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Player of the Pine Belt: Perry Central DB/WR Paul James

Published: Jul. 23, 2021 at 1:43 PM CDT
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NEW AUGUSTA, Miss. (WDAM) - Visit a Perry Cenral High School football practice this summer, and one will plainly see the Bulldogs are trying to answer a question with a question.

“Who are you going to be?” asked senior Swiss army knife Paul James. “You can be nobody (to start) the season, and then by the end, you can be somebody.

“Right now, you’re just going hard because you’re not anybody yet. We’re trying to get where we will be somebody.”

While, those queries can be found in the form of the question mark on the front of Perry Central’s workout togs, some of the answers may very well be found

But the answers to any matters of the spirit very well may be found on the Bulldogs’ backs.

“The back of those shirts, those are their resumes,” first-year Perry Central football coach Craig Cluff said. “We put what they did that day back here and at the end of the summer, we can look at that sort and see you had 20-something workouts.

“So, that means you put it in, and from your resume, it looks like you’re ready to play. The question mark is what you’re still becoming.”

Cluff is anxious to see what a bunch of Bulldogs can become and what returning players like James will be in the end.

“He’s a guy who’s going to play a lot of positions,” Cluff said. “The bottom line is, we have to get the ball in his hands.

“I’ve coached 20-plus years, and these are the kind of guys who make it worthwhile. He’s one of the first ones here and one of the last to leave. He’s one of those who are a lot of fun to coach.”

James said the team has responded to Cluff and his staff.

“He’s brought a lot of energy, a good coach,” James said. “I like him. He’s on us all the time, pushing us to be better.

“He’s just wanting us to improve, every day, to get better.”

Cluff is familiar with New Augusta, working on Coach Perry Wheat’s Perry Central staff before following his mentor to Purvis High School.

He spent the past three seasons as offensive coordinator at Columbia High School before taking the Perry Central job. He replaced Wesley McLain, who in his three seasons at the helm, took Perry Central to a trio of Class 2A playoff slots.

After reclassification, Perry Central moves up to Class 3A and into a revamped Region 8-3A that still will feature Jefferson Davis County, Seminary and West Marion high schools.

That means a Perry Central team boasting 21 ninth graders and just seven seniors will need to become a bunch of somebodies in hurry.

James said he has no doubt the Bulldogs will compete.

“We’re going to be a small team, but we’re going to compete as best we can,” James said. “That’s why we’re out here.

“It doesn’t come easy. This is hard work. You’ve got to work hard, every day, for it.”

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