NEW AUGUSTA, Miss. (WDAM) _ For about the past six football seasons or so, Perry Central High School’s “best” defensive player has been the strong-side defensive end, position nicknamed the “Strike.”
This fall, the honor _ and the responsibilities _ will fall on the shoulder pads of senior Cameron Freeman.
“Our strong-side defensive end is our guy,” Perry Central coach Wesley McLain said. “That’s who gets us going and that’s who sets our defense. So, that’s where we want our best player, so to speak, and that’s what he is for us.
“I believe he can be really effective for us in our defense. Obviously, he could play anywhere. He could play in the secondary, he’s fast enough to play there. But the ‘Strike’ is the leader of our defense, so that’s where we want him at.”
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Freeman said he was ready, willing and able to assume those duties.
“I’m like, ‘If you’re on the other side of me, come with it, because I’m going to give you everything I’ve got,’” said Freeman, who was selected as the Bulldogs’ “Player of the Pine Belt.”
“I’m just going to try and lead this team the best I can, make sure everybody stays right, and, hopefully, we can win some football games.”
Perry Central won just three games in 2018 in a season of transition after Coach Chip Bilderback left to become head coach at Columbia High School.
McLain, who served as defensive coordinator with Bilderback., was the lone holdover from that staff.
“There were some growing pains, obviously," McLain said. "We had to hire an entirely new staff, and I think that was a transition as well. This year, we’ve kept the whole staff, so I think that’s going to help us.
“Last year, we had what we would consider around here, a disappointing season. We had some injuries, and we were a really young team. We lost 17 seniors the year before that from a team that was really good, so we knew that it was going to be a kind of a building year."
McLain said Freeman, who also will see snaps on offense at halfback, gives the Bulldogs’ a defensive cornerstone.
“Freeman’s just a great player," McLain said. "Offensively and defensively, he’s always been a great player for us. This year, we have real high hopes for him. I think he’s going to be a college player, a linebacker. He’s going to play defensive end for us, but he really can play anywhere on the field.
“Great leader, great leadership skills. He’s always here, never misses practice. He works hard, and I’m looking forward to having a good season with him. He’s just a leader, on the field, in the classroom. He’s got great grades. He’s your prototypical student-athlete."
Freeman said he and the Bulldogs were ready to return to form.
“It’s a must and we want to keep it going," Freeman said of Perry Central’s tradition. "It’s a smaller team, so, there’s a lot of two-way players. But we’ve got a lot of freshmen and sophomores fixin’ to step up.
“We’ve got a great team. We all work together to get stuff done out here every day. We grind every day. It’s my family out here."
Perry Central will open the 2019 football season at 7 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 23, welcoming Forrest County Agricultural High School to New Augusta.