New colors, new mascot and a new school highlight Jefferson Davis County's 2017 football season as Bassfield High and Prentiss High consolidate in the Jaguars' inaugural season.
"It's a little weird but at the end of the day, we're from the same county," said Jefferson Davis senior Malik Shorts. "I used to play with some of the [Prentiss] guys back in pee-wee so it's nothing new. I know how they are and they know how I am. They know I'm going to push them to do their best and they're going to push me. It's going to be competition every day to get better. Everybody's working hard so it's going to be a good atmosphere."
Shorts looks to become a leader of the newly-formed Jaguars after starting three years at Bassfield. A swiss army knife for the Yellowjackets, Shorts played quarterback, wide receiver, kick returner and defensive back last season.
Shorts' versatility wouldn't exist without his hard work. The importance of a strong work ethic is something Shorts learned as an eighth grader, watching future Southern Miss players such as defensive backs Curtis Mikell and Cornell Armstrong lead Bassfield to two state championships (2012 and 2013).
"As far as watching them, on the sideline managing them, giving them water," Shorts said. "I just knew they were going to be special one day. Their work ethic was hard. I was up here every summer watching them work hard so I guess that's kind of where I get my work ethic from.
"We got a lot of talent in Bassfield but everybody from Bassfield just works," Mikell said. "We work very hard for where we're at now."
Mikell is one of five Bassfield products - Armstrong, Jomez Applewhite, T'Rod Daniels and Racheem Boothe - currently playing for the Golden Eagles.
Watching his peers make it to the Divison I level motivates Shorts.
"When we go home, [Shorts] gets work in with us," Armstrong said. "I just feel like he's on a different level because he works out with college players and he knows what to do. And the drills we do, he does it with us and he looks just as good as us."
"Just keep working hard," Mikell said. "[Shorts] is a great kid, he works hard. Every time we go home, he's out there with us working out. He's got the Division I talent and he knows what to do. Southern Miss to the top, that's the first thing. I want him to come here."
Shorts has options, having already received eight offers from schools such as Southern Miss, Louisiana-Lafayette, Memphis and Tulane.
"I'm trying to hold off a little bit on [a decision]," Shorts said. "It's my senior year. I'm trying to focus on these guys right here, bring us together. But at the end of the day, it's still at the back of my mind. [Mikell and Armstrong] just stay on me about working hard no matter where I go. If I do choose Southern Miss, just work hard no matter where I go."
Working hard is all that's left to do for Shorts and the Jaguars as they get ready for the 2017 season. While the name Bassfield no longer exists, the tradition of hard work endures.
"We're pushing each other to do better and do great," Shorts said. "But our biggest goal at the end of the day is to work hard and get another championship. Well, get our first championship at Jefferson Davis County."