HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - It all started on September first. It was opening night for the Jones County Junior College football team and the Bobcats were playing host to top-ranked East Mississippi Community College.
The Bobcats won that night but they earned something much more with national respect. Since then JCJC has moved up two spots from 15th to 13th in the national polls.
"I always thought the potential was here," first year Bobcats coach Steve Buckley said. "It's been done here before. I think it's untapped potential here. It starts with administration. They give us what we need here to be successful and I just think it's a diamond in the rough where people that understand what we're doing here will be proud if they come out and see the progress that's being made."
The diamond in the rough phrase is a constant for Buckley when assessing the program's progress.
"This is a diamond in the rough," he said. "Jones County Junior College is. And the people from the Pine Belt area, Jones County are, all of our surrounding counties if you want to have fun on Thursday night come to a football game. Our administration does a great job putting on a great show."
Buckley brought in 44 new players in the off-season so success was far from certain. But the talent and chemistry has come together at the right time.
"We've got seventeen kids right now with division one offers," Buckley said. "I think in the last three to four years they've had one kid that signed a division one scholarship so I think the talent is here."
One of the talents Buckley speaks of is freshman running back Scott Phillips. The South Jones graduate is enjoying JCJC's rise.
"(It's) very exciting," Phillips said. "To come from nothing to go to fifteen now thirteen. It's very exciting."
Buckley doesn't feel the program has reached its peak just yet. The ultimate goal is building sustained success.
"Our kids are doing things the right way on and off the field," Buckley said. "We handle ourselves with class and we're trying put a product on the field that can make everybody in Jones County proud of what's going on around here."