East Webster’s perceived role in the MHSAA Class 2A championship adds an element of motivation.
The Wolverines know that they are David and Bassfield is Goliath. Everyone’s said it, even their coach. A handful of other programs have used the same reference since over the years in hopes of being the underdog that finally slays the giant.
But for the last three seasons, the Yellowjackets refused to let the narrative change. On Friday, Bassfield seeks to capture its first 4-peat in program history.
Reminding his program of the uphill battle they’re about to face and just how big of a challenge they’re up against has worked for Doug Wilson.
“They’re such an aggressive group and so competitive. It sort of makes them mad when I tell them you’re playing a team that’s going to be very good and better than you,” the East Webster coach said. “It does some reverse psychology on them. They don’t like to hear that. They know what they’ve got to work against.”
In five of the last six years, the 2A title has been captured by a team from the South region. Bassfield (13-2) won the championship in 2009 and three straight from 2012-14. Eupora couldn’t reach the end zone in 2012. Calhoun City came up empty handed in 2013-14. Now, East Webster has a shot at the giant.
“We know that everyone (the North) has sent the last five or six years has had trouble with Bassfield,” Wilson said. “We’re not going into something that nobody else has experienced. We’re back in our underdog role, and our kids are playing better.”
Bassfield’s dominance has been well-documented with a host of highly recruited players to come through the program. The make up of this group, however, is entirely different from previous seasons. There’s no marquee prospect or the state’s No. 1 player. What this program has already accomplished isn’t in the forefront.
“We’re focusing on this group’s legacy and not the overall picture,” Bassfield coach Lance Mancuso said. “That’s what we talked about with our guys the most: Their legacy. What are they going to leave for future programs to look at? What comes with that is the possibility of accomplishing a 4-peat, but right now we’re focusing on the moment.”
East Webster (14-1) shares a similar blue collar mentality. At 5-foot-8, 160 pounds, Wolverines quarterback Jack Wilson hasn’t crossed over teams with elite speed or imposing physicality. He wasn’t even supposed to be a quarterback.
Doug Wilson played his son as a slot receiver during his freshman season and had him call the plays on the field. A year later, Jack Wilson won the quarterback job as a sophomore despite his father trying to move him to the other side of the ball.
“It just sort of happened,” Doug Wilson said. “We noticed him telling people where to line up. He can remember all of the plays and where everybody is supposed to be at. That’s the reason he kept winning the quarterback job.”
Wilson’s ability to absorb the playbook like a sponge paid dividends. He also poses a challenge for Bassfield’s defense having completed nearly 64 percent of his passes for 1,643 yards and 14 touchdowns. He’s also the Wolverines’ second leading rusher with over 1,000 yards and 20 touchdowns.
While Wilson carries the bulk of the load on offense, Bassfield’s versatile rushing attack that averaged 285.4 yards per game powered the Yellowjackets to another title bout. Ron Thompson and Rashaud Green are 1,000-yard rushers. Gerald Reese rounds out the trio with over 800 yards rushing of his own. East Webster’s stout defense leads Class 2A by only allowing 11 points per game, but containing the Yellowjackets will be a major challenge.
“Every week you’ve got to stop the run with them,” Wilson said. “He’s (Mancuso) not afraid to run it in a third-and-15 situation because he’s that confident in his offense, and he should be. Breaking off a 15-, 20-yard run is nothing for them.”
As Bassfield grew into a dynasty over the last few years, the current players — many of whom didn’t start until this year — have patiently waited on their moment. Friday serves as a chance not only to build upon the success of those who came before, but make their own mark in history on a team that has evolved into one of Mississippi’s best.
“These are the guys that were behind the scenes the past few years,” the Bassfield coach said. “They were the ones who kept everything together. Now to see these guys be pushed into the spotlight because of their hard work makes this one special. They’re finally getting to take part of the notoriety that’s always been there. Without these guys, those great players wouldn’t have had the years that they had.”
Contact Courtney Cronin at (601) 961-7091 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @CourtneyRCronin on Twitter.