If there is one thing Greenville St. Joe coach John Baker wants to avoid, it’s complacency.
“We know what we lost and what we have to do to get back to the state championship game,” Baker said. “Can’t get complacent. We have teams aiming for us, so we better be ready no matter the opponent.”
The Irish return five starters on offense but must replace quarterback Brice Johnson and the entire receiving core.
Dillon Johnson will make the transition from running back to quarterback. Johnson last year rushed 964 yards with seven touchdowns and had 451 yards receiving with five touchdowns.
There will be an change in the Irish offensive schemes with new talent and new players on the roster. One big boost is the addition of running back Trey Benson, who transferred in from O’Bannon after rushing for 1,824 yards with 18 touchdowns last year for the Green Wave.
“We will be going from 85 percent passing to 85 percent running with the backs we have and four offensive linemen back,” Baker said. “Right now, we’re trying to build a passing game. We graduated all five receivers and we’re thin without much depth, so that’s a concern.”
Defensively the Irish have six starters returning and will be led by the front seven, while the secondary took a huge hit with all the starters graduating. Linebacker Darius Motten returns after recording 101 tackles and 11 sacks last year to lead the defense. Vince Taylor (100 tackles, 9 sacks in 2017) also returns at linebacker to help anchor the front seven.
“With the entire defensive line back and two of our top tacklers, I feel good about the front seven,” Baker said. “Concern is secondary with a lot of holes to fill and not much depth on that side.”
NEXT IN LINE
Tri-County Academy: The Rebels have played for the Class AA state championship for the last three years and have come up short all three times. Expectations are always high at TCA and with 11 starters back the Rebels have yet another shot at reaching the goal. Cade Shepherd is back at quarterback along with Greyson Smith at fullback. Hayden Bosarge at running back returns to lead an offense that has five starters back. Trace White returns at defensive end along with Smith and Shepherd at linebacker to lead a defense with six starters returning.
Centreville Academy: As long as Bill Hurst is in charge, the Tigers can never be overlooked. Tyler Thomassie returns at quarterback along with running backs Devon Parrish and Wyatt Brabham to lead a potent rushing attack. Defensive tackle Coleton Peterson returns to anchor the defense along with Parrish and Brabham.
Brookhaven Academy: The Panthers return enough firepower on offense to make a deep playoff run. Dawson Flowers is back at quarterback after throwing for 2,419 yards with 26 touchdowns. His top wide receiver target also returns in Cade Brown. Linebacker Nick Ogden (101 tackles, 2 interceptions in 2017) is back to lead the defense along with linebacker Cole Griffin and defensive backs Justin Burt and Keegan Smith.
- Greenville St. Joe
- Tri-County Academy
- Centreville Academy
- Brookhaven Academy
- Marshall Academy
GAMES TO WATCH
Sept. 21: Tri-County Academy at Newton Co. Academy
Sept. 21: Winona Christian at Marshall Academy
Sept. 28: Centreville Academy at Brookhaven Academy
Oct. 12: Greenville St. Joe at Tri-County Academy
Oct. 19: Marshall Academy at Oak Hill Academy
Even with a new head coach, West Memphis (Ark.) is the favorite to repeat in MAIS Class A.
Marcus Davidson is now the new head coach of the Knights after Darrow Anderson left for Potts Camp.
Patrick Benson returns at quarterback after tossing for 938 yards with 14 touchdowns and also rushing for 1,195 yards with 12 touchdowns.
Malik Barrow is back at running back after rushing for 698 yards with 11 touchdowns to help lead the run-heavy offense.
Matthew Land is back at linebacker to lead the defense along with free safeties Tyler Little and Toni Moore.
Other teams to watch in Class A include Deer Creek, Tunica Academy and Lee (Ark.).
Class A took a hit with Trinity Episcopal closing its school doors along with Desoto (Ark.) and Wilkinson Christian dropping to 8-Man.
- West Memphis (Ark.)
- Deer Creek
- Tunica Academy
- Lee (Ark.)
- Columbus Christian
GAMES TO WATCH
Sept. 14: Lee (Ark.) at Columbus Christian
Sept. 14: Tunica Academy at Deer Creek
Oct. 5: West Memphis (Ark.) at Tunica Academy
Oct. 19: Deer Creek at Columbus Christian
Oct. 26: Tunica Academy at Lee (Ark.)
This classification got a boost over the offseason.
Manchester Academy and Prairie View (La.) dropped from Class AA, while Desoto (Ark.) and Wilkinson Christian fell from Class A due to low numbers.
The Spartans of Prairie View (La.) come in as a favorite with Hayes Crockett returning at quarterback along with wide receivers Hunter Herring and Layton Rainbolt. Austin Carroll and Herring are back at linebackers to lead the defense
Upton Hitt returns at quarterback for Manchester Academy, who has some young talent coming up, to lead the Mavericks.
Defending champion Briarfield (La.) has to replace nearly all of its offensive touchdowns from last year.
Other teams to watch are Marvell (Ark.), Desoto (Ark.) and North Sunflower.
- Prairie View (La.)
- Manchester Academy
- Marvell (Ark.)
- North Sunflower
- Briarfield (La.)
GAMES TO WATCH
Aug. 17: Marvell (Ark.) at Manchester Academy
Aug. 17: Prairie View (La.) at Wilkinson Christian
Sept. 21: Desoto (Ark.) at North Sunflower
Oct. 19: Briarfield (La.) at Prairie View (La.)