America has always been a football-crazy country, and within that dynamic, the South takes that passion to another level. There’s no better example of that feel than right here in Jackson County, Mississippi.
So it is that Friday, August 17, is a big day in these parts, as the 2018 high school football season kicks off for all eight of our local teams. Therefore, Jackson County Home feels like a brief preview of each squad is in order. Let’s take a look and see what’s in store for our pigskin warriors (how’d you like that throwback term), starting with 6-A and moving through the classifications (last season’s record noted in parentheses).
Pascagoula (3-8)—The Panthers had their first losing season since 2010 last year, and hope to jump quickly back to their established winning ways. Coach Lewis Sims has a team that is still young, but appears to be very coachable. Slade Mink is scheduled to start at quarterback, and linebacker Brantley Torjusen will be a leader on defense.
“We look forward to the chance to improve upon last year’s campaign, and see the maturation of our players as they take on new roles and responsibilities,” said Coach Sims. “We need more depth, but you will see a team that will prepare well and give maximum effort for four quarters.”
Ocean Springs (4-7)—Like Pascagoula, the Greyhounds look to rebound from a rare losing season. Coach Ryan Ross has a budding star in quarterback Blake Noblin, with linebacker Mitchell Bowie featured on the other side of the ball.
“We’re excited about the Friday night atmosphere with a new team and new season,” said Coach Ross. “We should have a fast tempo offense, but need to play good team football in all three phases.”
St. Martin (6-6)—The Yellow Jackets of Coach Eddie Wayne Whitehead have had powerful offenses recently, and this season should be no exception. Talented running back Ham McGee and QB Mileon Graham will lead the way.
“We have a big senior class and a lot of returning starters,” said Coach Whitehead. “We should have a great running attack and a solid defense, but must play as a team with no egos.”
Gautier (3-8)—The Gators have a new coach, Marc High. Kameron Kincaid has proven to be a stalwart running back, and the defense will feature Franklin Young at linebacker.
“This will be a new beginning for Gautier High on the field,” said Coach High. “We hope to bring pride and excitement for Gator football.”
Moss Point (3-9)—Coach Eugene Harmon is in his second year as he tries to restore the Tiger program to its once lofty heights. Several candidates have emerged at quarterback, and defensive end Keandre Booker, already committed to Southeast Missouri, will lead the defense.
“We are working toward a rejuvenation of Moss Point football,” said Coach Harmon. “We have a tough non-region schedule, but our summer workouts have been about character-building, so we’ll be ready.”
East Central (13-1)—The Hornets of Coach Seth Smith are coming off the best season in school history, when they made it all the way to the state championship game. The always potent East Central ground attack will be led by running back Cameron Gray, and linebacker Avery White has all-star qualities.
“We’re extremely excited about watching our 2018 team try to work hard and perform at a high level,” said Coach Smith. “We have to replace key offensive linemen from last year, but we hope fans can expect to watch our team play extremely hard every Friday night.”
Vancleave (3-7)—Coach Lavon Capers looks to get the Bulldogs back to playoff contention. C.J. Johnson at running back and Cody Bean at linebacker should help lead the way.
“I’m impressed with the size and speed of our offensive and defensive lines,” said Coach Capers. “Folks can expect a hard working team and coaching staff, and we believe we have the pieces in place to be successful.”
Resurrection Catholic School (7-7)—In just a few short years, Coach Scott Sisson has built the Eagles into a 1-A power. QB Jake Galle should lead the attack on offense, while defensive end Terrence Spivey is a force, recording 15 sacks last year.
“We graduated 15 seniors that went 47-13 during their time here, and they’ll be hard to replace,” said Coach Sisson. “We’ve got a good group coming back, though, and I expect a similar result as last year—a slow start during a tough non-region schedule, then playing well down the stretch.”
OPENING WEEKEND HIGHLIGHT
With all the Jackson County teams kicking off on the weekend of August 17, there will be plenty of anticipation for each game. No contest, however, holds the impact of the 80th meeting between old rivals Pascagoula and Moss Point. The Panthers lead the storied series 40-36-3, with this year’s Battle of the Cats set for War Memorial Stadium in Pascagoula.
I have gone on record before bemoaning the fact that PHS-MPHS is no longer the traditional regular season-ending game as it once was forever. Several years ago, Mississippi High School Athletic Association rules dictated that only region games be played at the end of each team’s schedule. Since Moss Point had dropped to a lower classification, the Panthers-Tigers game had to be moved. I will say that it was a wise decision by the two schools’ administrations to make it the first game of the year, as being the season opener does keep a bit of the cachet alive. Still, I long for those chilly November Friday nights at War Memorial or Dantzler Stadium when our crosstown lads went at it before packed houses.
So, here we go: football time in Jackson County, and a great thing it is. Please head out on Fridays and support the team of your choice—they’ll appreciate it and you’ll enjoy it. See you at the stadium.
(Richard Lucas may be contacted at [email protected].)