NO. 5 LAUREL
13-2 IN 2014
5A STATE CHAMPION
Coach: Todd Breland (31-7 in 3 seasons, 3rd at Laurel)
Buzz: After winning the Class 5A title last season, Laurel returns a wide array of skill players to an offense that scored an average of 38.3 points per game. The number of options veteran leader Keon Howard has at his disposal is scary. When Octavious Cooley is on the receiving end of a double or triple-team, Dontario Drummond and TyQuan Ulmer make good targets for the Golden Tornadoes’ high-octane attack. The key to the offeseason has been replacing the depth Laurel lost on both the offensive and defensive lines. Spearheading that effort is left tackle Malik Cooley, who has been protecting Howard for several seasons. On the other side of the ball, Darius Townsend is the glue that holds together Laurel’s D-Line and is his team’s leading returning tackler (67 total tackles in 2014). The Golden Tornadoes prepare for a gauntlet in Region 3-5A with a rugged non-region schedule of Hattiesburg (one of its two losses last season), Oak Grove and Petal.
Who’s back: 7 starters on offense, 5 on defense
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Keon Howard, QB, Sr: The Memphis commit threw for a class-high 3,631 yards and 38 touchdowns as a junior. He also rushed for 456 yards and 12 touchdowns. Howard will begin his fourth year under center this fall and is on pace to break 10,000 career yards passing.
Octavious Cooley, WR/TE, Sr: The Ole Miss commit hauled in 46 receptions for 1,062 yards and nine touchdowns last year, which ranked third in Class 5A. The 6-foot-4, 245-pounder is the top tight end in the state. The four-year starter grabs the ball at its highest point and is tough to tackle given his size.
Dontario Drummond, WR, Jr: Cooley has proven he can handle his own. It’ll be up to Drummond and TyQuan Ulmer to fill the big shoes left by Omar Bayless, who was the most productive wide-out in 5A last year. Drummond totaled 26 receptions for 569 yards and eight touchdowns in 2014, with two scores coming in the championship game.
Thakarius Keyes, DB, Sr: A 6-foot-2, 185 pound safety, Keyes is the leader of Laurel’s secondary. The senior recored 25 solo tackles and blocked two punts for the 5A champion in 2014.
Nov. 6 vs. Wayne County
As Keon Howard puts it, this game defines who owns the state. “”If you win that game, you know you’re going to (the) state (championship),” Howard said. “If you lose that game, 9 out of 10 times you’re going home.” Laurel played in the South State championship in 2013 and 2014. Last year, the Golden Tornadoes topped the War Eagles in the final two minutes with a 34-30 win.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
2 Since moving up to Class 5A in 2013, Laurel has made back-to-back appearances in the South State championship.
WHAT ARE THEY SAYING?
“They have a lot of confidence. Laurel kids have always been that way, but every day we stress that it’s one day at a time. We have a tougher schedule this year. We want to play the best the teams because we know that will make us better.” — Todd Breland, Laurel head coach
Contact Courtney Cronin at (601) 961-7091 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @CourtneyRCronin on Twitter.