No. 7 WAYNE COUNTY
11-3 in 2014 (5A semifinalist)
• Coach: Todd Mangum (96-38 in 12th season, 4th at Wayne County)
• Buzz: The War Eagles had the best scoring defense in 5A last year, but came up short in the state semifinals as Laurel escaped in the final minutes for a 34-30 win before going on to win the title. The defense returns four of its top six tacklers, including Benito Jones and Tyree Evans up front on the defensive line. The offense has to replace QB David Hodo, but coach Mangum believes Reggie Stewart, who was the team’s top receiver, can bring another aspect to the passing game with his versatility. The non-region schedule is one of the toughest with trips to Warren Central and Oak Grove before a pair of home contests with Meridian and Archbishop Rummel, one of the top teams in Louisiana.
• Who’s back: 6 starters on offense, 7 on defense
PLAYERS TO WATCH
• Benito Jones, DL, Sr.: The Dandy Dozen lineman and Ole Miss commit had 69 tackles (14 solo) to go with five sacks and three forced fumbles as a junior. The 6-foot-3, 270-pounder anchored the War Eagles’ defense, which led 5A in holding opponents to 11.4 points a game.
• TyRee Evans, DL, Sr: Evans (6-3, 210) made 75 tackles and led the team with 11 sacks. He was part of a defense that held opponents to 165 yards a contest.
• Reggie Stewart, QB, Sr: Stewart moves from receiver to under center, replacing David Hodo. He brings some mobility to the position after serving as the backup last year. Stewart (5-10, 175) led the team with 25 catches for 417 yards and had four touchdown receptions.
• Freddy Jordan, RB, Sr.: Jordan led the team in rushing last year, going for 1,069 yards and 12 TDs. He brings explosiveness and can also make plays in the passing game out of the backfield.
•Nov. 6 at Laurel
The best was saved for last. The two will likely battle for the top seed in the region, and it could be a preview for the South State title. The War Eagles came up short in their two meetings last year, 23-17 and 34-30, as the Tornadoes scored in the final minutes of both contests.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
The War Eagles allowed 11.4 points a game last year, which ranked fourth in the entire state.
WHAT ARE THEY SAYING?
•“Our guys understand the three things to do to be successful: block, tackle and take care of the ball. I think we’ll be more balanced offensively, and defensively we want to be more efficient on third down. Our front seven is the big key.” — Todd Mangum, Wayne County head coach
— Chris Whitaker, The Clarion-Ledger
Contact Chris Whitaker at (601) 961-7344 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @ChrisWhitaker79 on Twitter.