2.

Nobody outside their locker room thought they would make the playoffs, but the Jackets rallied to win their final four games to slip into the playoffs as the four-seed. They beat top-seeded Southaven 38-12 in the first round and got revenge on Clinton and Tupelo in the quarterfinals and semifinals, winning both games on the road.

The skinny

Starkville is crazy talented. The Jackets have legitimate FBS-caliber players all over the field, led by quarterback Trey Petty, who has passed for 2,543 yards and 28 touchdowns as a senior.

Curtis Willis has been a real spark at tailback since moving over from safety, averaging 5.9 yards a carry. Receivers Stonka Burnside and Jaylon York have combined for 1,999 receiving yards and 19 touchdowns.

Defensively, the Jackets have improved tremendously behind the play of a big defensive line that features a pair of stars in Eric Thomas Jr. and Tony Lucious. Linebackers Ny’jadus Holloway and Justin Jenkins are the team’s leading tacklers.

The big question for Starkville is in the secondary. The Jackets have been burned a couple times this season, none more than last week against Tupelo, when Jeremiah Harrell passed for 320 yards and two touchdowns on just 17 completions.