It didn’t take long for Jefferson Davis County to become king of Class 3A. But can they have an encore in 2018?
Coming off a state championship season in the first year as a school, the Jaguars return just nine starters from last year’s team that finished 15-1.
“This year’s team will be like taking a bunch of babies to the prom,” said Jefferson Davis County coach Lance Mancuso. “We got a lot of momentum heading into the season and obviously our kids are excited, and the young guys are anxious.”
Offensively, the Jaguars took a big hit during spring practice when running back Jafharis McKines tore his ACL and will miss the season. JDC also had an offensive lineman tear an ACL and is out for the year.
Quarterback Lyric Hall returns to lead the offense after throwing for 833 yards with seven touchdowns and also three rushing touchdowns.
Kyser Booth, Deandre Shorts and Ricky Griffith are back to anchor the fierce rushing attack that averaged 352.1 yards per game last year. Griffith is coming off a season-ending leg injury he suffered last year in the second quarter of the first game.
“With us losing two starters in the spring for the year is a setback, but we feel good about our offense and the leadership is strong,” Mancuso said. “We have to replace four of the five offensive linemen so that is a concern.”
Defensively is where JDC was built last year, but with only four starters back there will be some growing pains on that side of the ball.
Linebackers Marcus Middleton (62 tackles, 10 sacks in 2017) and Zion Hathorn (57 tackles, 4 sacks) return to anchor the defense. The secondary will also be a strength for the Jaguars.
“Defense was a strong point for us last year, but this year we just have to improve each week,” Mancuso said. “That’s a hungry bunch on that side of the ball but we just don’t have enough game experience yet. Our region will be a huge challenge for us and I think 3A South is wide open.”
NEXT IN LINE:
North Panola: The Cougars are coming off the best year in school history going 13-1 and reaching the Class 3A North State Championship game. Quarterback and Arkansas commit K.J. Jefferson returns after passing for 3,028 yards with 36 touchdowns. He also rushed for 1,325 yards with eight touchdowns. With seven starters back on offense (most being the offensive line and Jefferson) the Cougars look to be a run-first team with Jefferson, Carl Robinson and Clarence Taylor. North Panola graduated their four top wide receivers, so that’s the concern. Defensively, the Cougars only return four starters and lost all three linebackers, so that is an additional challenge. The secondary will be the strong point on defense with Quardarius Jones (65 tackles in 2017) and Tyler Shorter (six interceptions last year) returning to lead the back end.
Tylertown: The Chiefs are coming off an 8-5 season where they reached the second round of the Class 3A playoffs. They have seven starters returning on both sides of the ball and look to make the next step. Jashon Baker returns at quarterback to lead the offense after throwing for 852 yards with seven touchdowns last year. Javonte Walker is expected to lead the rushing attack after rushing for 243 yards with four touchdowns in 2017. Defensively the Chiefs majority of the front seven that’ll be led by linebackers Stephen Tisdale and Jalen Williams.
Hazlehurst: The days without Tim Steward begins for the Indians, who are coming off a 11-3 season and a trip to the Class 3A South State Championship game. Hazlehurst has six starters back on offense and have Jahem James moving from running back to quarterback. JaQuan Copeland is back at wideout. The Indians might throw the ball more than usual. Defense is where Hazlehurst took a hit with just four starters back on that side of the ball. The front seven will lead the defense led by defensive linemen Darion Munson and Copeland is back to anchor the secondary after recording 12 interceptions last year.
Forest: The Bearcats finally got past the second-round playoff hump but got eliminated in the third round by Hazlehurst. The Indians have ended Forest’s season each of the last three seasons. The Bearcats bring back eight starters on offense that’ll be led by quarterback Jacob Brooks and running back Paul Hughes. Ole Miss commit Diwun Black (83 tackles, 3 interceptions in 2017) is back safety to lead a defense that returns five starters.
Houston: Hilltoppers are anxious to get the 2018 season started after seeing how their season ended last year on the last play of the game against Yazoo County in the third round of the Class 3A playoffs. Houston will have to replace Urriah Shepherd at quarterback and have a couple of guys battling in Gage Arrington and Kevin Diaz. The Hilltoppers have enough playmakers around the quarterback to relieve the pressure. Jalen May returns at wide receiver after having 415 yards receiving with three touchdowns last year and might play some quarterback this year. Bobby Townsend returns to anchor the running game. Defense is where Houston has the most experience back with nine starters returning. Defensive tackle Rish Alford returns after recording 69 tackles and 22 sacks last year. Linebacker Allen Robertson (12 sacks in 2017) will anchor the front seven. Zy Tumblin and May will anchor the secondary.
Charleston: For the first time in the last four years the Tigers didn’t reach the Class 3A state championship game. There are 12 starters returning to help Charleston back to the top after falling to North Panola in the second round of the playoffs last year. The question mark on offense will be the quarterback play, but the bright spot is the Tigers return the entire offensive line and have Ole Miss commit and ATH De’Antre Prince back. Prince had 401 yards rushing with six touchdowns and had 352 yards receiving with five touchdowns. Quynn Crawford (775 yards rushing, 3 touchdowns in 2017) will return at running back. Defensively the Tigers have six starters back and majority of those is in the front seven led by defensive tackle Alfernee Hankins.
West Marion: After reaching the second round of the 3A playoffs last year the Trojans are very optimistic in 2018. Jeremiah Holmes returns at quarterback to lead the offense after passing for 1,887 yards with 18 touchdowns. Holmes rushed for 487 yards with nine touchdowns last year. Adryane James returns at running back along with two of the top receivers from last year in Dontavious McGowan and Qavonte Swanigan. Defensive end Pat Martin (104 tackles in 2017), along with defensive tackle Blaten Norris (82 tackles), will anchor the front seven. Free safety Ott Mitchell and Holmes will anchor the secondary.
Choctaw County: Chargers are coming off a 10-3 season in 2017 that included a Region 4-3A title and reached the third round of the Class 3A playoffs. Choctaw County must replace Austin Telano at quarterback, but has key guys returning to anchor the run-heavy offense. Laterrion McBride returns at running back after rushing for 729 yards with 12 touchdowns. Kaleb Nichols and Tyler Holman also will get carries. Linebacker Israel Whitemore (108 tackles) returns to anchor the front seven, while Rakeim Ashford, Ques McNeal and Andrew Johnson return to anchor the secondary.
Yazoo County: The Panthers are coming off the best season in school history, reaching the Class 3A state championship game. One big question mark is how to replace Kenny Gainwell at quarterback? Cormon Rucker and Kobe Fisher will battle for the quarterback spot, while Kory Gainwell is the most experienced back returning after rushing for 239 yards with four touchdowns last year. Defense is where the Panthers will lean on early with almost its entire defense returning. Six of the top seven leading tacklers are back led by linebackers Kendarian Dixon (158 tackles, 5 and a half sacks last year) and Ben Luckett (141 tackles, 6 sacks in 2017). Defensive tackle Tredarius Carr (66 tackles, team high 14 sacks last year) returns as well. Kory Gainwell will lead the secondary.
Winona: The Tigers are coming off a year where they reached the Class 2A state championship game but move up to 3A after consolidating with Montgomery County. They will play in South 3A and compete in Region 5-3A. Winona has a lot of optimism heading into 2018 with 17 starters back. Andarius Coffey will be the new quarterback and will have plenty of weapons to spread the ball around too. Jalen Campbell returns at running back after rushing for 657 yards with eight touchdowns, while Jay Lofton and Chris Olton will be the top wide outs. Defensively the Tigers return eight starters that will be led by Campbell at linebacker after recording 109 tackles and three sacks in 2017. Garrett Ables along with Olton and Coffey will anchor the secondary.
- North Panola
- Jefferson Davis County
- West Marion
- Choctaw County
- Yazoo County
GAMES TO WATCH
Sept. 7: Winona at Forest
Sept. 28: Jefferson Davis County at Tylertown
Sept. 28: Magee at Velma Jackson
Oct. 5: Choctaw County at Houston
Oct. 12: North Pontotoc at Booneville
Oct. 19: Columbia at West Marion
Oct. 25: Charleston at Yazoo County
Oct. 26: Water Valley at North Panola