ELLISVILLE, Miss. (WDAM) - Jones College earned the respect of several junior college preseason polls after a 10-2 campaign and Mississippi Bowl win in 2018.
The Bobcats enter Thursday night’s season-opener at Coahoma Community College ranked No. 4 in the NJCAA. However, coach Steve Buckley pays no mind to his team’s ranking or recent success.
“We don’t talk about last year, that was over after the bowl game,” Buckley said. “This league, there’s very little room for error. You can’t screw it up or you’re going to get left behind. It’s a very competitive league. Everybody has a chance to reload every year and be good.”
Jones reloads with 33 players who have never played a college football game. The Bobcats return two starters on defense and four on offense but many other sophomores with game experience.
Like every year, Buckley expects every scholarship player to see the field.
“It’s just a different philosophy,” Buckley said. “We have a 55-man roster and if they’re here and they’re on money, they have to play. We kind of manage this thing like an NFL roster. You’ve got to be ready to go. If you’re not a starter, you’re one play away from being a starter.”
“This freshman group is very eager, they’re very responsive. We’re a fast team overall, and that’s always a plus. I think this freshman group will be ready to contribute right now.”
"They lean on us as freshmen, they lean on all of us as a team,” said freshman linebacker Kevon Cloyd, a Columbia High grad. “Everybody's going to play so as a freshman you just have to come in and step up.”
Cloyd and company will need to grow up fast in Ellisville as Jones College navigates one of the toughest conferences in the NJCAA. Four other MACJC teams rank in the top 25 including reigning national champions East Mississippi (No. 1), Northwest Mississippi (No. 9), Mississippi Gulf Coast (No. 14) and Copiah-Lincoln (No. 17).
The Bobcats are not paying much attention to Coahoma’s 0-9 finish last season as they load the buses for Clarksdale on Thursday.
“It's the best feeling ever to work and be able to grow as a group of brothers to go see where we stand against another team," Cloyd said.
“We better be ready to play,” Buckley said. “It’s a four-hour bus ride, we all know that. We’ve been there and done it, so it’s time to go see if we’re ready for that challenge.”
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at James E. Miller Stadium in Clarksdale.