COLUMBIA, MS (WDAM) - As James Harvey enters his third season as the head coach of Columbia High School, he's faced with the same challenges of last season's 1-8 campagin.
The Wildcats are young.
"It's great to be back at your alma mater and part of the program," Harvey said. "Trying to bring football to the same level that it was when I was in high school here. It's truly a blessing to be here."
Harvey was a member of Columbia's lone state championship team in 1982.
As the Wildcats drop down to class 3A in 2017, they'll have plenty of work to do to reach the caliber of football Columbia fielded in the '80s.
"It's going to take everybody to step up and just become that one team and we'll improve from 1-8," said Columbia junior Ralpheal Luter.
"There's been a new atmosphere, a better atmosphere," said Columbia junior Reagan Davis. "Everybody's more upbeat and excited about the season. It's going to be a challenge in a new district but I'm looking forward to it."
Davis will lead the Columbia offensive front at right tackle. While Luter is the Wildcats' signal-caller, Davis points out how linemen are just as important for running a smooth offense.
"I think it's more mental than anything," Davis said. "As an offensive lineman you may not get enough credit but it's up to you to protect the quarterback and your guys. You got to have that in your mind and know what you have to get done."
"[Davis] is a dedicated hard worker and does everything that we ask him to do," Harvey said. "He gives us everything he has when he's on the field."
Davis can learn quite a bit from his coach, who played the same position of offensive tackle. A Jackson State Hall of Famer, James "Big Cat" Harvey enjoyed a brief NFL career with the Atlanta Falcons and Kansas City Chiefs.
"[Harvey]'s a great coach and he's got a lot that he teaches us and a lot that I learned from him," Davis said. "He's a great guy and hardworking coach. He makes us work hard, he pushes us in every aspect of the game."
"Work," said Harvey when asked what advice he tells Davis. "Just continue to work 'cause there's always something to work on to get better at. You can't become complacent and say 'I've reached this plateau and I don't need to get any better.' When you get to that point, you're pretty much done. So, just continue to work."
Harvey believes if Davis keeps up the hard work, he could join a short list of Wildcats to make it to both the college and professional levels.