Alright people, this is the first entry of many to come. Since this is a new creation to the website, let's establish a few ground rules...
1)My plan is to regularly blog about all things sports related.... 1st and foremost in the Pine Belt area, but also, at times, on a national scale. Your thoughts, comments, responses are ALWAYS welcome, HOWEVER.... remember... I control the weather here... If your entries aren't, let's say, "tactful", they're not welcome.
2)Your subject ideas are a plus. You can email them to me at email@example.com. We thrive off feedback, so voice your opinion, but again-- no profanity, desparaging remarks, etc. Let's be sports fans, not sports jerks.
3) Finally, and most importantly, no matter what you think.... the blogger is ALWAYS right! That much is not up for debate.... (I kid, I kid!)
OK GUYS... MORE TO COME IN THE FOLLOWING DAYS... CHECK BACK ON THE REGULAR!
The Top 25... Early Season High School Football Observations...
1. Even after losing 20 seniors, I think if Laurel can establish a solid passing game (Make use of 6'7" Erik Walton!!), they may not be THAT far off from what they accomplished last year (a state championship).
2. I was pretty surprised Perry Central lost to Bassfield in Week 1. Xavier Jones and Nick Griffin are both 1,000 yd rushers from last season, not to mention the Bulldogs have Jerrion Johnson, who alone is worth admission. The senior WR/CB verbally comitted to Southern Miss a few weeks back. I could see him starting there by his sophomore year. He also seems like a pretty good, grounded kid, which is a plus.
3. The competition for Best Pine Belt High School Football Name is a 4-horse race between FCAHS' Bo Bo Morgan (RB), Sylva Bay's Mack Mackinaw (RD/DB), Wayne County K Storme Seawright, and North Forrest's Desmond "Hamburger" Barnes (RB)... Right now, I'm leaning toward "Burger"
4. I'll admit, I don't know much about Enterprise or St. Patrick's, but I think there's a legit shot North Forrest could be undefeated heading into the postseason.
5. Speaking of the Eagles, I'm, like, 95% convinced Head Coach Shannon White is a wizard or warlock or some other type of supernatural being. The guy does NOT lose! If you were to put me in a room with White, and 500 other people (granted, that'd be a pretty big room) and told me to point out the 1 person who looks like they've never played a down of football in their life, I'd probably point to him. I mean, c'mon, he's 5-foot-nothing! But he knows the game like you wouldn't believe. Great coach, even better person.
6. The success of Lumberton's defense this year begins and ends with LB Dunzie Goins. I don't know if I've seen anybody practice as hard as the Panthers junior.
7. Is it just me, or is Oak Grove the New York Yankees of this entire area??
8. After dropping in on a practice, there's a reason Prentiss went 0-10 last year. The Bulldogs leave a lot to be desired when it comes to being focused. First year Head Coach Sleepy Robinson's going to have to change the entire culture out there. But, the former Mississippi State QB does have 1 thing a lot of other coaches would love to have... instant credibility! If you won't listen to a guy who's done battle in the SEC, who will you listen to?
9. Ok, seriously, what's in the water in Taylorsville?? They crank out 3A title contenders on the yearly. It's not a big town, might not even be on your standard state map (I haven't checked), and are absolutely not the product of special, privately-funded facilities. In this resepct, the Tartars are a real mystery to me.
10. Since we're talking about Taylorsville, watch out for the combination of Dominique Sullivan and Billy Hamilton... They're lethal. Last year, as a sophomore QB and junior WR, they got the Tartars to within a fumbled punt return of a state crown (Sorry, Billy). This year, they look like they could have Bud Blackledge's team poised to finish the job. And by the way... Bud Blackledge... awesome dude.
11. $$$$$LeDarren Cook$$$$$.... The Bassfield Defensive End/Tackle could be one of the best kept secrets in the entire Pine Belt. This kid's a BEAST! In 2008, he will single-handedly make a 1/2 dozen quarterbacks consider giving up football for crochet. If Cook doesn't sign with a D-I university or an area junior college, I'LL give up sportscasting and take up crochet!
12. If there's a better division out there than Region 5-4A, you're gonna have to show it to me. Are you kidding me?!... Laurel, Wayne County, West Jones, NE Jones, NE Lauderdale, and Quitman all finished at least .500 last season! With this kind of talent jammed in to one region, one really good team is going to be left out of the dance every year. In '07, that ugly step-sister was Wayne County.
13. One of the most intriguing storylines of 2008 is Wayne County. Bluntly stated-- the War Eagles were force fed several servings of humble pie last season. After winning the 4A State Championship, the folks in Waynesboro were definitely feeling themselves a little TOO much! How they bounce back after missing the postseason in 2007 is the story here. I've personally heard from a bunch of coaches who say Marcus Boyles has all the talent he needs to win another 4A ring.
14. After going to Mize in the preseason, I have to say there's something special about that field up there on "The Hill"... I'd love to catch a game there at sunset, a rowdy crowd cheering on the Bulldogs in a big game late in the season. Unfortunately, that scenario doesn't seem very likely for '08.
15. Hattiesburg's Presbyterian Christian has some real good players at some key positions on offense, but the David Roberts/Josh Walker tandem is pretty potent... These two seem like they could link up for 4 or 5 TD's a game... With Walker, it's "go fetch" anywhere inside the redzone... At 6'5", the WR is a deadly target in Academy football.
16. One of the best aspects of the Hattiesburg/Laurel "Little Brown Jug" Game is the trash talking that goes on between Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny Dupree and Laurel's Melvin Mack in the week leading up to it. These guys are hilarious! They do it all in good sportsmanship, but it lends a really funny twist to an already well-established rivalry. (To hear the Mayors' land their jabs, go to the "Wednesday's Sports 9/3" on our page!)
17. Is there a MHSAA state law that says you can't field a HS football team without someone with the last name "Ducksworth" on your roster?!?... All kidding aside, I could probably do a 5-part series on the unique family tree/breeding habits of the Ducksworths. Ok, I just checked... of the rosters we have in house at this time!...(roughly half our area schools) I just found 10 different teams with Ducksworths. 20 bucks says there are at least 5 more out there! Laurel, South Jones, NE Jones, Bay Springs, FCAHS, North Forrest, Seminary, Mount Olive, Perry Central, Collins, not to mention the past 2 years the premier running backs at Jones County Junior College have been (drumroll please...) Jasper and Maurice Ducksworth! Somebody find me the progenitor of this incredible lineage of athletes so I can buy him a beer!
18. If it would help him to a winning season, I'd strap on the red-and-white and play for Brad Duncan at West Marion... There might not be another coach in the entire Pine Belt who deserves a solid year like he does, and I know for a fact there are other coaches out there who say the same thing. Runner up here, Purvis' Perry Wheat.
19. Sweet revenge (well, sort-of) for Casey Eubanks, an assistant coach at Mount Olive!!... Eubanks lost a state championship as a high schooler at Mize to Stringer Head Coach Marlin Brannen, at Stringer. Nearly 2 decades later, the Pirates pillaged the Red Devils 32-13 in their Region 4-1A Week 1 win.
20. Alright, so I know this is a little "nerdy", but everytime I make it out to Payton Field in Columbia, I have to stop by the Walter Payton statue behind the West end zone. There's just something surreal about knowing you're standing in the same spot the greatest running back in NFL history did after another Wildcat touchdown. Hallowed ground, my friends.
21. Worse than its largely inexperienced offensive line, the biggest problem for Magee heading into this new year has been injury... The Trojans have been snakebit... They were down 8 starters in their Week 1 win over Columbia! If Magee beats West Jones in Week 2, and makes a deep playoff run, I'm giving Jimmy Mangum SERIOUS consideration for our WDAM-TV All-Area Coach of the Year Award.
22. There's something that makes me believe Petal could be a major surprise in 5A... Steve Buckley was emphatic in saying he expects to win this year. The Panthers have some legit talent, and almost all of it back from a year ago when they went 4-7 and nearly upset eventual state runner-up George County at home.
23. If you're like me, you find it next-to-impossible to believe there's not 1 player in the entire southern half of this state worthy of making the Clarion Ledger's "Dandy Dozen" list.
24. With all due respect to both Hattiesburg High and Oak Grove and their obviously generous boosters, I still think the game of football is better played on natural grass than momentum turf, or field turf, or whatever kind of turf that is that bounces your melon back off it like a golf ball on concrete.
25. This is the year South Panola loses a game!
***SOUTHERN MISS AND THE REST OF C-USA***
Well, it all begins this Saturday at The Rock and, of course, I'm talking about the perennial, unchanging, unwavering goal of USM football.... The Conference USA Championship. New coach, new systems/schemes, new it-doesn't-matter!... The expectations aren't any different.
With that said, it's a good thing Larry Fedora realizes that. My impression is, he's such an intensely success-driven guy, that deep-down, whether he even admits it to anyone, he'll be disappointed at the end of this season if he doesn't lead Southern to the conference title in his 1st year. A man of meteoric expectations for himself and his players.
So, here's my educated guess of how things will shake out this year in C-USA. Check it out, and feel free to debate/discuss:
C-USA EAST C-USA WEST
Central Florida Tulsa
Southern Miss Houston
East Carolina UTEP
HS FOOTBALL WEEK 4: Some random thoughts...
How 'bout those South Jones Braves?! Congrats to South for improving to 4-0 for the first time in a long time with a 34-28 win over NE Lauderdale.
Ummm... If your school's schedule has these two words on it -- "Wayne County" -- the rest of the season... RUN!... The War Eagles are flat-out embarrassing folk this year (34-0 over Starkville tonight). They remind me of the NE Patriots last year when they were just slaughtering people out of anger after having their legitimacy called into question over "Spygate"... The War Eagles seem like they're on the war path to redemption after a humbling absence from the playoffs in 2007.
After losing its opener to Magee, Columbia looks like they're bouncing back nicely. A less experienced team may have questioned itself, but with roughly 25 seniors, the 'Cats doubled up Perry Central tonight, 26-13.
Don't look now, but good ol' boy Perry Wheat's got Purvis (3-1) building a head of steam. The Tornadoes are on the move!
PATIENCE, A VIRTUE IN "THE FEDORA ERA"...