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By BILL BURRUS péçêíë=bÇáíçê

Vincent Dancy knows just what he got himself into, and he’s ready for the challenge. Money is tight and resources are scarce for the Mississippi Valley State football program, one he took over after Rick Comegy went 6-38 in his four years in Itta Bena. Dancy, 34, tied with Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley as the secondyoungest college head coach in the nation, was elevated from defensive coordinator to become the third coach MVSU has hired since favorite son Willie Totten was forced out following the 2009 season. Totten went 31-57 in eight seasons, including a 19-42 mark in SWAC play. Karl Morgan went 8-35 in four seasons. If you’re keeping score at home, that makes Mississippi Valley State’s record 39-104 over the past 15 seasons. Dancy’s mission, which he accepted with his eyes wide open, is to build up a program that has had only 15 winning seasons in its 64-year history on the gridiron. And he has to do so without a full deck. It’s not an easy job by any means, but a 34-year-old with no head coaching experience probably wouldn’t be in this position if it was. “The challenges have always

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been here, but things are getting better,” Dancy said. “With the full support of our administration, we will get things turned around.” There’s a reason Mississippi Valley State remains the only school to never play for a SWAC Championship. Due to the ongoing financial crisis, the school only sponsors 53 scholarships for football — 12 below the maximum amount of 65 for FCS schools. That’s 12 fewer scholarships than MVSU’s two main rivals, Alcorn State and Jackson State. That puts Valley at an obvious disadvantage competitively, but it also means the school has to get creative when it comes to everything from uniforms to scheduling. For FCS teams to play bigmoney away games against the giants in the Football Bowl Subdivision, they must provide the full allotment of 65 scholarships. While JSU generated revenue with a one-off away game at TCU, Valley played at FCS powerhouse North Dakota State last season. It helped the bottom line, but it was nothing like the $525,000 payday the Tigers got from the Horned Frogs. It was well more than double what the Delta Devils got for their trip to Fargo, North Dakota.

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Bill Burrus

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PageO Greenwood Commonwealth / Weekend, August 11-12, 2018 cllq_^ii=OMNU =======================================================================================================================================================================


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Reloading for another playoff run

Greenwood Commonwealth / Weekend, August 11-12, 2018

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`çåíáåìÉÇ=Ñêçã=m~ÖÉ=N ---------------------------------------------------------This problem is part of the reason Valley’s athletic budget last year ($4.29 million) ranked dead last out of the 347 schools in the NCAA’s top division, according to a study by USA Today. “I took a lot of that into consideration (before I took the job), but I’ve been here before,” Dancy said. “If I had come in from outside, it might be a shell-shock, but already knowing the situation I was facing sitting in this seat and having a plan for budgeting, recruiting and scholarships. “It’s just having a plan for dealing with those things when you know you’re short-handed.” ^å= fãéêçîáåÖ= páíì~J íáçå Dancy is quick to point out that not everything is as bad as it seems. The university’s financial situation improved under

By BILL BURRUS péçêíë=bÇáíçê

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The names change, but the expectations don’t. That’s the way Greenwood High School head coach Clinton Gatewood approaches the task of reloading for another deep playoff run. “Yes, we lost a lot of kids from a dang good team, especially along the offensive line, but we expect to remain in the mix for a state 4A title. That’s been my approach for the last nine years,” said Gatewood, whose team lost 21-13 to Louisville in the third round of the playoffs last season to finish 10-3. “I know outside of this locker room we aren’t considered one of the better teams in the North, but we feel like we will be by the end of the season, after some of our guys become seasoned players.” Gatewood and the Bulldogs enter the 2018 campaign looking for a sixth straight district title. But Clarksdale appears to be the preseason favorite in Region 3 in 2018. The Wildcats were upset in the first round of the playoffs at home last season by Corinth. Defensively, the Wildcats bring back their top two tacklers in linebackers Trejan Latham (112 tackles) and Alshun Ross (101 tackles) on a veteran defense that returns nine starters. “Until someone knocks us off the throne, we are the champs in this division, and we play to keep it that way,” said Gatewood, who has guided GHS to the playoffs in each of his first eight seasons. Statewide in 4A, Noxubee County is considered by most the team to beat. The Tigers have won the 4A state championship three times in the last four years. Gatewood has sustained consistent success like no other coach in the last four decades, with a stretch of eight straight years in the playoffs. Dating back to 1980, the longest stretch before Gatewood’s eight was four (1987-1990 and 1993-1996). He guided the Bulldogs to back-to-back North 4A former President William Bynum, who now serves in the same capacity at Jackson State. In May, higher education officials said student enrollment increased by 11 percent under Bynum, and that cash reserves had increased by 65 percent, from 63 days of cash on hand to 105 days. Some of that has trickled down to the football program. Athletic Director Dianthia Ford-Kee has worked hard to give Dancy a full coaching staff. This year Valley will have a staff of 10, compared to just six last season. “This is huge because all players can receive individual coaching in their groups during practice,” Dancy said. “Our athletic director has made a commitment to giving us what we need to compete.” Ford-Kee recently oversaw an overhaul of the Devils Den, with renovated classrooms, academic lounges and football locker rooms — paid for in part with a grant from the NCAA. The updated

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^ìÖK=NT==iÉÑäçêÉ=`çìåíó ^ìÖK=OR==~í=eçäãÉë=`Éåíê~ä ^ìÖK=PN==~í=`äÉîÉä~åÇ=`Éåíê~ä péÉíK=T dêÉÉåîáääÉJtÉëíçå pÉéíK=NQ ^ã~åÇ~=bäòó=Ee`F pÉéíK=ON ~í=içìáëîáääÉ pÉéíK=OU ~í=dÉåíêó lÅíK=R ~í=v~òçç=`áíó lÅíK=NN oçë~=cçêí lÅíK=NV léÉå lÅíK=OS `ä~êâëÇ~äÉ ^ää=Ö~ãÉë=ëí~êí=~í=T=éKãK finals appearances in 2014 and 2015, but he is still searching for that elusive trip to the state title game. lccbkpb The Bulldogs must replace four stud linemen and quarterback Jaylen Stanley, who transfered to Brandon High School after Christmas. Senior Charles Brooks (6-1, 285) is the lone returner up front. The center/guard is a four-year starter and will provide valuable leadership and experience. “We’ve got a good group of athletic guys to choose from. We’re just waiting on them to step up and show us what we already know they are capable of doing,” said the GHS coach. Those in the mix along the line are: juniors Marshakie Applewhite (6-3, 280), Malik Sanders (61, 245), Edward Anderson (5-10, 230) and Braidon Hodo (6-1, 260). Stanley accounted for 1,030 yards through the air and 830 on the ground last season. The Bulldogs are counting on junior Kobe Chambers to keep their spread offense rolling as he has moved from slotback to quarterback. Gatewood had hoped for junior Dazarian Perez to take the reins of the offense, but he suffered a knee injury this summer. “Kobe looked good throwing it during 7-on-7 play. He gives us a great athlete and decision-maker at the key position,” Gatewood

File photo/Andy Lo

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said. “He’s been at the slot for so long that it is where he feels most comfortable, but you have to do what’s best for the team.” Chambers led all GHS receivers with 677 yards and six touchdowns on 25 catches. He also had 936 kickoff return yards and 900 punt return yards and four TDs — averaging 195 all-purpose yards per contest. Carldaryl Johnson gives the team talent and speed at receiver. He had 24 grabs for 357 yards and two TDs a year ago. Look for Dylan Metcalf, Zachary Westbrook, Omar Emmons and Brandon Shaffer to make plays outside as well. “It’s a young but explosive group. They want to learn as much as they can,” Gatewood said. At running back, Greenwood is loaded with the 2017 Common-

Bill Burrus

s~ääÉó=Åç~ÅÜ=sáåÅÉåí=a~åÅó=éÉêÑÉêë=íç=ÄÉ=çå=íÜÉ=ÑáÉäÇ=éê~ÅJ íáÅáåÖ=ê~íÜÉê=íÜ~å=Ü~åÇäáåÖ=çÑÑáÅÉ=ÇìíáÉëI=Äìí=ÜÉ=êÉ~äáòÉë ÜÉ=åçï=Ü~ë=íç=àìÖÖäÉ=Üáë=íáãÉ=~ÑíÉê=ÄÉáåÖ=éêçãçíÉÇK= MVSU locker room has new carpet, lockers and flat-screen TVs around the top of the room. It now looks like the locker room of a Division 1 football program. “It’s amazing,” Dancy said. “Next we’re going to overhaul the weight room, and a jumbotron is soon to come. The scholarships won’t come over night, but we’re working on that because that’s the final piece to the puzzle from a competitive standpoint.” Senior linebacker Patrick

Harbin says Dancy has rejuvenated the down-trodden program. “You can actually see the difference. When we came out in spring ball under the new staff, everything was just better. Offensive spirit was up, defensive spirit was up,” he said. “We as players have bought in and are ready for a change.” One of the first things Dancy did when he was promoted was develop a plan to draw the community into Valley. “Our staff has done a

wealth Player of the Year Walter Ivory along with Lavell Nelson. Ivory ran for 2,128 yards and 13 touchdowns on 235 carries and averaged 164 yards per contest. He was named the Region 3-4A player of the year in 2017. Nelson rushed for more than 800 yards. “We are blessed at that position for sure. We also have Travor Randle, Tyler Beckworth and Tyler Pitts who will see some spot time in the backfield,” said Gatewood. abcbkpb This is a group the head Bulldog loves. “We lean on what we believe to be a strong defense early on while our offense comes around,” Gatewood said. “We have veteran players at all three levels of the defense.” --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------pÉÉ GHSI=m~ÖÉ=S

great job of getting out on social media and getting out in the community, letting people know about the change here at Valley,” said the MVSU head coach. Dancy said another key part of his revitalization plan is recruiting to fill needs and digging hard to find better talent. Valley hasn’t announced the signing of an in-state commit on National Signing Day since the 2015 class. After the three in-state FBS programs sign their prospects and Jackson State and Alcorn State fill their needs, there’s not enough talent left to win on the FCS level. Then there’s Mississippi’s junior college programs, which regularly compete with the three SWAC schools for recruits holding out hope for that big-time offer after two years in community college. “It can get challenging, but we want to recruit a lot of in-state kids. I’m an instate guy, coming from Noxubee County, because I know the kind of athlete this state can produce, but

it’s hard because the other schools will scoop the guys up. “We’re going to recruit a certain kind of kid. We’re not going sign a bunch of three-and-four star guys. We have to be a developmental program, and that starts with projecting where guys will be in two or three years.” cççíÄ~ää=få=eáë=eÉ~êí Dancy is a football man. His dad was a coach, and now he is following in his father’s footsteps. He played at the high school level and at Jackson State. After that, he transitioned from player to coach. He admits that he is still getting used to being the head man. “I love stepping between those lines and trying to help kids get better each day. That’s my sanctuary, away from the office, the phone, everything,” Dancy said. “I just love the game and love coaching it.” n `çåí~Åí=_áää=_ìêêìë=~í RUNJTOPT= çê ÄÄìêêìë]ÖïÅçããçåJ ïÉ~äíÜKÅçãK= cçääçï= çå qïáííÉêW]_áää|_ìêêìëK


PageQ Greenwood Commonwealth / Weekend, August 11-12, 2018 cllq_^ii=OMNU =======================================================================================================================================================================

Good Luck Teams!


Mustangs thinking state title

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Greenwood Commonwealth / Weekend, August 11-12, 2018

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By BILL BURRUS péçêíë=bÇáíçê

Pillow Academy had its struggles at times last season. But that’s to be expected when playing so many sophomores. This year, however, the Mustangs have a strong nucleus of returning players to go with a talented group of newcomers. “I don’t think I have ever had a roster like this one, where so many young guys are back with so much playing experience,” said fifth-year PA head coach Tripp McCarty. “Last year’s curse is this year’s blessing. “With such youth it took forever for us to start playing good football, but by the end of the season, I think you saw a glimpse of what this team can be. We feel good about this team’s potential.” The Mustangs finished with five straight wins, including a 51-12 rout of East Rankin in the first round of the playoffs before losing 36-15 to Simpson in the state semifinals. Even with seven starters back on offense and six on defense, the Mustangs still appear to be flying under the radar with the 2018 season set to open Friday. Pillow is nowhere to be found in statewide preseason AAAA, Division II polls. And that’s just fine with McCarty. “I don’t get into that ... The people that make up these polls haven’t seen these teams play,” he said. “The only team that remembers any kind of rankings is the one that finishes the year at No. 1. And that’s what we’re shooting for. “We were one win away from playing for a state championship the last two years. Hopefully, we can break through this time.” lccbkpb The Mustangs return two starting quarterbacks in senior Lake Giachelli (6-0, 205) and junior Shane Houston Stephens (6-1, 185), who threw for a team-high 1,175 yards with 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Giachelli passed for 591 yards, four TDs and one pick. Throw sophomore Christian Belk into the mix, and McCarty has the most quarterback depth

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he has had since he arrived at Pillow. “I really don’t know how we will use them,” McCarty said. “Shane Houston has shown great improvement and had put on about 30 pounds and gotten much stronger. Christian has come so far since the spring, and Lake gives us a great athlete who can do everything. He’s a great senior leader who could get snaps at running back, is a bell cow on defense and will do whatever helps this team win. “We’ve got three trigger men who we really like. A lot will depend on where we need these guys on defense. It will just be a process that we have to feel out as the season gets going.” Coming off an impressive sophomore campaign, Jaden Simcox (6-1, 165) is back at wide receiver. He had 17 catches for 464 yards and three touchdowns —

that’s a whopping 19.1 yard-percatch average. The bad news is that he is the only returning player with any production at all at wide receiver. But that doesn’t mean McCarty doesn’t have high hopes for this group. Juniors Jack Reichle (5-10, 165) and Hagan Wilson (5-11, 160) have shown they can make plays, and the addition of senior Breck Bolin (6-3, 170) helps out as well. Also working at receiver are sophomores Michael Jefcoat (5-9, 175), Matthew Jefcoat (5-9, 170) Dalton Elmore (5-7, 140), Eli Simmons (5-10, 185) and Graham Pantin (5-7, 130). Juniors Josh Moor (6-2, 210) and Jon Floyd Dunn (6-1, 190) will play tight end. Sophomores Nolan Marshall (5-10, 180) and A.J. Reaves (5-7, 160) are also working at tight end. Pillow is loaded at running back with senior Floyd Melton IV (5-10,

180) leading the way. He led the team with 714 yards and 11 touchdowns on 100 carries a year ago. Look for junior Sam Harris (5-9, 155) to get some carries after playing exclusively on defense last year. Sophomore Alex Tanksley (5-7, 180) will also be in the backfield. Junior Jacob Bush (5-11, 200) gives the Mustangs experience at fullback. He will be backed up sophomore Lawes McCool (5-9, 165). The offensive line returns four starters in seniors Deandre Hoover (5-10, 255) and Dwayne Jones (6-0, 220) and juniors Wade Smith (6-0, 245) and Noah Woodard (6-0, 245). Others in the mix there include seniors Harris Long (6-0, 280) and Phillip Rustom (6-0, 220), juniors Hunter Taylor (6-2, 270) and Ross -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------pÉÉ PILLOWI=m~ÖÉ=S

letic, tough kid like him on defense. “I can tell you this — you are always going to get his best effort. In his five years in this program, I have never once corrected him from an effort standpoint. That tells you all you need to know right there.” Giachelli is embracing his role as a senior leader, it shows up in what he says and how he does it. “I don’t mind getting vocal when it’s needed, whether it’s trying to get guys pumped up or helping them when they mess up,” he said. One of the things that impresses McCarty most about Giachelli is his work ethic.“He’s still trying to get better every day,” he said, “and when the young guys see a proven guy like Lake going the extra mile, it speaks volumes.” n `çåí~Åí=_áää=_ìêêìë=~í=RUNJ TOPT= çê= ÄÄìêêìë]ÖïÅçããçåJ ïÉ~äíÜKÅçãK

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Don’t let his big, inviting smile fool you By BILL BURRUS péçêíë=bÇáíçê

Lake Giachelli makes no bones about it — it’s state championship or bust for him and his fellow seniors at Pillow Academy. Their ultimate goal is to go out by bringing the school its first state title since 2010. The Mustangs have been one win away from playing in the big game the last two seasons, and Giachelli, a versatile 6-1, 205-pound athlete, will do whatever it takes go out with a bang. “It’s every high school player’s dream to close our their career with a state championship. This group of seniors is determined to do whatever we can to get it done,” said Giachelli, who will take snaps at quarterback and running back this season as well as start on defense. He split snaps with Shane Houston Stephens at quarter-

back last season and missed a couple of games due to injury. He completed 29-of-68 passes for 591 yards and four touchdowns and ran for another score. “Lake is the ultimate teammate,” PA coach Tripp McCarty said. “If we told him we needed him to play guard, he would do it with a smile on his face. He has proven that his entire time in this program.” Giachelli, also a standout baseball player, takes pride in his unselfishness attitude. “I could care less about what my stats say at the end of the game. What I care about is wins,” he said. “I am all about doing whatever I can to contribute to this team winning.” Giachelli is a hard-working, tough-minded country boy, but he has a smile that is infectious, says McCarty. “Our elementary kids really look up to Lake. He is good with

those kids in the halls or wherever with high-fives and a big smile,” said the PA head man. “He is a joy to coach and to just be around.” But that smile disappears for a couple of hours on Friday nights in the fall. Giachelli is super competitive and super aggressive, never ducking away from contact, according to his coaches. Defensively, Giachelli started his junior season at free safety in an experiment that he himself declares a failure. “I made too many mistakes and just never felt comfortable there.” But things began to change once the in-season move to the bandit/rover (hybrid outside linebacker) was made. By the end of the season, Giachelli was making a big impact on that side of the ball as well as on offense. “We feel like he is in a spot now to be a force on defense,” McCarty said. “It’s nice having an ath-


PageS Greenwood Commonwealth / Weekend, August 11-12, 2018 cllq_^ii=OMNU =======================================================================================================================================================================

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`çåíáåìÉÇ=Ñêçã=m~ÖÉ=P -------------------------------------------------------Jimmy Stanford is back at GHS to run the defense after spending the last two seasons at Greenville as defensive coordinator. Johnson, a Memphis commit, and Randle both

return at the cornerback spots. Sophom o r e Davin Anderson is back Anderson after an impressive freshman campaign where he averaged nearly

nine tackles a game from his end spot. Senior linebackers Marqavious Williams (6-0, 235) and Maurice Leflore (5-10, 175) are back along with junior tackle Quiontavious Lymon (6-2, 260). Some other guys to keep an eye on up front are: juniors Jalen Blake (5-8, 240) and Jaylin Swims (60, 235) and senior Victor

Thomas (6-0, 255). _ob^hlrq=mi^vbo Look for Lymon to make serious noise even though he will draw a lot of doubleteam blocks. “He’s big, aggressive and fast. He is a powerful kid,” Gatewood said. “He has a chance to be another Jalen Bedell for us.” Lymon squats 505 pounds and benches 325.

d^jbp=ql=t^q`e On Friday, Greenwood opens up at home against Leflore County. On Sept. 21, the Dogs return to Louisville, where their season ended in 2017 with a 21-13 third-round playoff loss. This game will show if Greenwood is ready to play with the big boys in the North.

On Oct. 26, in the regular-season finale, Clarksdale comes to town for a contest that should determine the Region 3 champion. GHS beat the Wildcats 26-13 last year in the same situation. n `çåí~Åí=_áää=_ìêêìë=~í RUNJTOPT= çê ÄÄìêêìë]ÖïÅçããçåJ ïÉ~äíÜKÅçãK= cçääçï= çå qïáííÉêW]_áää|_ìêêìëK

New coach takes over as team drops to 8-man

By CALVIN STEVENS péçêíë=têáíÉê

Anthony Degani has taken over the reins of the Delta Streets Academy football team for the upcoming 2018 season. Degani replaces James Cheatham, who has moved from the sidelines to the front office of the school as principal. The Lions were 0-10 overall in their first season in 11-man football. Delta Streets has dropped Degani from the 11man Class A classification to District 2E in the 8-man football league. They are joined in the district by Kemper Academy, Humphreys Academy, Manchester and Sharkey-Issaquena Academy. “I’m slowly learning about the teams we face this season. I know Manchester was the state runnerup last season, and Sharkey has been good in the past,” said

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Degani, whose Lions open the season Friday at North Sunflower Academy. Degani was raised in the Midwest and later moved to California, where he participated in college wrestling. He’s been involved in ministry and came to Mississippi State to work with RUF (Reform University Fellowship). He also spent one year doing the same thing at Belhaven University. “This is how I got to know Coach (T. Mac) Howard and working closely with the FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes). I love the mission of Delta Streets — investing in young men’s lives. I will be teaching high school English, and my wife (Lindsay) will be teaching reading to the seventh- and eighthgraders,” said Degani, who has an 11-month old daughter, Elizabeth. “I enjoy the relationships that I had with college athletes and helping them succeed. I look to do the same thing with the young men I’m associated with here at

Delta Streets.” Degani played high school football but enjoyed his time in competitive wrestling. He said he’s able to take a lot of the techniques he learned and apply them to the practice field. “Football is obviously a team sport, but wrestling teaches balance and hip movement, which in turn can help linemen. Wrestling builds character and toughness,” he said. Degani said his 25-player roster includes about 10 new players from last year’s team. “We’ve been practicing for several weeks, and we had real good participation during the summer. There is still a lot of evaluation that has to be done when guys are thrown into the fire,” the firstyear coach said. “I was sold on doing this job even before I saw what they had coming back. There are nine seniors on this team, and all of them can play at a high level. “We have athletes. I’ve done some research on 8-man football. It will be interesting. You have to have five on the line on offense,

but the formations can be so different. We have no shortage of guys who can make plays on offense. We really want to rotate guys in and out on offense to keep fresh legs. I’m excited to see what we can do when we face another team.” Degani is assisted by first-year coach Tate Johnson. lccbkpb Senior Emanuel (DJ) Alston returns at quarterback after scoring seven rushing touchdowns as a junior. “DJ can run or throw, and he’s such a great blocker that we may use him in different sets on the offensive line,” said Degani. Senior Cameron Ervin and sophomore Markavius Foreman will see time at running back, as will senior Jakevian McCaster, who could also spell Alston at quarterback. Seniors Isaiah Blackmon, Willie Green and Jakarrian Hemphill, sophomore E.J. Swims and freshman M.J. Davenport will be on the offensive line. Seniors Johnathan Brown and Narada Smith will see time at

receiver/flanker. abcbkpb A good many of the starters on offense will see action on defense. Green, Hemphill, Swims and Blackmon will be on the line, and freshman Chris Thomas will be in the secondary. Degani said he will likely run a 3-3-2 formation. He’s looking for three solid linebackers and two corners who can play man defense. _ob^hlrq=mi^vbo Degani said outside of Alston, he expects McCaster, known as Bubbles, to have an impact this season. He will play running back and see time at quarterback. “DJ and Bubbles are two seniors we expect to have good seasons, but I’d love to see some of these underclassmen rise to the top,” said Degani. d^jbp=ql=t^q`e Getting back to 8-man football with a stable of seniors will surely help Delta Streets this season. The opener at North Sunflower will be a good test. District play kicks off on Sept. 7 at Humphreys Academy.

Senior triggerman prepared to shoulder the load By CALVIN STEVENS péçêíë=têáíÉê

Emanuel Alston, known as DJ to his family, friends, teammates and coaches, will have the duty of directing the Delta Streets Academy Lions from the quarterback position for the second straight season. Alston and the Lions dropped from 11-man to 8man football for the 2018 season. DSA was in the 8man league in 2016 in Alston’s first year at the

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school. He was a student at Amanda Elzy from the seve n t h through eighth Alston grades. “ I ’ v e enjoyed my three years at the school. I was at Elzy for grades 7-9, and I came over to Delta Streets to see what was available. I ended up loving it, and I stayed at the

`çåíáåìÉÇ=Ñêçã=m~ÖÉ=R --------------------------------------------------------------------Carpenter (6-0, 235) and sophomore Frazier Rose (6-5, 300). Expect the Mustangs to take what the defense gives them this season. “We aren’t handcuffed to just one scheme. We can spread folks out, or we can play hard in the middle with tight ends and a fullback,” said McCarty. “I expect this to be a fun offense to watch because we have a lot of guys who can make plays. “If we can play with great discipline and stay unselfish, we can go big things. We can’t be a group that is worried about individual stats.” abcbkpb The Mustangs will go with the same 3-5 formation that they ended the season with in 2017. “We didn’t start out in that last

school,” said Alston, a 5-81/2, 195-pound senior, who will also play defensive end. Alston played running back and wide receiver his first year, and moved to quarterback last season under former coach James Cheatham, who is now the principal at the school. First-year coach Anthony Degani feels like he has a gem in Alston. “DJ is awesome. He’s the type of kid that you hope to have on a team in your first year as a head coach,”

year, but we wound up morphing back into it as the season went on,” McCarty said. “I can tell you that we will have 11 guys on the field who can run. They will run to the ball and know what to do once they are there.” First-year PA assistant Mike McLendon will call the defenses. His addition has McCarty excited about what this unit can do. Harris is back at linebacker after leading the team in tackles a year ago with an eye-popping 11.2 per contest as an undersized sophomore. Hoover is proving to be a force in the middle as a returnee at nose guard. Junior Alex Lindsey (5-10, 155) is back at cornerback, where he had a strong finish to last season. Giachelli returns at one the outside linebacker spots, known at Pillow as the rover and the bandit. Melton and senior Peyton Townsend will also play those positions. Joining Hoover up front are

Degani said. “He’s an asset on the field and in the locker room. He sets a good example by the type of person he is at all times. “We hope to use him a lot this season. He’s a smart enough football player with the knowledge to get us in position to succeed. He will be a big part of our offense.” The switch from 11-man to 8-man should be beneficial to Alston as well as the entire team. “In 8-man football, speed is the key. If you can get

ends Moor and Dunn. Jones, Woodard and sophomore Gage Gammill will provide depth. Sophomore Jackson Hodges (6-0, 175) is also working along the front. Junior Seth Hollis has moved from the line to middle linebacker, while McCool and Bush are playing on the strong side, with Harris and sophomore Bryce Miller on the weakside. Tanksley will backup Hollis at middle linebacker. Belk (6-1, 170) will play free safety along with Reichle, who can play a number of other spots in the secondary. A group of four — Bolin, Wilson, junior Jordan Sykes (6-0, 160) and sophomore Gavin Lessley (5-10, 145) are battling for the other cornerback spot. Sophomore Eli Simmons (5-10, 185) is working toward playing time in the secondary. pmb`f^i=qb^jp Lindsey will handle the placekicking and Simcox the punting

outside, it’s pretty much over. It’s a lot more spread out,” said Alston, who had seven rushing touchdowns during DSA’s 0-10 campaign in 2017. “In 11-man, it’s more tight. We didn’t have a lot of numbers, so there was a lot of us playing the entire game. We got pretty tired late in the game.” Alston’s realizes as the starting quarterback he needs to be prepared to shoulder the load. “I need to stay focused

while Clark will be the long snapper. _ob^hlrq=mi^vbo That could be Wilson, but it’s hard for McCarty to predict what side of the ball it might come on. “He’s a smart, fast kid who has a good skill set,” the PA coach said. “I expect Wilson him to burn some defenders this year because he has worked hard to increase his speed.” d^jbp=ql=t^q`e The season opener at home Friday against AAA powerhouse Indianola jumps right off the schedule. Not only has this rivalry once again become strong, but it’s a great measuring stick right off the bat for both teams. IA has lost one game in two years — a 21-14 decision in the state title game against Starkville — and

and be the leader of this team. If we win or lose games, either way we need to give it our best,” said Alston, who wants to major in computer science after high school. “I need to stay focused in the classroom because I know my education is very important.” Alston and the Lions open the season Friday at North Sunflower Academy. n `çåí~Åí=`~äîáå=píÉîÉåë ~í= ÅëíÉîÉåë]ÖïÅçããçåJ ïÉ~äíÜKÅçãK

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^ìÖK=NT==fåÇá~åçä~ ^ìÖK=OQ==~í=jo^ ^ìÖK=PN==~í=_~óçì péÉíK=T g~Åâëçå=mêÉé pÉéíK=NQ ~í=eÉêáí~ÖÉ pÉéíK=ON ~í=`~êêçää pÉéíK=OU pí~êâîáääÉ lÅíK=R ~í=háêâ lÅíK=NO t~ëÜáåÖíçå lÅíK=NV ~í=j~Öåçäá~=eÉáÖÜíë lÅíK=OS b~ëí=o~åâáå ^ää=Ö~ãÉë=ëí~êí=~í=T=éKãK has beaten the Mustangs three years straight (41-14 last year, 2214 in 2016, 27-24 in 2015). PA catches Madison-Ridgeland Academy on the road in the second game, so it will know just where it stands only eight quarters into the 2018 campaign. n `çåí~Åí= _áää= _ìêêìë= ~í= RUNJ TOPT= çê= ÄÄìêêìë]ÖïÅçããçåJ ïÉ~äíÜKÅçãK


PageT cllq_^ii=OMNU =======================================================================================================================================================================

Coach excited for new season Greenwood Commonwealth / Weekend, August 11-12, 2018

By CALVIN STEVENS péçêíë=têáíÉê

CARROLLTON — Bo Milton feels like a new man. Carroll Academy’s head coach says he enters his fourth year at the helm of the Rebel football program “more focused” on the task at hand. Since the end of the 20172018 school year, Milton has given up his duties as headmaster at the school, which has enabled him to put m o r e emphasis on the football program. “ T h e changes Milton I’ve made had an impact on summer workouts. I feel like the old me. I enjoyed being in the administrative role last year, but it was getting extremely hard to juggle all the duties. I am 100 percent focused on football. This move will not only help me but the kids as well,” said Milton, whose Rebels were just 4-7 overall and 0-4 in District 1-AA in 2017. “I can see their focus has been better during practice. I was also able to be there for summer weight lifting, something I had to turn over to the other coaches last year. I’m a football coach, and this was all my decision. I believe it’s going to pay off in the end.” Milton also has some

changes with his coaching staff and their duties. Chad Crowe has moved on to Newton Academy. He served as defensive coordinator as well as Carroll’s athletic director. Stepping into those two roles is Tommy Acy, who is entering his fourth season as the junior high head coach. He is in his fifth year at his alma mater. He will also coach wide receivers and defensive backs. Following football season, Acy is the boys head basketball coach. “Tommy has made great strides as a coach. This is his fourth year with me, and I rely on him heavily. The kids really like Coach Acy, and he gives us the continuity we need here at Carroll,” Milton said. Joining Carroll as a fulltime coach and teacher is Ty Gregg, who also played at the school. He was a volunteer assistant the last three years and will handle the offensive and defensive lines, as well as assist Acy with the junior high team. Joining the staff is Nathan Moncrief, who has spent the last five years at Kirk Academy. He’ll coach the running backs and linebackers and also will take over the baseball program in the spring. “We have had a really good summer. We have 22 varsity players, and it’s a really good 22. We attended the LSU offensive and defensive line camp during the summer. We are excited about this group,” said Milton.

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^ìÖK=NT==~í=_Éåíçå ^ìÖK=OQ==iÉÉI=^êâK ^ìÖK=PN==háêâ péÉíK=T ~í=kÉïíçå pÉéíK=NQ ~í=l~â=eáää pÉéíK=ON máääçï= pÉéíK=OU ~í=qìåáÅ~ lÅíK=R ~í=j~êëÜ~ää lÅíK=NO táåçå~=`ÜêáëíK lÅíK=NV ` É å í ê ~ ä eçäãÉë ^ää=Ö~ãÉë=ëí~êí=~í=T=éKãK lccbkpb Milton is hoping to have a 1-2 punch in junior quarterback Morgan Mims and senior tailback Jeb Beck. Mims was inserted as signal caller midway through last season when Colby Holly moved from QB to running back. Mims completed 19 of 37 passes for 243 yards with three touchdowns and five interceptions, and he also ran for 422 yards and three scores on 76 carries. Beck, a 6-1, 210-pound downhill runner, had 321 yards on 83 carries and scored four times as the backup to Holly, who led the team with 1,063 yards and eight touchdowns on 177 carries. “Jeb will be our featured back this season. We will be running out of the I-formation, which I believe suits him best. Morgan has the ability to throw and run. We are working on his consistency. He gives us such a threat at quarterback,” Milton added. Of course to be able to

run the football you have to have a good offensive line. Milton believes he has the makings of one. “We are going to be solid up front. Foley Daves is a three-year starter and will anchor for us at center. Logan Hodges will be at weakside guard and Hogan Costilow will be at right guard. Cooper Beck and Austin Smith will be our tackles, and we’ve moved Reese Fulton from the line to tight end. He played tackle last year,” Milton said. Daves and Hodges are seniors, and Costilow, Smith and Fulton are juniors. Cooper Beck is a sophomore. Senior Colton Reed will play fullback, and senior Gavin Wiltshire and junior Logan Taylor will see time at split end and flanker. abcbkpb Acy’s defense will be anchored by 6-4, 300pound James Neill at nose guard/tackle. “We’ve got to have a big body in there to plug up the holes, and James is that man,” said Milton. “We have a good mixture of seniors and juniors on defense who started last season or saw playing time.” Jeb Beck will be at middle linebacker, and he’ll be joined at linebacker by Reed and Fulton, both of whom started last season. Beck finished with 51 total tackles last season. Hodges will play on the line and Taylor will be at free safety. Hodges had 35

File photo/Andy Lo

`~êêçää=^Å~ÇÉãó=çÑÑÉåëáîÉ=äáåÉã~å=cçäÉó=a~îÉë=áë=~=íÜêÉÉJ óÉ~ê=ëí~êíÉê=ìé=ÑêçåíK== tackles, and Taylor finished with 30 stops. “Coach Acy had some success with the junior high team last season, which will help us this season,” Milton said. “We’ve got others who will also see playing time on both sides of the ball.” Milton said Crawford Holly, Dane Greenlee and Sam Clark will see plenty of playing time. pmb`f^i=qb^jp Milton said that Mims will handle the punting duties and Hunter Grantham will likely do all the place kicking and kickoffs. _ob^hlrq=mi^vbo Wiltshire could likely be the player to watch this season. As already mentioned, he will play split end and will be in the sec-

ondary on defense. d^jbp=ql=t^q`e As most coaches emphasize, the first game on the schedule is the most important. The Rebels open Friday at Benton Academy. However, the four District 1-AA games are always important. Carroll begins league play on Sept. 14 at Oak Hill, and then hits the road to face Marshall on Oct. 5. They close the regular season with home games against Winona Christian on Oct. 12 and Central Holmes on Oct. 19. And throw in rivalry games against Kirk on Aug. 31 and Pillow on Sept. 21 to make for an intriguing schedule. n `çåí~Åí=`~äîáå=píÉîÉåë ~í= ÅëíÉîÉåë]ÖïÅçããçåJ ïÉ~äíÜKÅçãK

Running back/linebacker a Rebel through and through By CALVIN STEVENS péçêíë=têáíÉê

CARROLLTON — Carroll Academy head coach Bo Milton is banking on one thing for the 2018 football season — Jeb Beck is going to give him everything he has on the field. “Jeb will be our featured back. He’s a downhill runner, and he has breakaway speed. He had some touchdown runs 50 yards or longer last season. We’re going to

run from the I-formation, which I believe will benefit Jeb, along with Morgan Mims at quarterback,” said Milton, who is in his fourth season as the CA head coach. Beck is a 6-1, 210-pound running back and linebacker for the Rebels. As a junior, he was the team’s third-leading rusher with 321 yards on 81 carries and four touchdowns. He was also third on the team in total tackles with 51. His sophomore campaign was hampered by injuries. He only

gained 58 yards on five tries. “I expect to carry the ball a lot. I know I’ll be going both ways, but coach does not have me on all the special teams. I need to Beck stay healthy this season. I also need to lift up my teammates and stay in the right mindset,” said Beck. Beck is a career Carroll Acade-

my student/athlete. He was in kindergarten at the age of four and has been at Carroll since then. His bloodline at Carroll runs deep. His father, Danny, and his mother, Patty, also attended CA, and he has three younger brothers. Cooper is a sophomore lineman, and twin brothers Mathis and Noah are eighth-graders on the junior high team. “Those two love sports,” Jeb said. “They are all pushing me to do well, and I’d like to see them do

well. Cooper is pretty mean when he gets on the field.” Beck is confident the Rebels will have success running the football. “We have a good line. I’m not scared to run the ball behind them. I’m going to keep my shoulder pads down and stay low,” Beck added. Beck and the Rebels were only 4-7 overall last season, but they did make the State AA playoffs. They dropped a 46-18 decision to Centreville.

Brooks made quite the impression on his head coach the way he handled being thrown into the fire as a youngster and by how he responded the following year. “As a freshman, he proved to be a young kid who was willing to do anything to get on the field. He was willing to play anywhere to get a starting job,” said Clinton Gatewood, who is in his ninth year at the helm of the GHS program. “I knew then he would be a special part of this program. We are proud for him to represent us.” And indeed he is. Brooks is an A-student who is popular among his classmates. Gatewood said he is the perfect example of a model

player. “He represents Greenwood High quite well on and off the field,” the Bulldog coach said. “He is the kind of kid everyone wants to be around. He is respectful, has a great work ethic and is a student of the game.” Brooks laughs as he looks back on how far he has come since his eighth-grade season. “I figured out fast that I had to hit the weight room hard. I was about 225 pounds when I moved up to the varsity team, and now I will start my senior season at 285. All that hard work has paid off, and I am ready to go out with a bang,” Brooks said. “I think we can have a special season if the

offensive line comes around, and it’s my job to make sure that happens.” When Brooks isn’t focused on school, football or working out, he enjoys spending time in the outdoors hunting and fishing. His favorites types of hunting are deer and rabbit — a passion he picked up from his uncle and God father. They first introduced him to the sport when he was about 7 years old. But for the next several months, Brooks is content to hunt for defenders and wins. n `çåí~Åí= _áää= _ìêêìë= ~í= RUNJ TOPT= çê= ÄÄìêêìë]ÖïÅçããçåJ ïÉ~äíÜKÅçãK

Senior lineman quickly overcame early hard knocks By BILL BURRUS péçêíë=bÇáíçê

Charles Brooks remembers his introduction to Greenwood High School football like it was yesterday. But in fact, it was 31/2 years ago as an eighth-grader after moving up at the conclusion of the junior high season. “Oh, yeah, I took some lumps for sure,” said Brooks, now a senior offensive lineman. “It was the very first practice with the big boys, and Antwoine Williams put a hit on me, the hardest hit I’ve taken to this day.” Not only did Brooks survive, but he has since thrived. He

became a starter as a freshman at guard, where he has played the last three years. Brooks has moved to center for his senior season to anchor an unexperienced line where he is the lone player with starting time. “It’s my job to lead these younger guys up front and make Brooks all the calls and make sure they know their assignments,” Brooks said. “I am honored to have been a part of a proud Bulldog program for so long. I absolutely love it.”

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PageU Greenwood Commonwealth / Weekend, August 11-12, 2018 cllq_^ii=OMNU =======================================================================================================================================================================

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cêáÇ~óë=C=p~íìêÇ~óëI=qÜáë=c~ää Pillow Academy Mustangs

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Tigers have holes to fill

PageV cllq_^ii=OMNU =======================================================================================================================================================================

Greenwood Commonwealth / Weekend, August 11-12, 2018

By CALVIN STEVENS péçêíë=têáíÉê

Eric House may be faced with his biggest coaching challenge in his career as the 2018 Leflore County High School season kicks off Friday night against Greenwood High School. House is in his third season at the helm of the Tiger football program. The Water Valley and Mississippi Valley State graduate said he’s excited about the upcoming campaign. “Coming into this season, this program lost a great number of athletes the last two years. We lost 12 two years ago, and 15 seniors graduated from last season’s team. That’s a lot for a 2A program,” said House. “When we started summer workouts, I didn’t see a lot of familiar faces. I had to go home one day and look in the mirror and ask myself if I was going to dwell on who was not there or was I going to work my butt off. “I decided to work my butt off, and I went to the players in a team meeting and asked them to do the same thing. It’s going to take all of us to do this thing the right way. When I look around the room, I see kids who want to work hard, and that’s become the inspiration for me.” Leflore does have some key players returning in Willie McCline and Maurice Edwards, but they did lose both quarterbacks in Darius McClung and Chandler Robinson, plus top receiver Willie Dixon. McClung was by far the most versatile player Leflore had on the field last season. He lined up at quarterback, receiver and running back and also returned punts and played cornerback on defense. The Coahoma Community College signee ran for 162 yards and 11 touchdowns on 37 carries, completed 11-of-27 passes for 162 yards with two scores, and hauled in 15 receptions for 242 yards. Robinson, who transferred back to Simmons High School fol-

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lowing the season, signed with Mississippi Valley State. The 6foot-4 signal caller was 89-of-138 for 1,473 yards with seven touchdowns and three interceptions. Dixon, who signed with Hinds Community College, had 20 catches for 493 yards and five touchdowns. He also had 22 rushes for 191 yards. House knows he has holes to fill and players to replace, but his message is simple to this year’s team. “After summer workouts, I realized this could be one of the best clubs I will coach as far as work ethic goes. We’re going to be young and not have a lot of depth, but I believe the hard work will pay off,” House said. “I’ve told these kids they are the group now wearing the LC brand. That means they go out every night and continue the reputation Leflore has built over the years, and that is to play tough no matter who we line up against. “I have seen a lot of growth in these kids over the first two weeks of practice because of the hard work the coaches have put in. I’ve got a very good young staff. All of them have college experience, and they are bringing that atmosphere to the practice field. They’ve brought a new energy to this team.” Joining House this season from last year’s staff is Tavares Gideon, who will coach tight ends and special teams. Gideon played at Greenwood High, Mississippi

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Delta Community College and Memphis as a wide receiver. Also on staff is former Leflore standout Jermaine Jones, who played offensive line. Jones went on to play at Northwest Mississippi Community College and Southeastern Louisiana. Joining the Tigers are Ricardo Stokes, who will be the defensive coordinator, and Cameron Carter, who played at Greenwood and MDCC. Stokes is from the Tupelo area and played at Henderson State, while Carter is a Greenwood High alum and played at MDCC. He will coach the wide receivers. lccbkpb House said he wants to stick with the two-quarterback system he used last season. Edwards (60, 258) will move from fullback and be the running quarterback, while senior De’Angelo Brown (60, 155) is working as the throwing quarterback. Expected to carry the ball even more than he did last season will be McCline, who earned All-Commonwealth accolades as a junior. The 5-foot-8, 165-pounder had 132 rushes for 1,421 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also had 20 receptions for 244 yards and one score. House has labeled his receivers as The Smurfs — much like the trio the Washington Redskins had back in the 1980s. Three of his receivers include sophomores Kerric Ross (5-6, 135) and Khirous Dixon (5-6, 150) and ninthgrader Dekari Johnson (5-6, 145). They are joined by senior Ryeshun Holston (5-10, 160) and freshman Dequarionne Jones (62, 155). Junior Kwalique Swinney (6-0, 190) will line up at tight end. The offensive line will lack depth as senior Will Gates (5-10, 300) and junior Emanuel Stanley are the lone returning starters. They are joined by senior tackle Avery Jackson, juniors Charles Davis, Kendarius Moore and Masunte Haggie, sophomore Kevin Ervin and freshman Tavarion Dean.

File photo/Andy Lo

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abcbkpb Edwards and senior Royce Jackson will line up at end to give the Tigers experience on the outside. They are joined across the front by Jackson and Swinney at tackle, and juniors Lakendrick Cross and Kendarius Moore at nose guard. Freshman Ivory Lumpkin Jr. is expected to play middle linebacker, and seniors Elmus Stockstill Jr. and David O’Neal, Stanley and freshman Damarius Leflore are working at outside linebacker. Sophomores Demerious Minton and Brandon Cleveland are working at free safety, and seniors Demoriya Dunham, Kevon Birdlong and Lil’Robert Owens are at strong safety. Sophomore Jaylon Lister and freshmen Jacolby Smith and Mel’Traveone Kelly are at cornerback. pmb`f^i=qb^jp House said Edwards and Swinney will handle all the kicking and punting duties for the Tigers. Edwards did the place-kicking and kickoffs last season.

_ob^hlrq=mi^vbop It’s hard for House to not go with McCline, even though he rushed for over 1,000 yards as a junior. “He’s still the man for us this season.” He’s also expecting great things from Edwards. “If he can stay away from injuries, Maurice is primed to have a big season.” d^jbp=ql=t^q`e “I’ve circled all of them on the schedule. Each Friday is important. Any time you are on the field, you want to be successful. We want to win them all, and it starts with Friday night’s game against Greenwood,” said House. Leflore again will compete in Region 2-2A with Eupora, East Webster and Calhoun City. Winona High School consolidated with Montgomery County and jumped to the 3A ranks. The schedule took a hit this week as JFK and Broad Street will not consolidate to North Side High School. So the Tigers have open dates on Sept. 28 and Oct. 5. n `çåí~Åí= `~äîáå= píÉîÉåë= ~í ÅëíÉîÉåë]ÖïÅçããçåïÉ~äíÜKÅçãK

McCline expected to be team workhorse By CALVIN STEVENS péçêíë=têáíÉê

Willie McCline ran the ball 132 times and caught 20 passes as a junior for the Leflore County High School football team in 2017. Those numbers could drastically rise in 2018. The Tigers graduated some key players from last season’s 64 squad, which includes both quarterbacks and the top two wide receivers. McCline, a 5-8, 165-pound tailback, cornerback, and kickoff and punt returner, ran for 1,421 yards and 12 touchdowns on 132 carries and also caught 20 passes for 244 yards and one score. He also returned one kickoff for a touchdown. “Willie is one of those kids you love to have in the locker room because of his attitude. He never frowns or complains about the work that needs to be done. He leads by example and had very high character,” said Leflore head coach Eric House, who is in

his third year. “The expectations are high for Willie this year. He has worked hard during the summer building his strength. He will probably take on a majority of the load this season. He’s the guy this year.” McCline proved during the 2018 state 2A track meet he has the speed. He competed in the McCline 100- and 200meter dashes at the state meet and placed fourth in the 100 and third in the 200. He also ran in the 4x200 relay. At 5-8, 165, college recruiters aren’t knocking down his door, but he has a message for them. “They don’t see my heart. I have the skills of a 200-pound running back. I can play somewhere on the next level. Since my freshman year, I’ve had a dream to play college ball,” said McCline, who said he has heard from Coahoma Community Col-

lege, East Mississippi and East Central. “I don’t do as much weight training as I do cardio training. I keep in shape running and doing those type of things to strengthen my body,” he added. Leflore, which opens its season Aug. 17 at Greenwood High, could be playing its final year, depending on how the three public high schools in the Greenwood area are consolidated in 2019. “We need to work together to make this a good year for Leflore County. We need to be on the same page and put in the extra work that it will take to succeed. There needs to be no slacking off and a never give-up attitude,” said McCline. McCline showed last year he can stop on a dime, change directions and be off to the races. “My speed got so much better last season, and I improved my footwork and my ability to break tackles,” he said. “I know how hard I worked last year to get ready for the season, and I need to work even harder this season.

We have a young team with only two offensive line starters returning, so it’s going to require extra work for them and me as well that we get on the same page. “I realize that other teams are going to be out to stop No. 21 (his number). That just means extra work for me. I’ve got to be able to break tackles, run hard, stay focused and stay healthy this season.” McCline had some outstanding performances as a junior. In the final game of the season in a 36-32 loss to East Webster, he rushed for 232 yards and scored two touchdowns on 13 carries. He also had one 2-point conversion run and caught three passes for 56 yards. He ran for 185 yards and a pair of scores on 11 carries in a 50-14 win over Humphreys County, and he torched three other teams for over 150 yards rushing. n `çåí~Åí= `~äîáå= píÉîÉåë= ~í ÅëíÉîÉåë]ÖïÅçããçåïÉ~äíÜKÅç ãK


Donley making most of change

PageNM Greenwood Commonwealth / Weekend, August 11-12, 2018 cllq_^ii=OMNU =======================================================================================================================================================================

Veteran coach has young team, says future bright By CALVIN STEVENS péçêíë=têáíÉê

Sheldon Hodge doesn’t waver from his mission as the Amanda Elzy head football coach as he enters his 40th season on the sidelines. “My goal this year is the same as it was in 1979, and that is to uplift young men to be the best players and best young men they can be. That hasn’t changed for me. Once that changes, I’m going home,” said Hodge, whose Panthers kick off their 2018 campaign Friday at Leland High School. Hodge has coaching stints at Florida A&M and Mississippi Valley State on the college ranks and at Greenwood High, J.Z. George, John F. Kennedy, Gentry High and Elzy. “I look at all the players I’ve had the pleasure to coach — Vincent Brown, Gene Atkins, Nate Newton, Ashley Ambrose, Terry Houzah. I feel like I had a positive impact on their lives and many others,” Hodge said. “We need to pull Elzy out of the cellar and make it relevant again. It’s not always about the number of wins but the level of respect that we earn on the field. We can’t constantly be everybody’s homecoming opponent.” Hodge expects to line up with 30-32 players when the season starts. “Obviously, conditioning has been a priority. We aren’t loaded with a bunch of big numbers for 3A football, so guys will be going both ways. With special teams also, there will be some who won’t leave the field. We’ve got to be in shape,” the second-year coach said. “The bulk of our talent is in the ninth and 10th grade. The future at Elzy is bright. We are trying to lay the groundwork for the kids build on. We need a solid foundation, and the three things that I believe it starts with are commitment, loyalty and respect. We need to teach these kids that being a good citizen is just as important as being a good football player,” he added. “Some of these young men will have to lift Greenwood up. They need to be involved in the community in a positive way. That also goes for the kids at Greenwood, Leflore, at the middle schools, at Delta

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Streets and at Pillow Academy as well. We need our coaches and leaders to be involved in shaping our young men into future leaders of this community.” Hodge’s coaching staff includes Morris Bush, who will be the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach; Anthony Williams, wide receivers; Michael Curry, safeties; Lanell Bush, cornerbacks; Justin Wraggs, offensive line assistant; Henry Fant III, quarterbacks/running backs; and Richard Quon, a volunteer assistant. lccbkpb Deontae Neal, a sophomore, is expected to be calling the signals for the Panthers this fall. Elzy, which was 0-11 overall and 0-5 in Region 3 in Hodge’s first season, used three different quarterbacks last season. Neal will be backed up by freshman Terry (TJ) Randle. Whoever plays quarterback will have two sophomore receivers to throw to in Kyris Jones and Charlie Ivory. Sophomore Sadarius Jackson will be at tight end. Junior Dephabian Fant returns at tailback for the Panthers. Fant made the AllCommonwealth team as a sophomore in the secondary, but his primary position is at running back. He rushed for 789 yards Fant and seven touchdowns on 107 carries, and he also had 15 kickoff returns for a total of 425 yards. Working behind Fant at running back is eighth-grader Ladarius Ghoston. Those working up front are seniors Demarcus Streeter and Tavuntey Jefferson, and sophomores Fred Ferguson, Ja’Querian Stevenson and Timothy Wilson. abcbkpb The defensive front will be anchored by sophomore La’Andrea Pittman. He will be joined by Streeter, Ferguson, Jefferson and eighthgrader Deavayun Harris. Wilson, senior Norman Polk and Ghoston will play linebacker, and senior Devin Donley and freshman Ladarius Franklin will be at cornerback. The safeties will likely

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By CALVIN STEVENS péçêíë=têáíÉê

File photo/Andy Lo

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be junior Smithdarrious Wright and ninth-grader William Greer. _ob^hlrq=mi^vbop Hodge believes he has the makings of a good wide receiver in Jones. “This kid can catch the ball and has excellent hands. It doesn’t hurt that he is 6-foot-4.” On defense, he couldn’t narrow it down to just one. “We have three guys on each level of defense who are going to be the players to watch for us,” he said. He listed Wilson at linebacker, Pittman at tackle and Wright in the secondary as the players to watch on defense. d^jbp=ql=t^q`e It all starts with the first game on the schedule for

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Hodge. “Leland will get our attention as soon as Monday rolls around. After we compete in the jamboree, we will know a lot more about our team and changes we need to make for Leland,” Hodge said. “We don’t need to be flipflopping guys around all over the place. The only way they are going to learn to play the game is by playing.” The Panthers compete in Region 3-3A with Charleston, Humphreys County, Yazoo County, Ruleville and J.Z. George. The first district game is Sept. 28 at home against Charleston. n `çåí~Åí=`~äîáå=píÉîÉåë=~í ÅëíÉîÉåë]ÖïÅçããçåïÉ~äíÜKÅ çãK

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Amanda Elzy head coach Sheldon Hodge wishes he had more players with the attitude of senior Devin Donley. Donley started the 2017 campaign as the Panthers’ starting quarterback, but midway through the season, Hodge moved him from that position to cornerback and wide receiver, the two main positions he will play this season. He may still see some spot duty at quarterback this fall. “We wanted to put Devin in the best position for him. He was out of position at quarterback, and he was having to play there out of necessity. He did everything we asked of him, but we felt moving him to cornerback and letting him focus on that gives him the best opportunity to play on the next level,” said Hodge, a veteran coach of 40 years in high school and colDonley lege football. “Devin is a very mannerable kid. He is willing to do his job, and he wants to make his coaches and teammates happy. He’s a very unselfish player.” Donley didn’t have much success as Elzy’s starting quarterback, although a young offensive line didn’t help either. He only completed 11 of 53 passes for 129 yards with one touchdown and four interceptions. Donley took the move from under center in stride. “I feel like I can help our young quarterback (Kentrell Neal). He’s a sophomore, so as a wide receiver I will still be in the huddle and can help him with coverages,” said Donley. “I’ve taken a team approach. What’s best for the team is what I’m willing to do. “We were 0-11 last season, but we were in some close games. We just have to finish better. We have some young kids out this season who are hungry and ready to help this team.” Donley (6-0, 165) also knows this will be his last time to put on an Elzy football jersey. He also plays basketball and runs track for the Panthers. “All of us seniors really want to go out with a bang. We have all said we are going to play as hard as we can and make some memories,” he added. Donley plays point guard for his older brother, Jamond Klines, who also played at Elzy. Donley is one of six brothers to who have either played or graduated from Elzy. “It’s all about brotherly love. We all want each to succeed,” Donley said. “I know you have to work hard and play hard to have success. I’m playing for my school and my teammates this year. We have no idea what consolidation is going to bring next year. It’s about Elzy pride this year. We need to go out with a bang.” Besides Coach Klines, Donley’s other brothers who wore the blue and gold were Cartez Klines and Corey Donley. Oldest brother Justin Klines was a 2002 graduate. The youngest is Darius Donley, a sophomore on the basketball team. “I know I can play cornerback. I played there in the seventh, eighth and ninth grades, and then when I moved there last season,” said Donley, who also ran in the 110 hurdles at the State 3A meet last season. “I’m hoping if I can do well in one of these three sports it will lead to a scholarship offer. I want an opportunity to show what I can do on the next level.”


Coach hopes changes equal more success

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Greenwood Commonwealth / Weekend, August 11-12, 2018

By CALVIN STEVENS péçêíë=têáíÉê

NORTH CARROLLTON — Change is in the air when it comes to the J.Z. George football team as the season opener approaches Friday night. After a dismal 2-9 record and more problems than could be counted, fifth-year head coach Ben Burton decided to it was time for a change from top to bottom. “What ate at me most was the culture I had established. If the only thing that mattered was what happened on the field, then I’m a terrible coach. Twenty years down the line, what kind of man and father these guys are will matter more than anything,” said Burton. “I want these kids to be able to handle adversity, not just now, but later in life. “We needed to reidentify our program and establish core beliefs. We need to build relationships and define what it means to be a part of this team. We’ve done some different things during the summer to make football fun again.” Burton, his assistant coaches and players recently did community service work in Greenwood to help promote unity and awareness of their surroundings. “There was a purpose behind what we did, and I look for it to pay off one day. The younger guys will hopefully understand what we were doing and trying to accomplish,” Burton said. “We really are focusing on a positive attitude and the value that each person brings as an individual. We realize it’s going to take time and there will be challenges, but those who do not wish to be a part of the change will likely be doing something else.” The Jaguars posted a 1-4 mark in Region 3-3A last season to go with their 2-9 overall record. It was the first time in Burton’s first four seasons that J.Z. George missed the playoffs. Burton has

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an overall record of 22-28 and has made it to the second round of the State 2A playoffs in his three appearances. Burton is joined on the coaching staff by defensive coordinator Alex Rawls, who also serves as the school’s assistant principal and athletic director. “I’ve got to give Coach Rawls a lot of credit. He got me hooked on reading books that talked about culture change and obstacles in a program. Going 2-9 was not our main problem last year. We had a lot more problems than our record,” Burton said. “I don’t think athletes and coaches win games. Culture wins. It’s getting them to buy into what we are doing,” Rawls said. “Several seniors have bought into what we are doing. We never want to let a kid go, but sometimes decisions have to be made that are best for the entire team.” Joining Burton and Rawls on staff are Marshall Guess, Will Rodgers, Douglas Butts and Hal Haney. Guess and Rodgers were on staff last year. Butts comes over from Montgomery County, and Haney is the former strength/conditioning coach at Greenwood High. lccbkpb The offense will be directed this season by 6-foot, 225-pound senior Montavis Jenkins, who will move from running back to

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quarterback. “Just because he moves to quarterback does not mean we aren’t going to run the football. He’s a downhill, bruising runner. He can throw the football, but our philosophy is to run the football,” said Burton of Jenkins, whose nickname is Hulk. “We will put him in the gun, and we may run some plays from under center. We want to take advantage of his strength.” As a junior, Jenkins, a member of the All-Commonwealth team, rushed for 1,241 yards and nine touchdowns on 184 carries. Burton has a nice stable of running backs. He will use senior Devonte Smith (5-8, 160), junior Quenterius Purnell (5-8, 190), sophomore Jacob Johnson (6-0, 190) and freshman Deriaun Townsend (5-8, 195) in the backfield to complement Jenkins. Freshman Laike Shute (5-9, 200) is at halfback. Senior Chris Rias (6-3, 205), juniors Malik Branch (5-8, 160) and P.J. Archie (5-11, 170) and Smith are at wide receiver. Senior Jarvis Jenkins (6-3, 290) should be the mainstay on the line. Junior Cory Clay (6-1, 315), senior Javeon Griffin (5-10, 215), junior Keyshawn Daniels (5-8, 200), and sophomores Austin Chenault (6-1, 160), Josh Newman (5-7, 180), R.J. Griffin (5-10, 230) and Michael Bankston (5-10, 180) are also vying for a starter’s role across the front. abcbkpb Rawls believes his defense is going to be hard-nosed and tough. “The defense will be the backbone of a team. It creates an identity that you can hang your hat on,” said Rawls. “We are going to establish a set of standards to go by, and we want kids who want to be a part of the culture change.” The defense should be strong up the middle with seniors J.J. Rias (6-2, 215) and Marquinn Watt (6-0, 170), Purnell, Daniels and sophomore Wil’Tavious

‘Hulk’ making move to QB By CALVIN STEVENS péçêíë=têáíÉê

NORTH CARROLLTON — You would think anyone with the nickname “Hulk” would have an obvious answer who is his favorite superhero. J.Z. George senior Montavis Jenkins earned that nickname from his mom, Tonya Jenkins, when he was 3-years old after he broke a window in their home. However, when asked who is his favorite superhero, Jenkins replied, “Batman.” “I like him better. He can fly and do so many things. I envision myself being that type of football player. Always growing up, I was stronger than my other siblings. After my mom gave me that nickname and I started watching the movies, I think I realized what she meant. I’m Hulk on the field. I like to smash and run through everybody when I have the football,” he said. Jenkins is a 6-foot, 225-pound bruiser for the Jaguars, who were only 2-9 in 2017 and missed the playoffs for the first time in Ben Burton’s fourth season at the helm of the program. Jenkins has played running

back, fullback and linebacker, plus some on the defensive line, in his first three seasons at J.Z. George. However, he will make the transition to quarterback this season, a move Burton believes will make the Jaguars a better football team. “My goal is to find a way to get playmakers the football. The changes we made during the summer, Hulk bought into what we were doing. He will play a lot of offense this season. He has all the physical tools, but he just has to develop the mental muscle. He can’t take plays off. I feel like if he concentrates on offense, it will make him a better player and us a better team,” the fifth-year head coach said. Jenkins spent the summer competing in 7-on-7 camps with the Jags, but those drills are focused on passing. He may have some pass plays called this season, but is primary job will be run the football with power. “We will be running a lot of quarterback powers. I can throw good. I can chunk it and throw accurately,” said Jenkins. “In the spring, I was still playing fullback and when we started summer workouts, Coach Burton approaches me with the idea if

moving to quarterback. He said this would be best for the team. “It shocked me. It came out of nowhere. Coach sold me on the position change. I’m still going to be running the football and throw short accurate passes. I started thinking I could work with this.” Jenkins had some success during the summer camps, which boosted his confidence level. He threw four touchdown passes against both Eupora and East Webster. “It really helped my confidence. I’d get frustrated some because I wanted to run the football, but I started seeing I could throw the football,” said Jenkins. “It really has helped that my teammates have confidence in me as a leader. I’m not always the vocal leader, but one who leads by example. I’ve just got to keep pushing myself and my teammates to make us a better team.” Jenkins made the All-Commonwealth team last season as he rushed for 1,241 yards and nine touchdowns on 184 carries. His sophomore season didn’t go very well as he only gained 329 yards and scored six times on 61 carries. He broke into the J.Z. George lineup as a freshman and rumbled for 916 yards on 174 car-

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Williams at linebacker. Jenkins will primarily concentrate on offense, but could see action at linebacker as well. Clay, J. Jenkins, Griffin, Chenault and junior Charles Shelton (5-7, 200) are working at tackle, and Johnson, junior Quintray Gaines (6-0, 210) and Chris Rias are at defensive end. The secondary includes junior Antwan Granderson (5-10, 165), Branch, Smith and Archie at cornerback, and senior Kendrick Head (6-0, 160) and Townsend at safety. _ob^hlrq=mi^vbop Burton is banking on two players who could make a difference on this year’s team — Branch and Johnson. “Malik is a young man who showed up every day during the summer and has bought into what we are doing,” said Burton. “Jacob has a positive attitude, and he is the type of player not

afraid of contact and does not wait on the game to come to him.” d^jbp=ql=t^q`e Burton remains focused on the season opener Friday at home against Okolona, a team they lost to 48-0 to start 2017. That led to an 0-4 start. Region 3-3A play gets started on Sept. 28 against Ruleville Central. Charleston is still the team to beat in the district, and the Jaguars go there on Oct. 5. They end the regular season with home games against Humphreys County (Oct. 12) and Amanda Elzy (Oct. 26) and a road tilt at Yazoo County on Oct. 19. “We are looking forward to the competition and competing. When teams play us, we want them to know they played a hardnosed team that played disciplined football,” said Burton. n `çåí~Åí= `~äîáå= píÉîÉåë= ~í ÅëíÉîÉåë]ÖïÅçããçåïÉ~äíÜKÅçãK

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ries, which included 11 TD runs, four 2-point conversion runs and one punt return for a touchdown. For his three-year career so far, Jenkins has gained 2,486 yards and scored 26 touchdowns on 419 carries for a 5.9 yards per carry average. “We did some things offensively in Hulk’s sophomore year that were not his style. He really grew up as a junior during a very difficult season. He was surrounded by youth and inexperience,” said Burton. Jenkins’ numbers, size and bruising running style have

attracted the interest of college coaches. He said since last season he has heard from Central Arkansas, South Alabama, Copiah-Lincoln, Miss. Gulf Coast, Alcorn State and Northwest Miss. Community College. Playing on the next level is definitely something I want to do. I have the grades, and I need to work on the ACT score,” said Jenkins. Jenkins and the Jaguars open the 2018 season Friday at home against Okolona High School. n `çåí~Åí= `~äîáå= píÉîÉåë= ~í ÅëíÉîÉåë]ÖïÅçããçåïÉ~äíÜKÅçãK


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Delta Devils out to prove doubters wrong

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Greenwood Commonwealth / Weekend, August 11-12, 2018

By BILL BURRUS péçêíë=bÇáíçê

Vincent Dancy has a message for Mississippi Valley State fans. “I am not guaranteeing a certain number of wins, but I can tell you this team will be competitive,” said the first-year MVSU head coach. “We won’t get beat by 50 points this year.” Dancy was the team’s defensive coordinator last season as the Delta Devils went 2-9 and was outscored 409-73 in those nine losses. Valley, which has posted a dismal 8-47 record over the last five seasons, is picked last in the SWAC’s Eastern Division in the preseason poll. Dancy said that doesn’t faze him. “We’re not listening to any outsiders. We know this team can compete against some of the best teams in this conference,” he said. “I told our guys that nobody is going to feel sorry for you or hold your hand. They have to go out and prove it on the field. “It’s going to be a great year. The kids have bought into what the new staff is doing, and there is a lot of energy around this program.” lccbkpb Valley hasn’t had a winning season since 2006. If that is going to change this year, the Delta Devils have to find a way to boost an offense that ranked 113th in FCS a year ago with 14.9 points per game. They finished with just three rushing touchdowns, negative yardage on the ground, and surrendered 56 sacks in 2017. “We want to be able to pound the football on the ground. Not only does that keep our defense off the field and rested, but it opens up what we think can be a dangerous passing attack,”

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^ìÖK=PM= ~í=kçêíÜ=a~âçí~I= S=éKãK pÉéíK=U ~í=g~ÅâëçåîáääÉ=pí~íÉI S=éKãK pÉéíK=NR léÉå pÉéíK=OO ^äÅçêå=pí~íÉI=S=éKãK pÉéíK=OV léÉå lÅíK=R ~í= _ÉíÜìåÉJ`ççâJ ã~åI=S=éKãK lÅíK=NP ~í= g~Åâëçå= píKI= O éKãK lÅíK=OM r^m_I=O=éKãK lÅíK=OT ~í=qÉñ~ë=pçìíÜÉêåI= O=éKãK kçîK=P ~í=dê~ãÄäáåÖI=O=éKãK kçîK=NM e~ãéíçåI=O=éKãK kçîK=NT ~í=^ä~K=pí~íÉI=O=éKãK Dancy said. One of the guys who will be called on to jump-start the run game is Henry Robinson, 6-foot5, 195-pound graduate transfer running back from Wake Forest. Among the seven running backs in preseason camp is former Greenwood High School standout JohnDerrick Smith, who transfered at Christmas from Mississippi Delta Community College. “He’s a tough, hard-nosed runner. We found that out in the spring,” Dancy said. Valley will have to establish a running attack without left tackle Alvin Solomon, who had been a staple on the line his four years in Itta Bena. He was the team captain and named this past year to the All-SWAC team. With Jett Even out for the start of preseason camp due to a violation of an undisclosed team rule, Dewayne Betts and Christopher Fowler are fighting for the starting nod at quarterback. At the time of publication, Dancy wasn’t

sure if Even would rejoin the team later. They’ve got a healthy competition at quarterback between Fowler, who threw for 1,565 yards, six touchdowns and seven interceptions, and Betts, the former three-star recruit who threw for 838 yards and five scores with seven picks. Whoever wins the job will have a talented and experienced group of players to throw to. Senior wide receiver Quinn McElfresh was named the SWAC Newcomer of the Year in 2017 after leading the conference in receptions per game (5.2). He ranked second in receiving yards per game (80.8), led in receiving yards (889) and added five touchdowns despite catching passes from three different quarterbacks. Junior Steve McIntosh and senior Booker T. Chambers of Greenwood are also top targets. McIntosh had 39 catches for 532 yards and two touchdowns last season. Chambers, a Greenwood High School product, was named the SWAC Freshman of the Year in 2015 after leading the team in scoring with seven touchdowns and totaling 1,098 all-purpose yards. Last year, Chambers had three rushes for 11 yards and 28 catches for 301 yards and four touchdowns. “Injuries slowed Booker some last season. He will be one of our go-to-guys. We plan to move him around and get him the ball in space,” Dancy said. abcbkpb MVSU’s top five tacklers are back on defense and a total of seven starters are back, which is something to build on. The leader of the 4-2-5 defense is linebacker Patrick Harbin, a second-team All-SWAC pick a

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year ago after 89 tackles and 4.5 sacks. Others to watch on this side of the ball are linebacker Adam Hamilton (53 tackles, 4 TFL); defensive back Jamenta Shaw (53 tackles, 3 TFLs) and tackle Bryant Jones (51 tackles, 4.5 TFLs). “We like what we have coming back on defense, and when you combine that with some of the new guys, we expect to have a pretty tough unit,” said Dancy, who served as defensive coordinator for the last three seasons under Comegy. He has hired Derek Welch to run the defense but will stay involved with things on that side of the ball. p`ebarib

It features three non-conference games, including a seasonopening visit to North Dakota (Thursday, Aug. 30), followed by a trip to FCS power Jacksonville State (Sept. 8). What makes things even tougher is the fact that only four of the Delta Devils’ 11 games are at home. MVSU’s home and Southeastern Athletic Conference opener on Sept. 22 will be against Alcorn State, which has won four straight East Division titles. The other non-SWAC games are also tough ones — Oct. 6 at Bethune-Cookman and Nov. 10 hosting Hampton University. n `çåí~Åí= _áää= _ìêêìë= ~í= RUNJ TOPT= çê= ÄÄìêêìë]ÖïÅçããçåJ ïÉ~äíÜKÅçãK

Braves trying to chop way to fifth Eastern title By BILL BURRUS péçêíë=bÇáíçê

Alcorn State has won four straight SWAC East titles and will be the favorite to do it again in 2018. The Braves return eight full-time starters from last year’s team, but also several other players with a lot of experience. This is a balanced program that ranked among the nation’s best in the FCS in both offensive and defensive production. The offense lost some impressive skill talent like

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running back De’Lance Turner and wide receiver Norlando Veals, so that will be something to keep an eye on. The Braves have two FBS opponents on the schedule and face the best three SWAC West opponents from 2017 — Grambling, Southern and Prairie View. The path back to seven wins won’t be easy if even the team is as strong as last year. “I’m looking forward to the upcoming season. We start out against a very tough Georgia Tech team.

We’ve played them before, and we’ll be able to see where we’re at early on,” Alcorn coach Fred McNair said this spring. Running back P.J. Simmons is back after rushing for 687 yards and seven touchdowns in 2017. Also returning are quarterback Noah Johnson (1,000+ total yards, 10 total TDs); OL Mustaffa Ibrahim (2nd team All SWAC); PK Corey McCullough (17 FGs - 2nd team All SWAC); LB Trae Ferrell (2nd team All SWAC); and DB Brady Smith (55 tackles, 7 PBU).

n gprW Jackson State’s offense should rebound impressively after the hiring of former FBS head coach Hal Mumme to fuel things. Last year, the Tigers were near the bottom of the FCS in terms of offense, yet played relatively stingy defense. That’s where new offensive coordinator Mumme — the former head coach at Kentucky who was one of the first coaches to use the Air Raid style offense — comes in. He will be aided by JUCO

quarterback transfer Derrick Ponder. He threw for 353 yards and 3 TDs on 34of-45 passing in the spring game. “We’ve got to grind this summer on doing the little things right. We’ve got to improve our fundamentals, our technique and getting a lot of reps on the terminology that Coach Mumme has installed.” head coach Tony Hughes said. The defense already has the potential to be stout, especially if the offense is moving the ball and giving it a bit of a break from time

Downtrodden Trojans hoping to make progress By BILL BURRUS péçêíë=bÇáíçê

Things can only go up for Mississippi Delta Community College this season. That’s because things hit rock bottom in Moorhead last year as the Trojans went 0-9 in season No. 5 under head coach Jeff Tatum.

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MDCC was outscored 379-63 and was shut out three times in a season where its closest loss was 28-6 to Northeast Mississippi. The once-proud program has now suffered through 13 straight losing seasons. If MDCC is going to make any progress in 2018, it has to find a way to generate more offense. It averaged a mere 7.0 points per

contest last season and only 56.4 yards rushing a game. The Trojans return both quarterbacks, Tyrique McAfee and Josha Belton. McAfee was the most effective of the two last season, completing 51 of 99 passes for 582 yards and one touchdown. Raheem Moore is the top retuning wide receiver with 16 grabs for 283 yards, an average of

17.7 yards per reception. The offensive ineptness last year led to a worn-out defense that was gashed for 292 rushing yards per contest. MDCC opens the season Aug. 30 on the road against Mississippi Gulf Coast, one of four opponents ranked nationally in the preseason juco polls. Gulf Coast starts at No. 25.

to time. The Tigers are looking to build on a strong finish to last season — winning three of their last four games and holding those four opponents to 7.0 points per game. That defense is led by lineman Malik Hamner (46 tackles, 9.5 TFLs, 3.5 sacks, 8 hurries) and lineman Charles Anderson (52 tackles, 8 TFLs, 4 sacks). n `çåí~Åí=_áää=_ìêêìë=~í RUNJTOPT= çê ÄÄìêêìë]ÖïÅçããçåJ ïÉ~äíÜKÅçãK= cçääçï= çå qïáííÉêW]_áää|_ìêêìëK

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Greenwood Commonwealth / Weekend, August 11-12, 2018 PageNQ cllq_^ii=OMNU =======================================================================================================================================================================

New coach set up for immediate success jfppfppfmmf= pq^qb=

By BILL BURRUS péçêíë=bÇáíçê

Mississippi State’s Joe Moorhead has high hopes for his first season in Starkville. And that’s to be expected since the first-year Bulldog head coach inherited a team with a wealth of talent and experience. The Bulldogs return 17 starters (nine on offense, eight on defense) — the second most in the SEC behind Florida with 19 — from a team that went 9-4. Other than an Egg Bowl loss to Ole Miss, Mississippi State’s 2017 season was an overwhelming success. The Bulldogs slotted in the top 25 almost the entire season, beat the opponents they should have and even pushed Alabama. Perhaps most impressively, Mississippi State knocked off Louisville in the TaxSlayer Bowl despite the absence of head coach Dan Mullen, who left for Florida, and quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, out with an injury. Moorhead told reporters at SEC Media Days that he hopes to be right back in Atlanta in December competing for the conference championship. Well, Nick Saban will have a lot to say about that. Mississippi State hasn’t beaten Alabama since Saban’s first season in 2007. But Moorhead isn’t worried. That’s just who he is. “I want us to get tired of being looked at as the underdog and the little engine that could,” Moorhead said. “Everything we want to do is to operate at a championship standard.” The arrival of the former Penn State offensive coordinator combined with the presence of dual-

threat quarterback Fitzgerald should produce plenty of yards and points, especially if the new receivers catch on quickly. After a solid 2017, the defense should be able to maintain its level of play, if not improve, thanks to a pair of playmaking defensive linemen in Jeffery Simmons and Montez Sweat. While this season represents one of transition for the Bulldogs because of the coaching change, there's more than enough talent to remain competitive in the SEC West, if not surprise a few teams along the way. Moorhead’s mentality says MSU will. Before he was even announced as the head coach, Moorhead texted Fitzgerald with two requests. The first was to clear off some shelf space for the Heisman Trophy. The second was to list his ring size because he was “going to need it.” “I like a guy with confidence,” Fitzgerald said. “I didn’t know how to take it at first, but once I met with him, I realized it was real and real confidence.” lccbkpb This unit returns an SEC-high 81 percent of its production, according to SB Nation. The line returns four starters, with the lone loss being a mighty big one in left tackle Martinas Rankin, an All-SEC player last season. But the overall success of the unit will likely fall at the feet of a talented but unproven wide receiver corps. The belief is that Moorhead will be having Fitzgerald looking downfield more often in 2018 if newcomers Stephen Guidry, Devonta Jason and Malik Heath live up to the hype.

“I’m excited to throw the ball downfield,” Fitzgerald said. Fitzgerald hasn’t had many opportunities to do that through two seasons as Mississippi State’s starter. As a sophomore, Fitzgerald had one more completion (196) than he had rushing attempts (195). Last year, he had three more rushing attempts (162) than completions (159). Some fault lands on Fitzgerald for a subpar career completion percentage of 55.4 percent. Moorhead said his standard is around 65 percent. But Fitzgerald can’t shoulder all the blame. He played in a rather predictable offensive scheme. Mississippi State ran the ball on nearly 65 percent of its plays in 2017. That number won’t stay the same this year. Moorhead said his offenses at Fordham never wavered above 55 percent in one way or the other. Fitzgerald will have more chances to throw, but the running game won’t be forgotten. “What we gravitate toward will be what we do better,” Moorhead said. “But I think we have to run the ball well to force people to commit numbers to the box. When we do that, it creates oneon-one matchups on the back end.” Defenses have loaded the box for years against Mississippi State. But the Bulldogs haven’t exploited the matchups Moorhead mentioned. Last year, MSU ranked tied for 94th nationally in passing plays over 20 yards. Under Moorhead, Penn State was tied for 12th in that category. Aeris Williams is a 1,000-yard back who is a tough, reliable runner, and he is pushed hard by

sippi State. lccbkpb This unit, led by one of the nation’s top groups of wide receivers, should score a bunch of points, especially if Luke can find a suitable replacement for 1,000yard rusher Jordan Wilkins. The leading candidate is junior D’Vaughn Pennamon, a powerful runner who must prove to be healthy after undergoing offseason knee surgery. Pennamon missed the spring, allowing junior college transfer Scottie Phillips and freshman Isaiah Woullard to get some much-needed reps. Junior Eric Swinney ran with the first team in spring and will also compete for the job. A.J. Brown, one of the most talented wide receivers in the nation, leads a potentially explosive Ole Miss offense. Brown led the SEC with 75 catches for 1,252 yards last year. He had 11 touchdown catches and is a projected top-10 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. DK Metcalf, a sophomore, is a matchup problem at 6-4 and is one of three returning receivers who caught at least 39 passes a year ago. The beneficiary of this talented group of pass catchers is senior quarterback Jordan Ta’amu, who showed poise when thrust into the starting role late last season following Patterson’s injury. Patterson has since transferred to Michigan, leaving Ta’amu as the unquestioned starter. “I think he got the players’ attention pretty quickly,” Luke

said of Ta’amu. “That’s what I was most impressed with, him being in tough situations, taking a two-minute drive on the road at Kentucky and winning that game. I think he earned the respect of his teammates quickly.” Paving the way up front is a good-looking line with four starters returning, including allstar tackle Greg Little. abcbkpb Ole Miss’ season will be defined by this unit, which was repeatedly gashed against the run in 2017 — to the tune of 270.5 rushing yards per game in SEC play. “It’s been an area of emphasis,” Luke said of stopping the run, “and I feel really good about our secondary. And I think we’re going to find creative ways to load the box, different angles and try to put pressure on offenses and make them throw over the top of us.” Defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff hopes increased physicality in the Rebels’ front seven will improve a unit that finished dead last in the SEC, allowing 460 yards and 35 points per game. Myles Hartsfield and Ken Webster give the Rebels experience at the corners, and Zedrick Woods returns for a third season to start at free safety. The Rebels hope Victor Evans and Qaadir Sheppard emerge as the next wave of playmakers at end to replace the departed Marquis Haynes and Breeland Speaks, who combined for 23 of last year’s 29 sacks.

sophomore Kylin Hill. There is a possibility that freshman tackle Kwatrivous Johnson of Greenwood, a 6-foot-7, 355pounder, could redshirt if the Bulldogs don’t have any serious injuries up front. abcbkpb The entirety of the team’s 2017 line is back, including Simmons, who finished with 12 tackles for loss a year ago in an All-SEC sophomore season, and first-team All-SEC end Sweat, who was the SEC's sack leader with 11 in 2017. Expect Greenwood’s Marquiss Spencer, a 6-4, 285-pound junior, to be a key part of the defense. The former Greenwood High School standout had 4.5 tackles for a loss and a sack as a sophomore. SEC All-Freshman linebacker Erroll Thompson takes over in the middle for Dez Harris. Linebacker Leo Lewis will also return looking to bounce back from a disappointing redshirt sophomore season (46 tackles following a 79tackle effort in 2016). And former four-star prospect Willie Gay will be in the mix. Secondary is where the most questions rest, but even that group returns plenty of experience. Starting corners Lashard Durr and Tolando Cleveland are gone, but their backups, Chris Rayford and Jamal Peters, saw plenty of snaps a year ago. Mississippi State will also bring back starting safeties Mark McLaurin and Johnathan Abram. McLaurin led the way last season with six interceptions, and former Michigan safety and JUCO transfer Brian Cole will find a role somewhere.

AP

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p`ebarib Going on the road to Alabama and LSU might be just enough of a problem to stall any dreams of playing for the title. Even so, Moorhead can keep the success going with a shot at a 10-win season in the bowl game. A key game will come in Week 2, a trip to Kansas State. A good road win there could give the Bulldogs a big boost heading into SEC play. And don’t forget, like any State fan could, that Dan Mullen returns to Starkville on Sept. 29 as the new coach of the Florida Gators. n `çåí~Åí= _áää= _ìêêìë= ~í= RUNJ TOPT= çê= ÄÄìêêìë]ÖïÅçããçåJ ïÉ~äíÜKÅçãK

Rebels hope to build on strong finish to 2018 season By BILL BURRUS péçêíë=bÇáíçê

Matt Luke proved last year to be a capable head coach, coaxing six wins out of an Ole Miss team burdened by more than its share of off-the-field drama. Luke’s job once again is to keep his team motivated without the carrot of a bowl game (barring a late reprieve from the NCAA). “I put a lot of pressure on myself to put a product on the field that the Ole Miss fans are proud of,” Luke said, “that they can watch that team and say, ‘You know what, that’s my team.’” That team, built in Luke’s image, was tasked with changing the narrative about Ole Miss. “I really see the culture of our team continue to build,” Luke said. “I really feel like all of the experiences these young men have gone through have really brought them together as a team. So I really, really like the culture in our locker room right now.” In a season when the Rebels had little to play for thanks to the NCAA sanctions, and especially after losing star quarterback Shea Patterson in the middle of the campaign to injury, no one would’ve blinked if they went 4-8, or worse. But instead, the team kept fighting and battling through a slew of fun games – four of the last five were decided by a touchdown or less, going 2-2 – and it all closed out with a win over Missis-

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AP

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More takeaways would be nice. The Rebels were dead last in the SEC, with five of the 13 coming against Mississippi State, and 11 of them coming in four games. But overall, the biggest issue was holding up against teams that could run. p`ebarib The Rebels start out the season against Texas Tech in Houston. With Southern Illinois, Kent State and ULM as the other three non-conference games, the Rebels might have a nice base of four wins, or be 3-1, at worst to start

the season. The Rebels get Alabama at home in the SEC opener. There’s no Georgia to deal with from the East, and while they might be down, not playing Florida or Tennessee is always a positive. South Carolina is a good team from the other division, but at least it’s a home game for the Rebels, and going to Vanderbilt isn’t all that bad. n `çåí~Åí= _áää= _ìêêìë= ~í= RUNJ TOPT= çê= ÄÄìêêìë]ÖïÅçããçåJ ïÉ~äíÜKÅçãK


PageNR Greenwood Commonwealth / Weekend, August 11-12, 2018 cllq_^ii=OMNU =======================================================================================================================================================================

Griggs back healthy, ready to shine as a senior plrqebok= jfppfppfmmf

By BILL BURRUS péçêíë=bÇáíçê

Southern Miss quarterback Kwadra Griggs of Greenwood is looking to bounce back from injuries this season. Entering his third and final year in Hattiesburg and his second consecutive quarterback competition, Griggs says he feels good, which hasn’t been the norm for the former Greenwood High School quarterback. Injuries plagued Griggs throughout his first season as a starting quarterback at USM in 2017, as a nagging Achilles injury and a twice-broken hand limited the redshirt senior to seven starts. When he did play, Griggs impressed, throwing 16 touchdowns compared to two interceptions and completing 55.8 percent of his passes for 1,879 yards while rushing for 268 yards and three touchdowns. But by season’s end the injuries had become too much, so Griggs elected to have offseason surgery on his Achilles, forcing him to miss the Golden Eagles’ spring practice session. With fall camp underway, Griggs is finally starting to feel 100 percent again. That’s a feeling Griggs admits took a long time to find. The Greenwood native says he didn’t have his eureka

moment until the off-week before camp began, when he found himself running up stadium steps and on treadmills by himself and feeling no pain. This came after a rigorous summer of workouts with USM director of athletic training Todd McCall, when McCall ran Griggs through sprints and cutting drills. It was in those drills that Griggs said he began to feel more like himself, but it still took almost until fall practices began for Griggs to feel confident in where he was health-wise. And even after his first practice, Griggs wasn’t ready to announce his return to form. “It was kind of rusty,” Griggs said Friday. “I’m coming from Achilles surgery and my finger is still fractured. But it’s no excuse. I have to keep getting better every day.” To Southern Miss offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson, Griggs’ “no excuses, get better” attitude isn’t much of a surprise. Dawson said one of the traits that stands out about Griggs is how he’s less motivated by competition and external factors than he is by his internal drive to improve and be the best quarterback he can be. A quarterback Dawson maintains Southern Miss fans haven’t

seen yet. “I don’t think we’ve seen 100 percent Kwadra yet here,” Dawson said. “When you think about it, when he went into the season last year he had the Achilles and then he broke his right hand. And then he missed a week or so and then he came back and then he broke his hand again. So then he was out five weeks. I think he would tell you right now that this is the best his body has felt in years. Which is good.” Griggs was academically ineligible during the 2016 campaign and battled through injuries to have a productive 2017 season, helping lead the Eagles to an 8-5 finish. The area where Griggs needs to show the most progress is in his completion percentage after hitting on just 55.6 percent of his passes one year ago. “I had a lot of incomplete balls last year,” he said. “I was going to the right spot, but I was throwing all over the place.” When asked how high of a ceiling a healthy Griggs has at quarterback, Dawson admitted to not being sure. “I’ve never had the kid as a healthy player,” he said. “He had the Achilles injury, broke his (left) hand before the Kentucky game and broke it

AP

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again during the North Texas game. “He is a very talented guy. He’s played a pretty good bit of football. Last year was a question mark because he had taken so much time off. I expected a little bit of rust, but I was surprised by how he protected the ball. He

knows he’s got to come back and win the job. He missed the whole spring, but we expect him to come in and run with it. But you never know. We have an extremely talented group of quarterbacks.” n `çåí~Åí= _áää= _ìêêìë= ~í= RUNJ TOPT= çê= ÄÄìêêìë]ÖïÅçããçåJ ïÉ~äíÜKÅçãK

Golden Eagles out to surprise folks in C-USA By BILL BURRUS péçêíë=bÇáíçê

Southern Miss isn’t getting much preseason love. Coming off an 8-5 season in 2017, the Golden Eagles were recently picked by the Conference USA media to finish fourth in the league’s six-team Western Division. That’s fourth behind North Texas, UAB and, most surprisingly Louisiana Tech, a team the Golden Eagles beat on the road last season. Southern Miss quarterback Kwadra Griggs of Greenwood said he thinks there were several others who fit into that category. “I really do (feel snubbed),” Griggs said. “We did pretty well last year. I know we could have been better, but I don’t think we should have been picked fourth. I guess all we can do is go out there and play the games and keep trying to earn the respect.” USM head coach Jay Hopson led the Golden Eagles to a 7-6 record in

2016 and then 8-5 in his second year. If he’s going to defy preseason expectations, take the next step and lead USM to nine (or more) wins for the first time since 2015, he’ll need all the help he can get. The first two years of the Hopson era have been up and down so far — good enough to open it with a win at Kentucky two years ago but bad enough to lose at home against Charlotte. And about those preseason media predictions? “We’ll just have to go out there and see about that,” Hopson said. “I’m biased with my players, but I think we’ve got a lot of future NFL football players in the fold... All the predictions, all the talk, it doesn’t mean anything. You have go out there between the lines and get it done.” lccbkpb If the Golden Eagles are going to make waves, Griggs, 5-2 as a starter, is likely to play a big role. Despite multiple injuries that limited his playing time in his

DSU has new faces this year

The Delta State Statesmen will have to rely on some new faces this year. The Statesmen have just eight returning starters from a team

AP

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redshirt junior season, the now-senior still completed 56 percent of his passes for 1,879 yards, 16 touchdowns and only threw two picks. “It was good to finally get practice started,” said Griggs, a former Greenwood High School standout. “We’ve tried to take advantage of the off-season as

that went 9-4 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Division II Playoffs last year. The thought of having so few starters returning doesn’t faze Delta State head football coach Todd Cooley. “I thought we had a pretty good spring,” Cooley said. “We had a couple of injuries which were unfortunate but we had a pretty good spring. I thought we took some steps at the quarterback position. I thought Breck Ruddock had a great spring. I felt like our defense played pretty consistently through the spring. We

much as we can, throwing every day. We’re going to be fast, and we’re going to be explosive.” Southern Miss must replace six starters on offense, where there was a mass exodus at the skill positions that includes the second-leading rusher in school history, Ito Smith, and all three starters at

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only have eight returning starters coming back for this football team from last year, so that’s opened up a lot of spots for some guys to step up. I feel like our guys have come in in pretty good condition.” On offense, Ruddock, a senior, is the team’s starting quarterback. He completed 156-of-278 passes for 1,422 yards with 10 touchdowns and 10 interceptions to go with 778 rushing yards with seven touchdowns on 167 carries last year. Also returning on offense is senior tightend Benji Galbraith, junior offensive line-

wide receiver. In the backfield, at least, there’s experience as seniors Tez Parks, George Payne and T’Rod Daniels boast over 2,000 career yards from scrimmage among them. The line is more predictable, thanks to the return of starters Ty Pollard, Arvin Fletcher and Drake Dorbeck. abcbkpb USM is replacing most of last year’s personnel, beginning with outgoing coordinator Tony Pecoraro, who left for the same position at C-USA rival Florida Atlantic just before the start of spring practice. Pecoraro’s successor is Tim Billings, promoted from safeties coach. His first order of business is rebuilding the secondary. All five of last year’s regulars graduated, leaving only two players — sophomore Rachaun Mitchell and senior Picasso Nelson Jr. — who have seen any relevant playing time. Nelson, a three-year starter

man Innis Claud V, senior wide receiver and former East Side High School standout Leon Green and senior wide receiver John McInnis. McInnis caught 22 passes for 188 yards, Green caught 18 passes for 160 yards with two touchdowns and Galbraith caught three passes for 22 yards last year. Claud is a preseason All-Gulf South Conference selection. On defense, senior defensive end Tramond Lofton, senior linebacker Chandler Ector, senior linebacker Ovenson Cledanord

who took a medical redshirt in 2017, returned to full speed in the spring and looks like a lock to resume his old nickel role. The outlook is better along the front seven, especially at defensive end, where senior bookends LaDarius Harris and Darian Yancey have combined for 41 career starts, and linebacker, where Racheem Boothe earned Freshman All-America notices as a redshirt. p`ebarib= USM opens its 2018 season at home on Sept. 1 against Jackson State. The Golden Eagles play most of their toughest games at home, but they still have to travel to North Texas (Oct. 13) and UAB (Nov. 10), not to mention a non-conference tilt with defending SEC West Champion Auburn on The Plains set for the last weekend in September. n `çåí~Åí=_áää=_ìêêìë=~í RUNJTOPT= çê ÄÄìêêìë]ÖïÅçããçåJ ïÉ~äíÜKÅçãK

and senior safety Brandon Tillman are the team’s top returners. Last year, Cledanord recorded 75 tackles including 13 tacklesfor-loss with 7.5 sacks and four forced fumbles, while Tillman racked up 56 tackles with three interceptions and nine total passes defended. Lofton recorded 38 tackles with nine tackles-for-loss and four sacks, and Ector recorded 84 tackles with 9.5 tackles-for-loss, three sacks and three fumble recoveries. Cledanord and Lofton are preseason All-GSC selections.


PageNS Greenwood Commonwealth / Weekend, August 11-12, 2018 cllq_^ii=OMNU =======================================================================================================================================================================

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Football Edition 2018  
Football Edition 2018