Top 10 Countdown: No. 8 Picayune

Senior running back Austin Samples ran for 668 yards and ten touchdowns last season. (Photo by Chris Brooks)

Checking in at No. 8 in our preseason Top 10 is Picayune. The Maroon Tide reached the 5A state title game a year ago and returns 13 total starters. Cameron Thomas will definitely be missed after rushing for over 3,000 yards but a lot of talent returns on this offense. Cody Stogner enters his first season at the helm, replacing legendary coach Dodd Lee who retired after last year.

No. 8: Picayune Maroon Tide

Head Coach: Cody Stogner

2019 Record: 14-1 (Class 5A Runner-up)

Starters Returning: Offense: 8 Defense: 5

Players to Watch: QB/FS Isaac Hickman; RB/FS Austin Samples; RB/LB Dante Dowdell; RB/LB Dorian Robinson; TE/DE Carson Conner; DL Lawrence Hopkins.

Coach Speak: “The kids know me so I’m in a situation where I’m already familiar with them. We’re not rebuilding, we’re just regrouping in some spots. Offensively we have three interior linemen back so that’s huge for us on how we can run our offense. Losing a 3,000-yard back is hard to replace but we have three guys we’re excited to be handing the ball off too. In our offense we like to control the clock and control the game. Defensively we have our defensive end Carson Conner back as the only starter on the defensive front and we’ll lean on him a lot. We’re going to be a typical Picayune-type team that has four to five guys that play both ways.”

Outlook: The Cody Stogner era begins as he takes over for long-time head coach Dodd Lee but don’t think the Maroon Tide will be making any other major changes as they once again will lean heavily on the run-oriented veer offense. Cameron Thomas, who rushed for 3,517 yards with 48 touchdowns last year, is gone. In steps Austin Samples, Dante Dowdell and Dorian Robinson to lead a rushing attack that averaged 418.4 yards per game in 2019. Quarterback Isaac Hickman also returns as the starter. Defensively, Conner Carson (53 tackles) returns at defensive end along with Lawrence Hopkins (57 tackles, 3 sacks) and linebacker Dorian Robinson (58 tackles, 4 interceptions). Dante Dowdell is another returning starter at linebacker to lead the front seven. Samples and Hickman will anchor the secondary.

Season Opener: Sept. 4 at Meridian.