BAY SPRINGS, MS (WDAM) - Last season, Bay Springs made it to the state championship for the first time in 17 years before falling 22-8 to Calhoun City.
In 2017, the Bulldogs are tasked with replacing 16 seniors.
"When you go that far and you're right there," said Bay Springs head coach Dan Brady. "You can taste it, you can smell it, you can see it and you come up short, it's hard. A month or two afterward, we were in kind of a lull. I'm going to say me more than [the team]. And our kids, they just want to work. They've tasted it now. We've just got to keep working, let the chips fall where they may."
There is a new pack of Bulldogs this season hoping to lead the program back to the state title, beginning with junior safety Derrien Lee.
Lee's 52 tackles and eight interceptions last season earned him all-state first-team defense honors in class 2A.
"I was a little man in big shoes," Lee said. "I was so happy. I was happy about myself."
"Very seldom do we have sophomores that start here and really shine," Brady said. "Derrien had ten interceptions, he was an all-state safety. We're going to kind of go as Derrien goes. We have a lot of good players but Derrien's going to be our bell cow. He's going to be our guy on defense. He's going to be our guy on offense."
With several spots to fill on the offensive end, Lee is expected to add running back, receiver and quarterback to his list of duties in 2017.
Lately, Lee has been watching a lot more tape of his favorite player Cam Newton. While the Carolina Panthers quarterback boasts a "Superman" touchdown celebration, Lee is still working on his own signature move.
"Yeah, I'm going to have to come up with something," Lee said. "But I do like how [Newton] plays though. I somewhat play like him but I don't throw like him. That's what I've been working on, my throwing."
With new positions to learn, Lee has made sure not to miss any summer workouts. More importantly, Lee is setting an example for the rest of the Bulldogs as they work toward Oxford.
"[We're] trying to get back up there to state," Lee said. "It's going to be tough. We're going to have to work harder. Work hard every day, all day, make sure we come to every workout."
"Derrien's a great kid," Brady said. "Doesn't miss workouts, made every workout this summer. We can push him, push him hard. We're very blessed, Bay Springs is a great place. We got a bunch of country kids who all they know how to do is work. They were brought up and they work hard. They know the value of hard work. Their parents preach the value of hard work to them."
With August 17th's season-opener against Stringer nearing, Bay Springs will soon be able to put that hard work to the test.