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MHSAA playoffs roundup: Brandon beats Pearl 45-25, sets up showdown with Oak Grove

The Bulldogs and Warriors will meet next week in a rematch for the ages

BRANDON — The Brandon Bulldogs will face the Oak Grove Warriors for the South State Championship for the second time in the past three years.

The Bulldogs dispatched their cross-town rival Pearl Pirates 42-25 at Bulldog Stadium in Brandon Friday night without too much drama, cruising to a 42-10 lead before pulling the starters early in the fourth quarter.

Oak Grove dominated the other MHSAA Class 7A South matchup against Meridian, as star quarterback A.J. Maddox ran for two touchdowns and passed for two more.

"I'm already fired up about the game next week," Brandon coach Sam Williams said. "And we know they will be too. I'm good friends with (Warrior coach) Drew Causey, and I know they'll have them ready to play."

MORE: Complete 2023 MHSAA Football Playoff Brackets

The Bulldogs (10-2) beat the Warriors 38-20 in Hattiesburg back on Oct. 13, and if they can stay as efficient on offense as they were Friday night, it will be tough for Oak Grove (11-1) to flip the script in the rematch.

Against a tough Pearl defense, Bulldog senior quarterback Landon Varnes completed 14 of his 20 passes for 183 yards, and connected with Quincy Phillips and Jay McQueen for scoring passes of 15 and 11 yards, respectively.

Tailback Tyson Robinson rushed for three touchdowns for Brandon, including a 50-yard scoring run in the third quarter that ended any hope Pearl (8-4) had of mounting any sort of comeback.

Varnes, who has led Brandon to back-to-back state title appearances as a sophomore and junior, has some weapons around him in his senior year.

"This year's different because it's the last one," Varnes said. "We've lost two of them, so I think it's time to go sink that ship."

The Warriors and Bulldogs will kick off at 7 p.m. next Friday at Bulldog Stadium.

Madison Central, Starkville advance to North State

On the other side of the bracket in 7A North, the Madison Central Jaguars advanced to the state semifinal, beating Tupelo 14-12 in an absolute stunner for the Golden Wave faithful.

The Jaguars (8-4) held Tupelo off the board in the second and third quarters, playing "keep away" with a steady running game and leaning on a defense gave up three points in the season finale against Clinton and shut out Lewisburg in the first round last week.

Madison Central will hit Interstate 25 next Friday night and head north to face Starkville (9-3) with a shot at a state championship berth on the line. The defending champion Yellowjackets whipped Oxford 28-0 on the road in the quarterfinal.

More: Grenada advances to first MHSAA Playoff Semifinal in two decades

Golden Triangle stays golden

The Jackets weren't the only team from the Golden Triangle region to flex their muscles in Friday's quarterfinals.

Top-ranked and undefeated Louisville rolled over Caledonia 40-0 to advance to the 4A North State Championship. They improved to 13-0 behind a defense that pitched its third shutout in the past month.

The defending state champion Wildcats will face the Houston Hilltoppers in the semifinal next Friday at Louisville.

West Point and Noxubee County also won Friday night. The Green Wave beat Holmes County Central 34-17 to hand the Jaguars their first loss and book their trip to the 5A North Championship, and Noxubee County beat Jeff Davis County 29-22 in 3A.

Upsets in the smaller classes

The quarterfinal round of the MHSAA Playoffs offered a couple of surprises down in the smaller classifications.

  • In Class 3A, Amanda Elzy but the beat-down on Mooreville in a 44-2 romp, setting up a showdown with top-ranked Winona in North State. The Tigers beat East Webster 49-26.
  • In Class 2A, Raleigh knocked off defending state champion Scott Central on the road 21-12, and Heidelberg kept their title hopes afloat with a 22-11 win over Collins. One of those two teams will play the winner of Charleston and Union for the state title.
  • In Class 1A, the Taylorsville Tartars pulled the upset on the road, beating Simmons 22-12. They’ll face Velma Jackson at Camden next week with the South State title on the line after the Falcons rolled over Resurrection 40-13. Biggersville will face Vardaman in the North.