SOSO, Miss. (WDAM) - As a sophomore, Alan Follis took over as a starting quarterback for West Jones High School three games into the football season and helped the Class 5A Mustangs reach the state championship game for the first time in school history.
Two years later, Follis is bigger, stronger and more confident in his role as a team leader.
“His first year he was just worried about Alan,” West Jones coach Scott Pierson said. “Make the right play, do what I’m told, do my job.
“Now, he kind of orchestrates the whole thing. He’s in charge of every position. He makes sure every kid’s doing the right thing. He challenges all our kids. He’s the leader. He is the quarterback on the field.”
Follis, who was selected as West Jones’ “Player of the Pine Belt” for a second, consecutive year, has helped the Mustangs win big since taking the offensive reins.
West Jones has gone 24-3 with Follis in the lineup, reaching the Class 5A South State title game the past two seasons.
In 2018, the Mustangs won the school’s first South State crown before falling to West Point High School in the Class 5A championship game. Last fall, West Jones carried a 13-0 record into the South State finale before being overwhelmed by Picayune High School.
Follis said the Mustangs want to build on that success.
“I think we have the same goal as every team – to win the state championship,” Follis said “I think this team’s real talented and we can play as long as we want to.”
“We’ve got eight out of eleven back on both sides of the ball,” Pierson said. “When they were sophomores, they all played and played for [a state championship]. Then last year, they were 13-1 and Picayune embarrassed us.
“I guess what I’m liking is they’re coming back with kind of a hard edge to ‘em. Seasoned, understand the commitment that has to be made to get to the next step. I think we have a chance to play for a long time, I really do.”
Follis has been a playmaker for a Mustangs’ program that has a built reputation under Pierson for fielding hard-nosed defenses and grind-you-down, run-oriented offenses.
In 2018, Follis completed 136 of 236 passes (58.9 percent) for 1,864 yards and 15 touchdowns with five interceptions.
Last season, he completed 140 of 246 attempts (56.9 percent) for 1,788 yards and 22 touchdowns with seven interceptions.
“Everything’s just slower,” Follis said. “Whenever I first stepped in, sophomore year, everything was so fast.
“And also, I’m way bigger, so that makes a big difference.”
Pierson said Follis’ body has caught up with his gamesmanship.
“As far as physically, he’s not anywhere remotely close (to where he was),” Pierson said. “He was 145 pounds playing in the state championship game. Now he’s 185-190.
“He was (5 feet, 10 inches) then. He’s 6-2 now. So, the maturity-wise of being 15-years-old and 18-years-old is huge in a young man.”
The coronavirus threat has affected the structure of summer workouts, but Follis said the Mustangs remain focused on playing.
“Thankfully, we were able to come out the first of June,” Follis said. “That was big, just getting out here and getting better at the little things is going to help us this September.”
“Football, especially high school football, is the main sport that brings the community together. I think it’s real important to have a football season this fall because right now our country needs it.”