JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - It was last season that Jackson Prep and Madison-Ridgeland Academy treated high school football fans to theater. A thrilling back-and-forth affair in the AAAA Division I state title game saw JP hoist the trophy in the end with a 33-27 victory. Now the two Patriots are set to square off again, and while the stakes are quite as large as they were 11 months ago, control in MAIS Region 1-6A is on the line.
But beyond that, the match-up itself is enough for both teams to give it their all this Friday in Flowood.
“If you have to get motivated this week, you need to be doing something else,” MRA coach Herbert Davis said. “It’s become a pretty big game for us and we’re excited about it.”
“Anytime we play Madison-Ridgeland Academy, it’s a big game,” added Jackson Prep coach Ricky Black. “We’re going to be playing our very best and I expect the very best out of everyone on our team. I’m sure MRA is going to play the same way.”
Black and Jackson Prep enter this game as hot as anybody in the state, having won six straight games including a road stretch these last weeks with victories over Jackson Academy and Washington. Now Prep looks to get back to protecting its house, having not allowed a single point in three home games this season. A feat that so far has been accomplished despite the loss of 35 seniors -- the majority on defense -- from last season’s championship team.
“One thing that doesn’t graduate at Jackson Prep is defense,” Davis said of his opponent. “They are going to play very hard and play very smart. They are well-coached.”
Davis though hoping that his offense, led by senior quarterback Phillip Short, can give Jackson Prep a run for its money. MRA had a bit of a mid-season swoon last month with losses at Philadelphia and Briarcrest Christian in Tennessee. Since then, the Patriots have shaken off those cobwebs with the start of region play, having beat Parklane Academy and Hartfield Academy the last two weeks by an average of 37 points.
“They are playing at a very high level right now,” Black said of MRA. “Their offense is really moving fast.”
While this Friday is setting up to be a big game, both coaches know that it may not be the last time they see each other this season. After all, it was MRA who won the regular season match-up a year ago only for Jackson Prep to get its revenge in the championship. Since that defeat, Davis and the MRA players have had this upcoming game circled on their calendars.
“Being the rivalry that it is, I promise you that they have a lot of pride for staying on top,” said Davis. “Hopefully, this time, we can get to the top.”
Kick-off is set for 7 p.m. this Friday at Jackson Prep. It is WLBT’s End Zone Game of the Week.