Bernard Euell was a standout during his high school football playing days almost two decades ago at Jim Hill, earning Metro Player of the Year honors in 1991.
The versatile Euell followed that up by doing a little bit of everything on the field as a player at Mississippi State.
But for the folks in Yazoo County, it’s the turnaround that Euell has brought to the Panthers’ program that gets talked about the most.
The Jackson native has Yazoo County off to a 3-1 start this season.
That includes last Friday’s 7-6 victory over rival Yazoo City. It was just the Panthers’ second victory over the Indians and the first since 2003.
“That win was big for the program,” said Euell. “I’ve been a part of some rivalry games myself. Just to listen to the kids and the people in the community, this one is a little different. It means a lot. So one of our goals was to give the community what they deserve.”
Going back to last season, the Panthers have won seven of their last 11 games. Not bad for a team that won just one game in 2010 before Euell arrived after serving as an assistant at Madison Central.
They lost their first five games in 2011 before winning four of their last six to make the Class 4A playoffs.
“The biggest thing is just that we have tried to change the mentality of our kids,” Euell said. “Even winning just four games last year, they never quit and never laid down. It started last year, and it carried over. Now the whole mentality has changed.”
Sophomore quarterback Michael Collum (308 rushing yards, 5 touchdowns) and senior running back Gerald Lampkin (337 yards, 6 TDs) have led the way on offense.
“Those are the two catalysts,” Euell said. “Michael is a special kid. He is a leader, and the kids just gravitate to him.”
Senior defensive lineman Corey Spires, linebackers Stephen Matory and Justin Henderson and defensive back Jaylen Mosley have led the way on defense for a team that was oh-so-close to being 4-0 but lost when Florence returned a fumble for a touchdown in the final two minutes of the season opener.
“Man, I relive that play every day,” said Euell.
Euell credits much of his early success to the three head coaches he has coached under – M.C. Miller, Mike Justice, and Bobby Hall – as well as current Germantown head coach and former Madison Central defensive coordinator Tim Shramek.
Hall isn’t surprised to see his former assistant doing well.
“Obviously he was a good coach, but the best thing was just the way he knew how to deal with kids,” said Hall. “He knows how to relate to them and develop them.”
Yazoo County gets another stiff test on Friday when it hosts Lexington McClain (4-0).
“One of my passions has always been kids,” said Euell. “To come to a program that has struggled in the past and see them win means a lot.”