MHSAA: Northwest Rankin Cougars
2011: 11-2, 6-1
Coach: Pete Hurt (2nd year)
All-Metro Departures: RB Ramone Nash (transferred to MRA); DL Wil Freeman (Southern Miss); DB Nigel Green (Gulf Coast CC); Colby Hegwood (Pearl River CC); DB Terrell Hodges
Players to watch: WR Jekory Trigg, Sr.; DB Julian Jackson, Sr.; DT Xavier Telfort, Sr; TE/DE Ronald Dixon, Sr.
Outlook: Cougars had a pair of setbacks in the offseason with the loss of Nash (transferred) and QB Reid Humphreys (elbow surgery), but like Hurt says the show must go on. Benton Yancy likely will get the nod at QB. Cougars always seem to have a stable of solid running backs, but they’ll have to run behind a young line. Despite the losses, another trip to the playoffs looks likely.
Season opener: Friday at Callaway (Newell Field)
2011: 8-5, 5-2
Coach: Brad Peterson (3rd year)
All-Metro Departures: DL Nelson Adams (Mississippi State).
Players to watch: OL David Mahaffey, Sr.; LB Tayler Polk, Sr.; WR Dylan Knott, Sr.; WR Elijah Parker, Sr.; RB Davien Tillis, Sr.; DL Fletcher Adams, So.
Outlook: Expectations are high for the Bulldogs, who start the season ranked 10th in The Clarion-Ledger Super 10. Sophomore QB Garner Minshew leads an offense that returns nine starters from last year’s team that reached the second round of the playoffs. Ball-hawking Polk and Adams head up the defense.
Season opener: Friday at Warren Central.
2011: 8-4, 5-2
Coach: John Perry (5th year)
All-Metro Departures: WR D.J. Thompson (Southern Miss); OL Kirby Wixson (Hinds CC)
Players to watch: QB Evan Osborne, Sr.; RB/DB Brandon Knight, Sr.; DB Erin Jones, Sr.; RB Jordan Wright, So.; OL Pat Battle, Sr.
Outlook: After being eliminated in the first round of the 5A playoffs for the second consecutive year, the Pirates look to go further. Osborne, a Southern Miss commit, moves from safety to quarterback and has made the transition smoothly, but needs more consistency from receivers with Thompson gone. Jones and Knight lead a very experienced secondary that will make it hard for opponents to throw on.
Season opener: Friday vs. Vicksburg (at Warren Central)
2011: 10-3, 5-1
Coach: Steve Pruett (3rd year)
All-Metro Departures: ATH Jorell Thurmon (Pearl River CC), QB Sam Vincent
Players to watch: QB Cole Robinson, Sr.; WR/DB Dalton Smith, Sr.; WR/DB Jeremy Moore, Sr.; RB/DB Michael Thurman, Jr.; OL/DL Gavin Callahan, Sr.; OL/DL Chris Yarbrough, Sr.
Outlook: The Eagles are coming off one of the best seasons in school history that included a division title and reaching the second round of the playoffs. With four starters back on both sides, Pruett is still optimistic if the team can be consistent. On offense, Robinson replaces a four-year starter in Sam Vincent, while Thurman returns as the leading rusher from last year with 168 yards and two touchdowns. On defense, Moore will be the leader in an inexperienced secondary with the defensive line being the strength anchored by Yarbrough and Callahan.
Season opener: Friday at Yazoo County
2011: 0-11, 0-6
Coach: Jason Cook (2nd year)
Players to watch: OL/DL Charles Rogers, Sr.; RB/DB Darius Mannery, Sr.; RB/DB Jordan McGowan, So.; LB Jaydan Walker, Sr.; RB/LB Austin Minton, Jr.
Outlook: Last year was a forgetful one for the Rangers, but things are looking bright. Offensively, the running game will be the strength, led by Mannery, McGowan and Minton, but the offensive line will be inexperienced. Defensively, the unit will be much improved. Defensive line will be the key led by Ryan Kirchhoff. Secondary, though, will be young with as much as three underclassmen getting playing time.
Season opener: Friday vs. Prentiss
2011: 5-7, 2-3
Coach: Marc Herrington (3rd year)
Players to watch: QB Cordarius Davis, Sr.; RB/LB Joseph Satcher, Jr.; WR Marcell Williams, Sr.; OL/DL Joseph Crapps, Sr.; WR/DB Justice Davis, Jr.
Outlook: The Tigers are looking to make another run to the playoffs after losing out in the first round last year to Seminary. Davis, the fastest player on the team, will anchor the offense after totaling 1,908 all-purpose yards and 27 touchdowns last year. Undersized defense will be more experienced and have more team speed led by Satcher, who had 54 tackles last year.
Season opener: Friday vs. St. Patrick
2011: 4-6, 0-4
Coach: Michael Granberry (1st year)
Players to watch: QB/DB Antone Smith, Sr.; OL/LB Mac Hebert, Jr.; FB/LB Grant Watkins, Jr.; RB/DB DeMarkis Wilson, Jr.; OL/LB DeMorian Grant, Sr.
Outlook: Granberry takes over as head man and looks to improve in region play after being winless last year. Smith will lead the option offense after accounting for 880 yards and 13 touchdowns last year. He also recorded 176 tackles and three interceptions on defense. Defensively, the Dragons will be improved after giving up 31.1 points per game last year and will have strength up front and in the secondary.
Season opener: Friday at Pelahatchie
2011: 4-7, 2-3
Coach: Jaris Patrick (9th year)
Players to watch: RB/DB Hakeem Carr, Sr.; QB Jacob Huff, Jr.; OL/DL Drew Cook, Sr.; RB/LB Patrick Fletcher, Jr.; RB/LB Willie Dobson, Jr.
Outlook: If the Wolves can stay healthy and not suffer as many injuries as last year, Puckett could open some eyes in 2A South. The running game will be the key on offense led by Carr, who rushed for 1,192 yards and 15 touchdowns last year. Defensively, the Wolves will be quicker, but young and inexperienced.
Season opener: Friday vs. Raleigh
2011: 8-4, 6-2
Coach: Bill Ward (24th year)
Players to watch: QB/DB Erik Hoard, So.; RB/DB Casey Ousley, Sr.; RB/LB Keldrick Sullivan, Sr.; RB/LB Mitchell Tagert, So.; RB/LB Darrin Sherman, Sr.
Outlook: With eight starters returning, the Chiefs look to make a deeper run in the 1A playoffs after being ousted by Stringer last year. Ousley returns after rushing for 1,526 yards last year with 21 touchdowns. On defense, Sam Jones and Kendall Rhoades will be the key on the defensive line, with the concern being depth.
Season opener: Friday vs. Pisgah
Hartfield Academy Hawks
2011: 4-6, 4-5
Coach: Dan Davis (1st year)
Players to watch: RB/DB Brewer Eldridge, Sr.; WR/DB Niles Abston, Sr.; OL/LB Graham Yeatman, Jr.; FB/LB Mitchell Garver, Jr.; RB Jamarius Thornton, Sr.
Outlook: Davis knows this will be a rebuilding season with young and inexperienced players at the school formerly known as University Christian. Yeatman and Garver will be the key for the Hawks on defense, while Eldridge will lead the way offensively.
Season opener: Aug. 24 at Sacred Heart
MAIS Jackson Prep Patriots
District: 2-AAA (Division I)
2011: 10-3, 6-0
Coach: Ricky Black (16th year)
All-Metro Departures: K Cooper Simmons
Players to watch: QB Ryan Buchanan, Sr.; RB Hamel McGraw, Sr.; LB Chandler Pride, Sr.; OL Kyle Crotwell, Sr.; LB Wade Meena, Sr.
Outlook: Led by Buchanan (a Dandy Dozen selection and Ole Miss commit) and McGraw, the Patriots will boast one of the most potent offenses in the MAIS’ largest classification and look to bring a state title back to Flowood for the first time since 2008. McGraw, who rushed for 1,250 yards and 18 touchdowns last year, leads Prep’s running game. Chandler Pride returns at linebacker after setting a school record in tackles last year with 179.
Season opener: Friday vs. MRA
East Rankin Academy Patriots
District: 2-AAA (Division II)
2011: 6-6, 3-3
Coach: Matt Butts (3rd year)
Players to watch: QB Jacob Weldon, Sr.; RB Colby Crotwell, Sr.; LB Phillip Parker, Sr.; OL Taylor Reed, Sr.; OL Wesley Lawless, Sr.
Outlook: The Patriots return 14 seniors and hope to make another playoff run and reach the state title game after being eliminated in the semifinals the last two years. Weldon will be the lead man on offense after rushing for 1,207 yards with 18 touchdowns and throwing for 1,757 yards and 10 TDs. Crotwell returns after having 500 yards receiving and 302 rushing. Parker and Brylan Overby will lead the way at linebacker and Butts is key in the secondary as well with defensive line being the concern.
Season opener: Friday vs. Pillow Academy
Park Place Crusaders
2011: 3-8, 1-4
Coach: Preston Gordon (3rd year)
Players to watch: RB/DB Gage Gordon, Sr.; QB/DB T.J. Douglas, Jr.; OL/DL Wesley Rucker, Sr.; OL/DL Jordan Hartz, Jr.; OL/LB Kaleb Ortner, Jr.; FB/DL Brandon Jenkins, Jr.
Outlook: The Crusaders made the playoffs for the first time in school history last year and look to build off the momentum and get a playoff win after being eliminated in the first round.
Season opener: Friday at Tallulah (La.)