COLUMBIA, Miss. (WDAM) _ It seems like Devin Daniels has been leading the East Marion High School offense for so long, he ought to have gray hair.
Instead, it’s Coach Kevin Jackson sporting a touch of gray at the fringe of his beard, some of the hairs a by-product of watching Daniels grow and mature as the Eagles’ starting quarterback.
“We threw him in the fire early, and he’s played in some big games, against Hattiesburg and some other big schools early on, and took some butt-whoopings,” Jackson said. “Hopefully, he’s ready to exert some of those butt-whoopings on some of our opponents this year.”
The 5-foot-8, 185-pound Daniels, who was selected East Marion’s “Player of the Pine Belt,” said he hopes that he and his fellow Eagles will be able to do just that.
“Every year, we expect a state championship, but mostly, with us going to a new (region), we want to make sure we get out of the region, get to the playoffs and get a good seed in the playoffs,” Daniels said. “Last year, we made it to South State (in Class 1A). This year, we’re moving up to (Class) 2A.
“Harder competition, but I feel like we can play with anybody in the state.”
The Eagles return a solid nucleus from last year’s 8-6 team that upset Lumberton High School in the second round of the playoffs before exiting in the next round, eliminated by eventual Class 1A state champion Nanih Waiya High School.
“Lost a couple good linemen, but the line may be our strong suit, led by three-year starter Jaheim Burkett,” Jackson said “He and a couple other guys, that could be our second strongest suit behind Devin being a four-year starter.
“On defense, we should be OK. Elijah Brown is a guy who has started the past couple of years and will be a junior this year. He’ll anchor our defensive line. He’s got a lot of potential.”
But there is that step back up into the Land of the Class 2A, where East Marion will slot into Region 8-2A, joining Collins, North Forrest, Perry Central and St. Patrick high schools.
“It could be a good year for us, but we’re moving to 2A, and that could make a difference,” Jackson said. “We do have a lot of guys coming back, so hopefully, that experience and their playing ability will put us in some good situations this year.”
Daniels, who has accounted for more than 2,500 total yards in 2018, said he was looking forward to his final go-round at East Marion.
“I was excited my first start, four years ago, and I’m going to be excited my last start, my senior year,” Daniels said.
The Eagles will kick off the 2019 season at 7 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 23, at Amite County High School in Liberty.