Coined by some as “The Battle of Lakeland Drive” with the two schools located within just five miles of one another, Jackson Prep and Hartfield Academy are set to face off on the gridiron Friday night in what’s expected to be one of the biggest games of the regular season.
The matchup between the Patriots (7-1) and the Hawks (9-0) is one that will give high school football fans across Mississippi a taste of who the top private school in the state is with playoffs just weeks away.
Leading up to the big game
Jackson Prep, the reigning MAIS state champion and a longtime force in private school football, will welcome the new kid on the block in Hartfield at 7 p.m. at the Patriots’ home field.
Hartfield is new to the 6A classification in private school athletics, joining the division in 2021. Since their addition to the class, the Hawks have grown exponentially as a team, battled in close games, and even slayed a giant in Madison Ridgeland Academy in a program-defining victory last Friday.
For the past decade, MRA and Jackson Prep have been the most dominant forces in MAIS football. The 63-56 victory over MRA proved that the Hawks are now on a level playing field with past juggernauts in the division.
Although Hartfield found a rare win over MRA, the Hawks most recently posted two close losses to the Patriots last season. Prep, on the other hand, is hoping to remind the emerging powerhouse that they are still the alpha program of the MAIS.
What to expect on Friday
Going into the contest against Jackson Prep, Hartfield head coach Craig Bowman, though excited about his team’s win over MRA, acknowledged that his team’s upcoming opponent is “vastly different” than the one they defeated a week ago.
While MRA is known for its high-powered offense, Jackson Prep has had one of the best defenses in the state this season. The key to a Hartfield victory over the Patriots, according to Bowman, is to score by sustaining drives and not relying on big plays against a “stingy” defense.
“I think Prep’s defense is one of the best in our league. I think our offense has to execute at a very high level,” Bowman said. “You could say we did that Friday, but we made big plays. We were only in the red zone once against MRA. I think we’re going to have to sustain drives and we’re going to have to score. Jackson Prep is very stingy with giving up points, so we’re going to have to score.”
Jackson Prep is coming off a 49-0 victory over Presbyterian Christian School after suffering its first defeat of the season against West Jones, a public school with arguably the best defensive front in the state, on Sept. 29.
Head coach Doug Goodwin expressed that his team will need to execute well in all three phases — offense, defense, and special teams — against Hartfield. During the Hawks’ match against MRA, Hartfield returned two kickoffs for a touchdown and also intercepted three passes in the second half.
“The two kickoffs and the three interceptions that MRA threw in the end zone or inside the red zone really flipped the game. It turned the game from a one-score game to a two-score game and allowed [Hartfield] to win,” Goodwin said. “We pride ourselves on special teams. Hopefully, we will be better in the coverage units than what they saw last week.”
Players to watch
- Billy Puckett (Jackson Prep QB)
- Reed Jesliowski (Hartfield RB)
- Matthew Laseter (Jackson Prep WR)
- Cayman Tapper (Hartfield QB)
- Bralan Womack (Hartfield FS)
- Andy Brown (Jackson Prep DL)
- Chris Jones (Hartfield LB)
- Micah Stallworth (Jackson Prep DB)