It is the new Coahoma.
Coahoma Community College head football coach Travis Macon, offensive coordinator Emmanuel McCray and defensive coordinator Kareem Moore talked about the changes the program has made in the past year to build a winning tradition.
The coaches spoke in front of the Lions Club at The Ranchero Friday afternoon.
The Tigers finished 3-2 in Macon’s first season in 2020. He said without McCray and Moore, many of the recent successes would not have happened.
“We’re excited about this upcoming year,” Macon said. “I know last year, a lot of people, I heard them saying, well they did what they did because of COVID. Well, they put their helmet on, they put their pants on and started playing.”
The two losses in 2020 were by a combined eight points - 13-10 to Northeast Mississippi Community College and 19-14 to Itawamba Community College.
“When we took over the program, a lot of people didn’t believe what was going on,” Macon said. “One thing we did, I did go out and recruit a lot of freshmen.”
Macon said there were 46 freshmen on the team last year.
“That’s a young football team,” Macon said.
That meant CCC played sophomore heavy teams. Macon said the Tigers still opened the 2020 season at Itawamba, a team ranked in the top 30 and won 37-23.
“The guys bought in,” Macon said. “That’s why this upcoming season we’re really excited about where the program is headed.”
The Tigers finished with a 2.51 team GPA.
“The most important thing is off the field,” Macon said.
“I always believed if you’ll take care of business on the field, you’ll take care of business off the field.”
Macon said he has gone by local high schools and was told CCC coaches had not been seen there much in the past. He is trying to change that and said the Tigers have seven local athletes who play a big part in the team’s success.
As an example, Macon cited Clarksdale High School graduate Kaleb Brown.
“Kaleb not only does a good job on the field, he has a 3.0 GPA,” Macon said.
Macon said Clarksdale High School graduate Zeilon Chestnut also plays for CCC and has a GPA at around 3.3.
“We really need you all to come out and support us,” Macon said. “With this football team, I think if you all come out on September the 2nd, you’re all going to be really excited about what’s going on at CCC.”
CCC hosts Hinds Community College, a team in the top 15, September 2. Macon said CCC is ranked No. 28.
Macon said CCC has four road games and none of those teams scheduled the Tigers for homecoming, which says a lot about the team’s direction. In the past, he said many teams scheduled CCC for homecoming.
He said there will be a new scoreboard and Tiger tunnel for players to run out of. He hopes for the same success he had as an assistant coach at other schools.
“It’s the new Coahoma,” Macon said. “I don’t know what happened in the past, but I know the direction we’re headed. I’m trying to get back to that championship. I’ve been in that championship game five times. I’ve won the national title. I plan on getting back there.”
McCray is from Jackson, but told the Lions Club he has a lot of family from Clarksdale including his dad. He played college football at Ole Miss and had a chance in the NFL with the Los Angeles Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers.
He was previously an assistant coach at Itawamba Community College.
“I jumped at the opportunity to come out here,” McCray said. “We knew the previous history of the school and the winning tradition. We wanted to kind of just revitalize that and bring that back, just bring this community something to be proud of. I’m just really excited to be a part of it.”
McCray said the Tigers have good kids who are behind each other.
“Sometimes that’s all you need to turn the tide,” McCray said. “We had that last year and, as Coach (Macon) said, we were a very young team. We were asking a lot of those kids to grow up fast.”
McCray said the Tigers won three games and he still felt like they left a lot on the field. He said turnovers cost the team in losses and the goal is to eliminate those in 2021.
He said the program is continuing to recruit good character kids and many of them are from Clarksdale.
“We have a really talented group of guys coming back,” McCray said. “This group of guys, they know what we left out on the field. They’re anticipating. They’re excited.”
McCray said coaches are telling recruits it is easy go somewhere that has already had success, but they can come to CCC and build something special.
Moore told the Lions Club he is from Okolona and was at Northeast Mississippi Community College. He mentioned Macon winning a championship as an assistant coach at Northwest Mississippi Community College.
“We know the stigma as far as facing Coahoma,” Moore said. “We were on the opposite side. Don’t hold this against me when I say this, but we always knew when we played Coahoma it was going to be a win. One thing when Coach (Macon) called me he wanted to change that.
“We’re not going to out there and lay down for anyone. We’re going to make sure we’re prepared, but also we’re going to have our guys ready to play.”
Moore said he admires Macon’s perseverance.
“Some things are going to go wrong,” Moore said. :In life things are going to go wrong, like last year with COVID, but we still kept fighting through it. But now we’re at a point where people are expecting things from us. I try to tell the kids that we have to live up to the expectation, not just to the pressure, but our own standard.”
Moore, who played for the then-Washington Redskins for four seasons, said earning a diploma is the main goal.
“I wouldn’t be here today if my mother didn’t make sure I got my grades,” Moore said.
“It’s about books and ball.”
Moore said the team’s GPA of 2.51 was a huge jump from the past and the Tigers are still trying to improve. He added coaches have to be tutors and counselors for athletes.
“Our nickname is the new Coahoma,” Moore said.
Athletic director Reggy Hankerson was pleased with the direction of the football team.
“What these guys have accomplished in a short time, you can walk in the room with a little swagger because, like Coach Macon said, the new Coahoma, we’re nobody’s homecoming,” Hankerson said. “You walk in the room as far as recruiting in the store or whatever, there’s a new life. There’s a new flavor as far as what we’re doing on campus, on and off.”
Hankerson went on to talk about the big picture of the athletic department. He said the CCC women’s basketball team was not only the Region 23 Tournament runner-up, a month ago he had the opportunity to nominate the Lady Tigers for the academic team of the year.
Hankerson said CCC president Dr. Valmadge Towner and board members have put a lot into upgrading facilities for the entire athletic department to be competitive.