No. 5 Tallulah (2-0) at No. 1 Prairie View (2-0), Friday, 7 p.m.
It's easy to spot the marquee matchup in MAIS 8-man football this week. No. 5 Tallulah Academy (2-0) visits No. 1 Prairie View (2-0) in a key Division 3 matchup Friday at 7 p.m. at Dr. E.D. Baker Field.
While the Spartans are new to the 8-man game, the Trojans are an established power.
Bo Barton, now the head coach at Prairie View, guided Tallulah to the state championship in 2015.
Tallulah repeated the following year under coach Joe Coats.
Tallulah's fast start comes as no surprise to Barton.
"This group was in the eighth and ninth grade when I was there," Barton said. "It's a special group of kids. This is their year to win it. They're loaded. They have size and speed."
Prairie View's biggest challenge is to contain quarterback Josh Collins. Thus far, no one has.
"Josh Collins had six carries, all for touchdowns, against Tensas," Barton said. "He probably runs an 11.3 or 11.4 in the 100 meters. He was the state champion in the pole vault last year. He's the one that makes them go."
Barton says Tallulah's other playmakers tend to get overlooked because of Collins' presence.
"They have some other guys that can run the ball," Barton said. "When you see a guy like (Collins) it makes the others kids look like they're not as good."
Tallulah overwhelmed Tensas Academy 56-28 last week.
"They're big and physical," Barton said. "We have to do everything right to beat them. We have to play a great game."
In contrast to the LHSAA, only the district champion is guaranteed a spot in the 8-man playoff bracket. Four wildcards are awarded to complete the eight-team bracket.
"This game has big playoff ramifications, but it's a great early test for us," Barton said.
As big as Friday night's game is, Barton says the two teams could collide down the road with the stakes even higher.
"I have a feeling, regardless of who wins this game, that we'll play again," Barton said. "I feel that good about us and I feel that good about Tallulah."
Defending state champion Briarfield will also have a voice in the playoff chase.
"Briarfield and Tallulah are huge rivals," Barton said. "Briarfield doesn't have as much size as Tallulah, but they are fast. In our district, I feel like you have three of the top six or seven teams."
Prairie View has yet to be seriously tested in wins over Wilkinson County Christian (38-8) and Franklin Academy (46-14).
"We have played really good ball at times, but we haven't been consistent," Barton said. "If we're not consistent, we're going to have an L by our name Friday night. We have to play for 40 minutes."
Luke Denman led the Spartans offensively against Franklin with 119 yards and four touchdowns on nine carries. For the season, the versatile senior has carried 21 times for 186 yards and 4 TDs, caught two passes for 55 stripes and completed 3-of-6 passes for 53 yards.
Quarterback Jacob Farrar is 10-of-18 for 303 yards, three touchdowns and one interception through the air while rushing for 118 yards and two scores.
Layton Woodard is the Spartans' big-play receiver with six catches for 214 yards and three scores.
Linebacker Austin Carroll spearheads the Spartans defensively with 27 tackles, four tackles for loss and a sack.
Prairie View is at home against Tensas next Friday before embarking on a three-game road swing.