HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - In 2018, first-year Presbyterian Christian School football coach Derek White could count on 27 players to compete in the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools’ largest division.
What a difference a year makes.
The 2019 Bobcats have sported nearly double that number during summer workouts, as PCS is looking to put last fall behind it.
“Crazy story, but we lost 31 kids when I got here last to moving. Injuries, whatever, you name it,” said White, who assumed the helm after the retirement of long-time PCS coach Joey Hawkins. “But we went and we beat the hallways, and we got some kids. We got some transfers from other places.
“Our numbers are going to be up, because last year we started 13 ninth graders, and now those guys are a year older. With them, we’re going to have about 40 players. If we add in our (current) ninth graders, that’s about 10 more, so we’ll be up around 50.”
The lack of overall numbers, along with the chronic inexperience, led to a difficult 1-11 season.
But senior running back/outside linebacker Jake Sumrall said last year’s hard knocks and this year’s deeper roster should give the Bobcats a boost this fall.
“We’re really excited for this year, the football team, because we’re going to be pretty good,” said, the 5-foot-10, 185-pound Sumrall, who was tapped as PCS’s “Player of the Pine Belt.”
“I think everybody’s gotten excited about what Coach White has got us doing, the discipline. It’s about the little things.”
White said he is appreciative of the players like Sumrall, who weathered those tough times.
“Before I got here, Jake was on the varsity football team, and we didn’t have a whole lot of guys with experience who had played in football games before,” White said. “We’re going to depend on him a lot. Jake’s a leader. He makes us go.
“He works extremely hard. He’s gained about 22 pounds in the weight room and is thicker. He’s worked his tail off and he’s got a chance to play college football at the next level.”
White said the Bobcats have put a new weight room to good use and that the kids “have bought in to what we’re doing.
“Our administration has really gotten behind us, and we have done the work and earned the right to go and compete on Friday nights.”
PCS’ schedule does the Bobcats no favors, with two games set against public school competition and then MAIS AAAA-District I powers Jackson Academy, Madison Ridgeland Academy and Jackson Preparatory in back-to-back-to-back weeks to end the regular season.
“I told our administration that they didn’t do us any favors, that they gave us our toughest games at the end,” White said. “But you know what? The first time I saw the schedule, my wife looked at me, and said, ‘Hey, let’s have something to go play for when we get to those three.
“And she’s right, and that’s what I told the team; ‘Let’s have something to play for.’”
The Bobcats will open the 2019 at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 22, literally across the street at Sacred Heart High School.