Philadelphia will make the drop from 3A to 2A and should have an immediate impact on the championship landscape with 10 starters back on both sides of the ball.
Ahyunte Crosby returns at quarterback after throwing for 670 yards with five touchdowns. Running backs Cortney Smith (1,248 yards, 17 touchdowns) and Malik Hickman (506 yards, 8 touchdowns) return to anchor the run-heavy offense. Linebackers Chris Griffin (106 tackles, 10 sacks) and Javon Pickens (99 tackles) will anchor a veteran defense.
“The moving down is not a big deal, it’s the fact we have a lot of good kids back,” said Philadelphia coach Teddy Dyess. “Offensively we are going to be more balanced and defensively we will be the best we’ve ever been with some depth.”
High expectations are nothing new for Perry Liles and Calhoun City as they return six starters on both sides of the football. The defending Class 2A state champions are once again a title favorite.
“It’s no different like any other year,” Liles said. “It is always going to be tough and now you throw in a Philadelphia, Newton and Union, 2A football is tough.”
The Wildcats have senior Jojo Gray at quarterback to lead the offense.
“No doubt having quarterback back is a huge advantage,” Liles said. “We lost a key player in Jesse Nabors and a couple of linemen, but I feel like we’re going to be better offensively than we were.”
Quarterback John Swinney and running back Johndrix Robinson will lead the Baldwyn offense. Swinney threat for 2,269 yards and 21 touchdowns last year. Defensive tackle Zack Richardson (87 tackles) will have to anchor a defense that lost its top three tacklers.
“We’re going to need John’s experience and leadership to carry us early,” said Baldwyn coach Michael Gray. “We’ve been close the last couple years but 2A North is gonna be a gauntlet to say the least.”
Eupora brings back eight starters on both sides. Edwin Herard and Tanner Knight will split time at quarterback this year.
“Our guys are hungry. We got something to prove,” said Eupora coach Stephen Edwards. “I feel like we got a veteran team and feel good in areas for us to be successful.”
Pisgah returns 12 total starters, no more important than Don Ragsdale who returns after rushing for 3,081 yards with 38 touchdowns last season. Ragsdale is one of the state’s best players.
Bay Springs reached the 2A state championship game last year and will lean on junior Derrion Lee. Lee had 52 tackles and a team-high eight interceptions in 2016.
After going 9-5 and advancing to the third round of the playoffs in 2016, Heidelberg returns arguably the best receiving corps in 2A. Their biggest challenge may be finding someone to throw it to them. If they can, Heidelberg may be primed for a big season.
South Delta went 9-4 and advanced to the second round of the playoffs last year. They return plenty of talent to get back to the postseason. South Delta Returns a pair of good receivers in Caleb Ducking and George Jackson.
Newton enjoyed a breakout season last year as the Tigers finished 7-4 and hosted a playoff game for the first time in 15 years. The Tigers return experience under center although they have to replace other skill positions. Still, expect quarterback Tre Hillie to have a big season.
Ron Price taking over the East Webster program is a good fit for both. A quality coach inheriting solid talent. The region is arguably the toughest 2A region in the state but expect the Bulldogs to compete. Ron Price taking over the East Webster is a good fit for both. A quality coach inheriting solid talent. The region is arguably the toughest 2A region in the state but expect the Bulldogs to compete.
CLASS 2A RANKINGS
2 Calhoun City
6 Bay Springs
8 South Delta
10 East Webster
REGION COACHES’ POLLS
2 East Union
1 Calhoun City
3 East Webster
5 Leflore County
1 South Delta
3 West Tallahatchie
4 West Bolivar
6 Coahoma County
4 Scott Central
1 Bay Springs
4 St. Joseph
1 Amite County
2 Loyd Star
4 West Lincoln
5 Bogue Chitto
2 Perry Central
3 North Forrest
5 St. Patrick
CLASS 2A ALL-STATE
QB John Swinney 6’2, 185, Sr, Baldwyn
AP Charlie Brand 5’10, 160, Sr, East Webster
RB Don Ragsdale 5’11, 200, Sr, Pisgah
RB Arteise Myles 5’10, 190, Sr, South Delta
RB Cortney Smith 5’10, 210, Sr, Philadelphia
WR Tyrese Cooley 6’2, 205, Sr, Heidelberg
WR Calvin Harris 6’1, 180, Jr, Baldwyn
OL Shamar Barnes 6’4, 305, Sr, Taylorsville
OL Cole Morgan 6’2, 210, Sr, East Webster
OL Dominic Eiland 6’1, 325, Sr, Philadelphia
OL Drex Gladney 6’2, 275, Sr, Philadelphia
OL Jumorrius Walker 5’10, 250, Sr, South Delta
DL Khehlan Kennedy 6’1, 200, Sr, Heidelberg
DL Hezekiah Davis 6′, 235, North Forrest
DL Chris Griffin 6’2, 230, Sr, Philadelphia
DL Zach Richardson 6’1, 245, Sr, Baldwyn
LB Elijah Keys 5’11, 220, Sr, Mize
LB Keshun Parker 5’11, 225, Sr, Calhoun City
LB Navonteque Strong 6′, 210, Jr, Scott Central
LB Anfernee Campbell 5’10, 175, Sr Calhoun City
DB Derrien Lee 6’1, 165, Jr, Bay Springs
DB Zackariah Johnson 6’1, 205, Sr, Newton
DB Zachary Johnson 6’1, 205, Sr, Newton
DB Latreal Jones 6’1, 170, Sr, Taylorsville
PK Reed Collins 6’2, 190, Sr, St Joseph (Madison)
P Josh Wiggins 6’4, 230, Sr, JZ GEorge