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Mississippi Friday night Rewind: Brandon clinches third-straight region title with 41-35 win over Meridian

The Bulldogs were one of several teams to clinch region titles this weekend

The No. 2 Brandon Bulldogs wrapped up the Region 3-7A Championship for the third year in a row with a 41-35 win over Meridian Friday night.

It wasn’t pretty — Brandon (7-2) turned the ball over five times — but quarterback Landon Varnes, tailback Nate Blount and the Bulldog offense did just enough to pull it out.

“It’s awesome,” BHS coach Sam Williams said. “I told them I wanted this one for them tonight. We wanted to do that at home, here on senior night and not leave anything to chance next week. We wanted to play one score ahead, and that’s what we did tonight. We couldn’t ever land that knockout blow.”

Meridian had a lot to do with that. The Wildcats (5-4) may be one of the most improved teams in the state, and tailback/quarterback/receiver Daniel Hill was every bit as-advertised.

The Wildcat senior — the state’s highest-rated uncommitted college prospect — threw for one touchdown, ran for two and caught a fourth touchdown pass.

Meridian went tit-for-tat with Brandon for four quarters, pulling within six points of the Bulldogs twice in the final seven minutes.

Brandon went ahead 41-28 on a 21-yard pass from Varnes to Cam Keyes with 4:06 to go, and Meridian answered right back with an eight-play, 60-yard touchdown drive capped by a 10-yard pass from Jordan Siaw to Jaylen Rush.

That trimmed the Brandon lead to six, at 41-35, with just over a minute to go, but the Bulldogs recovered the Wildcats’ onside kick attempt to seal the win.

Varnes and Blount, both seniors, embraced after the victory.

“It’s been awesome with this group of guys the last three years,” Varnes said. “We didn’t know we were gonna have to score that many times tonight, but when you’re playing against (Daniel Hill), you know he’s going to find his way into the end zone a few times. We just had to respond every time and find a way to win.”

The Bulldogs did just that, and ran their winning streak to seven games after starting the season 0-2.

Despite the loss, Meridian punched its ticket to the post-season Friday night thanks to the Petal Panthers’ surprise 38-31 win over Northwest Rankin down in the Pine Belt.

Meridian coach Marcus Boyles, who is sitting on 299 career wins, can pick up his 300th and lock his Wildcats into the three-seed coming out of Region 3 with a win over Pearl next weekend. Either way, it’ll be Meridian’s first trip to the playoffs since 2017.

“It’ s been a rewarding year,” Boyles said. “To see where we started and where we are now, it’s a credit to the kids, my assistant coaches and everyone who believes in what we’re doing. We haven’t quit. We’ve fought to end of every game, and I’m proud of that.”

Elsewhere in Class 7A

Several other teams in Mississippi’s highest classification locked up region titles Friday, and several more punched their playoff tickets.

  • In Region 1, Oxford (6-3) beat Lewisburg 35-28 to win the district title in its first year since sliding over from Region 2. After the Chargers, it’s a free-for-all, with Lewisburg, DeSoto Central, Hernando and Southaven all sitting at 2-2 in region games headed into the final week of the regular season.
  • In Region 2, Starkville brow-beat Madison Central 39-7 to set up a massive winner-take-all game at Tupelo next Thursday night with the district title on the line. The loser will earn the two-seed. Germantown’s 42-35 win over Clinton guaranteed the Mavericks a playoff berth. If Madison Central beats Clinton next week, Germantown will be the four seed. If Clinton pulls the upset, Germantown will get the three seed, Clinton will get in as the fourth seed and Madison Central will be the odd man out.
  • The Region 3, third-ranked Oak Grove clinched the two-seed with a 31-13 win over Pearl.
  • In Region 4, all four playoff spots are clinched, but the order is still in the air. Ocean Springs clinched the district title with a convincing 30-6 win over Gulfport Friday night. The winner of next Thursday night’s Gulfport-Harrison Central game will be the two seed, and the loser will be the four seed, unless D’Iberville upsets Biloxi.

Here's how the Top 10 fared

  • No. 1 Louisville beat Greenville 58-0
  • No. 2 Brandon beat Meridian 41-35
  • No. 3 Oak Grove beat Pearl 31-13
  • No. 4 Ocean Springs beat Gulfport 30-7
  • No. 5 Starkville beat Madison Central 39-7
  • No. 6 Tupelo was off
  • No. 7 Picayune beat George County 34-21
  • No. 8 Warren Central beat Callaway 27-20
  • No. 9 Holmes County Central beat Cleveland Central 29-28
  • No. 10 West Jones beat Pearl River Central 56-0

Brackets set for Classes 1A-4A

The regular season came to a close for the MHSAA’s four smaller classes Friday night. 

The big winners in Class 4A were Greene County (3-6), which upset Poplarville 29-28 down on the coast, and New Albany (7-2) which had already locked up the two-seed in Region 2 before it knocked off previously unbeaten Ripley 28-10.

MORE: Check out all the updated MHSAA Football Playoff Brackets here