The Coahoma Early College High School football team is poised to surprise some folks this season and that’s just the way Coach Jeremiah Brassell wants it.
In his first two seasons at the Class 3A school, Brassell’s Tigers took their lumps, finishing 0-10 in 2016 and 1-10 last season. However, Brassell was playing almost exclusively a starting lineup featuring underclassmen, including several freshmen.
He believes that varsity game experience can only pay off this season as those one-time freshmen are now juniors and expected to lead the Tigers this year.
Brassell said this is the most upbeat team he’s had while at Coahoma Early College. That’s evident in the number of participants in summer workouts, growing from four or five in his first year to over 20 at each session this summer.
“The guys have finally bought in. And I think it’s the fact that they see what we’re trying to build and what we can be,” he said. “They see the light.
“Those freshman that started out who are now the junior class, they know I don’t mind playing freshmen and we’ve built the team off of them. This team is built off of juniors and over half of them started as freshmen,” Brassell said. “We’re young, but we’re old. This team is far more disciplined also.”
One of the key players he’ll be counting on is the multi-dimensional junior Chris Russell. The 5-foot-9, 170-pounder is expected to play running back and at quarterback on occasion.
“He’s an athlete,” Brassell said of Russell, a sprinter who qualified for the Mississippi North State Track and Field Championship. “He’s the most complete player I’ve had here. No matter where I put him, he’s probably going to be the best at it.”
In addition to offense, Russell stood out on defense last season as he was named all-district as a utility player as he played safety and linebacker.
Junior quarterback Willie Eagins will be the starting quarterback after starting two games last season.
“The skies the limit for him,” Brassell said of the 6-foot-1, 170-pounder. “He’s matured and with another year in our offense, he should be able to direct it.”
If Eagins is able to improve upon his overall accuracy and composure, then the Tigers could do big things this season.
“Skillwise is going to be the key for us. We return almost everybody,” Brassell said of his offensive attack that features multiple formations but is focused on the run. Isaac Mars is entering his second season as the team’s offensive coordinator.
While the Tigers lost the team’s leading rusher and punt returner Bryson Davis and quarterback Cornelius Holley, almost every one of their skill players return.
Though he stands only 5 foot, 2 inches, Malik Burnett provides a spark to the Tigers offense.
“He’s special,” Brassell said. “He was our go-to receiver last year.”
Other receivers in the mix will be 6-foot sophomore Kendrick Honeycutt and junior Demarco Williams, who excelled on the defensive side of the ball last season. The first team all-district selection didn’t give up a touchdown last year from his cornerback position.
“Defense will be the strength of the team this year,” Brassell said of his 4-2-5 defensive alignment. Coach James Washington is the Tigers’ defensive coordinator. He returns after serving as a coach during the 2016 season.
Brassell’s son, junior Jeremiah Brassell Jr. (6-foot, 190 pounds), was an all-district selection at linebacker last season. He’ll also play on the offensive line.
Junior Corey Suggs (6-foot, 210 pounds), who Brassell says is “our most dominant offensive lineman,” will also be looked to lead the defense after being named an all-district selection as a defensive lineman last year.
Honeycutt and Williams will hold down the secondary.
“They’re young, but they’re athletic,” Brassell said of his corps of defensive backs. “And the key is… they know football now.”
And that’s what he believes could play to his team’s advantage. Brassell relishes the role of being an underdog.
“I love the fact that we’re overlooked because we have nothing to lose, but everything to gain,” he said.
Brassell has set some lofty goals for his team this season. No. 1 is an undefeated record at home, No. 2 would be a spot in the playoffs (ending a three-year drought) and No. 3 would be to have the members of this year’s team win their first playoff game.
However, none of those goals will be easy as they have a challenging schedule, leading off with Simmons, who has a 40-game winning streak and have won three Class 1A state championships.
Also on the schedule is a date with district powerhouse North Panola. Water Valley is expected to be another district challenger. And, according to Brassell, perhaps the most athletic team the Tigers will face is Madison Palmer from neighboring Quitman County.
Still, Brassell thinks this year’s version of Tigers are ready to surprise some teams.
“They’ve bought in,” Brassell said. “There’s no hanging of heads. They are always looking to get better on the next play.”