With the official start of preseason practice, and with the opening game of the 2014 season just two weeks away, it is time to perhaps answer some of the burning questions about high school football that fans in the Pine Belt have been asking.
Here are five that have been heard the most over recent weeks:
1. Is Hattiesburg really ready to return to elite status in Class 6A?
Maybe. The Tigers are young, but talented, and I like the no-nonsense attitude of accountability that second-year head coach Tony Vance is trying to establish with his team.
Hattiesburg has an extremely difficult non-region schedule, with games against Petal, Laurel, Wayne County and Oak Grove, but the playoff race in Region 4-6A figures to be wide-open and there is no reason why the Tigers can’t be among the teams battling at the top.
2. Will Bassfield three-peat as Class 2A state champions?
Shoot, the Yellowjackets may very well three-peat, four-peat and five-peat, considering the talent head coach Lance Mancuso has stockpiled.
Now, obviously, upsets do happen and there are a few teams capable of derailing the Yellowjacket Express, notably Taylorsville and East Marion. But right now Bassfield has so much talent in its program that it’s scary.
Target on the Aggies
3. What can Forrest County AHS do for an encore after winning state in Class 4A last fall?
Certainly, the Aggies will be wearing a big target on their backs after capturing the school’s first state title in football, but that’s really old news, since FCAHS has averaged more than nine wins a season since 2006.
No doubt, new head coach Lee Sullivan has some big holes to fill, and Forrest County will ride its defense as far as it can, which may be a lot farther than most people expect.
4. Is this finally the year Presbyterian Christian beats one of the Jackson powers in academy football?
We ask this question every year, and so far it hasn’t happened yet. But this is without a doubt the deepest and most talented team the Bobcats have put on the field in Joey Hawkins’ five seasons as head coach.
PCS has a versatile running attack, led by – but not limited to – senior Fate Eiland, and a big, experienced offensive line to lead the way. This year might be the best chance the Bobcats will have at finally getting over the top.
Under the radar
5. Who are some of the Pine Belt’s sleepers in the recruiting class of 2015?
I can see three, for sure, all from Region 8-3A. One is West Marion tackle Larry Alexander, who will be starting his fourth season up front for the Trojans. He’s a load at 6-foot-4, 315 pounds.
Another is Seminary fullback Jamaal Booth, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards for the Bulldogs last season. Finally, keep an eye on Perry Central’s talented quarterback, Ashante Bolton, who accounted for some 1,700 yards of offense last year.
Contact Stan Caldwell at (601) 584-3137.