COLUMBIA, Miss. (WDAM) - Columbia High School senior Dashod Ball knows he and his fellow football Wildcats have quite the act to follow.
Since coach Chip Bilderback’s arrival on the Columbia sideline in 2018, the Wildcats have posted 23 wins.
But Columbia lost 22 seniors from a 2019 team that didn’t lose a game until the Class 3A South State championship game, leaving plenty of holes and leadership roles to fill this year.
“That’s why we’re out here,” said Ball, who was elected as the Wildcats’ “Player of the Pine Belt.”
“We don’t have the team we had last year, so we’ve just got to man up this year. You’ve just got to work with what you’ve got.”
The 5-foot-9, 151-pound Ball is being counted upon to be one of the lynchpins, Bilderback said.
“Dashod has been a guy who has just worked and worked and worked,” Bilderback said. “Being a senior, Dashod hasn’t missed one summer workout. He’s always one of the first ones here, always with a real positive attitude.”
In 2019, Ball started at safety while standout senior Jamison Kelly Jr. was injured. When Kelly returned, Ball focused his full attention at receiver.
He finished with two catches for 59 yards and a touchdown for an offense that produced two, 1,000-yard rushers and averaged just 62 yards per game through the air.
This year, Ball will return as a receiver, but also step in somewhere in the defensive backfield. Though he has experience at safety, he’ll be getting a long look at cornerback this preseason.
“Last year, he started both ways for us, and we’re just really excited about not only his work ethic but the leadership he has bought to the team,” Bilderback said.
In the shadow of the coronavirus, Bilderback said summer workouts have averaged more than 80 percent attendance.
“A couple weeks ago, when the (Mississippi High School Activities Association) announced that, ‘Hey, everything’s going. We’re just pushing (the start of the season),’ there was a kind of excitement with our kids. It was like, ‘Hey, it’s time to go.’”
Ball noted the virus precautions that have been taken during summer workouts and said he couldn’t wait to be part of the 2020 football season in Columbia.
“It’s very important for our community,” Ball said. “We’re all trying to get together and play football this year.
“I’ve been working hard for three years. I’m ready to go.”