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Player of the Pine Belt: Sumrall MLB James Ford

Published: Jul. 23, 2021 at 10:36 PM CDT
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SUMRALL, Miss. (WDAM) - After more than three-and-a-half decades wearing the Friday night headphones Sumrall High School’s Shannon White has coached his share of football players.

But White said he had not coached the likes of Bobcats’ senior linebacker James Ford before.

Evah.

“He’s the quarterback of the defense, but he’s also a heavy hitter,” White said. “He’s the biggest hitter I’ve coached in 36 years. He’s a violent linebacker, which is what you want.”

What Ford wants are those moments of pure contact, the eye-widening, nostril-flaring, pad-poppin’ crunch of the big tackle.

“I prefer linebacker because I get to knock the crap outta the other team,” Ford said. “And, every play I’m doing stuff, whether that’s covering someone or filling the ‘A’ gap.

“At other positions, like at corner, I may just be covering the whole game. At linebacker, I get to do it all.”

White, who enters his 11th season in Sumrall, said the 6-foot, 205-pound Ford indeed can do it all for the Bobcats,

“He checks all the boxes,” White said. “He sets the tone for the defense. He’s smart. He knows the defense. He’s the vocal guy. He knows all he checks.

“He’s got instincts that are off the chart.”

And he’s got a brother who’s a twin, kind of, though not identical, and more offensive-minded as 6-4, 190-pound John Ford returns for his third season in the saddle behind center.

“Actually, it’s pretty neat,” James Ford said. “Most people, they go home and they’re at the house with little siblings.

“Me, I go home, and I’m around a football player all the time.”

White said expectations are high, not only because of the Fords, but the other 19 seniors that will return for the veteran Bobcats.

“We’ve had 15, maybe 16 seniors, before, but never 21,” White said. “Man, you cannot put a value on experience and these guys have been on the field for a couple of years.

“All of ‘em are great kids, and with a lot of good football players in there, the expectations are high, and they should be. When you’ve got that many seniors with that much experience, you should win a lot of football games.”

However, the Bobcats must contend with Poplarville and Columbia high schools in a reconfigured Region 7-4A that also retains familiar foes Purvis, Forrest County Agricultural and Lawrence County high schools.

“The experts say Columbia and Poplarville are the top two teams in the state,” White said.

James Ford said the Bobcats simply intend to focus on the task in front them on any given Friday.

“Our class, we’ve had the mindset that you’re out there to win,” he said. “You’re not out there to have a good time. You’re out there to win ballgames, play football. That’s it.”

Dueling Fords

An aside: In case any were wondering whether the Ford twins have faced one another on the practice field, the answer is yes.

Middle linebacker James Ford said the two met during a drill when both were freshmen.

“I got him, but Coach White didn’t like that too much, so we try to keep it on the downlow,” Ford said.

Sumrall coach Shannon White agreed the brothers had met just once, but that it happened during their sophomore seasons and that things did not turn out so well for

“(James) got run over by his brother (John) in practice two years ago,” White said. “I know that for a fact that that’s the one and only contact thing they’ve had.

“I’ve known John for a long time, and I’ve known James for a long time, and I know for a fact that John ran him over.”

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