When I think of the 2019 football season in Coahoma County for both high school and junior college, the word transition first comes to mind.
All five teams in some way have not completely fulfilled their potential, but are also on the right path to building more successful programs.
Coahoma Community College illustrates the growing process as well as any of our schools. The Tigers opened the season with an 18-10 upset win at home against then-No. 4 ranked team in JUCO Jones County Junior College.
It went downhill very quickly from there as the Tigers did not win any other games, they had internal disciplinary issues and lost athletes. Coach Steven Miller was relieved of his duties.
Miller, in spite of winning just four games in four seasons, had an impressive tenure as head coach. The fact that CCC could beat a team like the Bobcats illustrates how good athletes are being recruited into the program. The Tigers competed hard in many games throughout Miller’s time as coach, but a mistake here or there or the inability to put together four full quarters seemed to prove costly.
CCC recently hired Travis Macon to replace Miller. Macon already has his coaching staff in place. Most notably, former Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace is now the offensive coordinator. It is up to Macon to take yet another step and bring even better athletes to CCC and find a way to get his team to play complete games regularly.
After hearing Macon speak both at his introductory press conference and at the Clarksdale Rotary Club, I have no doubt he can build on the positive things Miller did and help CCC turn that corner into the playoffs.
The success for our high school teams was all over the spectrum, but as I indicated earlier, everyone had some success and showed the potential of improving. The Press Register is rewarding the local high schools for their hard work with an All-Area football team.
As you can see, Lee Academy had the most successful season in the community making it to the MAIS Class 4A semifinals and losing 16-14 in the final minutes at Riverfield Academy in Rayville, La.
The Colts had a 14-0 lead and turned the ball over in the red zone late in the first half with a chance to go ahead by three touchdowns late in the first half. They still held the lead for most of the second half before falling just short.
The potential was there to win.
In addition to the talent already on the high school roster, the junior high Colts won their district championship. Many of those athletes will help the high school team perform even better next season. They have the potential to win a state championship next year.
Three seniors — Brett Wilson, Gage Murphy and Shane Griffin — all played in the All-Star Game. Wilson is our MVP, Murphy is our offensive MVP and Griffin is the defensive MVP. Coach Rick Johnston is our coach of the year. Wilson, Murphy, Griffin, Seth Campbell and Landon Wong all represented the Colts on the All-State team.
Those are the most All-Stars and All-State honorees from the Colts during Johnston’s tenure as coach.
Coahoma Early College was the second most improved high school team in the community.
Jeremiah Brassell completed his fourth season as coach, which means the current senior class is the first group at CECHS to play for him all four years.
The Tigers won no games Brassell’s first year, one his second year, four his third year and five this past season. Two of the wins in 2019 were district games and they earned a playoff berth.
Twelve seniors were on the roster, including Region 3-3A special teams MVP Chris Russell. Russell is also our All-Area special teams MVP for the second consecutive season. Junior Kendrick Honeycutt earned All-State honors.
CECHS has improved a little bit each year and have Honeycutt and other key players coming back. They are leaving several holes with the loss of Russell and other seniors, so the upcoming offseason will be crucial. However, I feel Brassell has put his program in place and we will see continued team growth.
Clarksdale and Coahoma County high schools had many unanswered questions all season.
The Wildcats were plagued with injuries in key positions all season long. Starting quarterback junior Tamera Allen missed close to the first half of the season and momentum was never really the same after that.
Allen showed he is a proficient passer and I expect that to translate to success in 2020, but by Clarksdale standards, 2019 was a disappointment. The Wildcats finished in third place in their district and lost in the first round of the playoffs.
Senior Queston Skipper did the best he could filling in many games at quarterback. Skipper is usually a running back and also a good returner. His ability to play many different positions as needed is why we gave him the most all-around player. Freshman quarterback Kelley Jones did get one start at South Panola. His numbers were less than impressive, but he showed poise and potential.
I have no doubt coach Henry Johnson and his assistants will prepare Jones to take over at quarterback after Allen graduates. Jones showed the Wildcats will be strong at the quarterback position for at least the next three seasons while he is with the team. That is why we gave him newcomer of the year.
The Red Panthers went through the biggest transition. Second-year coach Mario Lane repeatedly talked about how many of his athletes had never played football before. It showed as they won just one non-district game.
The good news is Coahoma County has a lot of natural athletes on the roster and, next year, all of the returning players will have one season of experience under their belts.
Junior Lamont Lee has been the starting quarterback for all three years of high school. His experience combined with the talent on the roster could lead to a playoff berth for the Red Panthers in 2020.
We saw some bright spots from everyone in 2019 and they could be even brighter in 2020. Stay tuned.