Players of the Pine Belt: Cocroft hoping to help Sumrall take another step forward

Players of the Pine Belt: Sumrall's Gabe Cocroft

SUMRALL, Miss. (WDAM) - Sumrall High School football coach Shannon White likes what he’s seen out of his Bobcats this summer as much as he’s liked what he’s seen in the nose-to-the-grindstone approach to his final season from Gabe Cocroft.

That could be very good news for Sumrall and Cocroft.

“We think this year is going to be an extension of last year,” White said. “Some years, you have to be honest and say it’s going to be a down year, and we say that politely, in a lot of different ways.

“But not this year. We expect a lot of this team. I think they expect to win, I think we, as coaches, expect to win. The community expects us to win, and it’s been a long haul to get to this point.”

The same might be said of Cocroft, who said he has doubled down on his preparations this summer.

“I’m just eager to put on the pads, eager to show what we can do as a team, as an unit,” said Cocroft, who was named Sumrall’s “Player of the Pine Belt.”.

“I’m a senior. I just want to show everybody what I can do. It’s my last year, so I just want to have fun with my friends, my team, my family.”

White said the 5-foot-11, 170-pound Cocroft has dedicated himself to being better for his final season at Sumrall.

“Gabe’s been starting a long time for us, and now, he’s made such an improvement,” White said. “He was a good player for us last year, but we’re expecting huge things out from him. We’re expecting him to be a lockdown cornerback for us.

“He’s a guy who spent extra time up here alone, pushing tires, pushing sleds. He’s really self-motivated. He’s bigger, and I know he stronger because he had a great offseason in the weight room. He’s just done everything that you would expect to be done by people looking to get better. His actions have spoken very loudly.”

Sumrall blasted out the gates to a 7-0 start in 2018 before finishing 1-4 down the stretch, including a two-point loss to South Pike High School in the first-round of the Class 4A playoffs.

“We had real good group last year,” White said. “We had three or four signees out of that group, and those guys started at least three years, and some even four. You’re going to miss that, but we lose good players every year, but our motto has been, ‘next up.’

“So, we don’t look back on (2018) season at all. We had a good senior group, and we think they set a good example for this year’s group to follow.”

Cocroft said he and the Bobcats not only want to trace those footsteps but surpass their predecessors.

“Collectively, as a team, we’re going to the playoffs,” Cocroft said. “But we also want more as a team and want to show that we can get past the first-round of the playoffs.”

The Bobcats will open the 2019 football season at 7 p.m. Friday, welcoming South Jones High School to Sumrall.

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