Top 10 Countdown: No. 9 Laurel

Laurel senior quarterback Dexter Scott (16). Photo by Chris Brooks

Laurel checks in at No. 9 in our preseason Top 10 after recording back-to-back ten-win seasons with a 20-7 record over that time. Ryan Earnest inherits a squad that reached the second round of the playoffs a year ago and returns 13 total starters.

No. 9: Laurel Golden Tornadoes

Head Coach: Ryan Earnest

2019 Record: 10-3 (Class 5A Second Round)

Starters Returning: Offense: 8 Defense: 5

Players to Watch: ATH Xavier Evans; WR Kanarius Johnson; QB Dexter Scott; WR Kiron Benjamin; WR Tyrone Jones; LB Jeremy Porter; DL Ashun Pruitt; DL Rashad Love; DB Rontavious Thomas.

Coach Speak: “The good thing about being here for a year, the kids know me already. Offensively we feel really good about that side of the ball. We moved Xavier Evans to running back in the middle of the year last season and Dexter Scott stepped in at quarterback and did a really good job. Dexter has worked really hard and has developed so much. Kanarius Johnson is a big-play threat at wide receiver and we’re expected big things out of him this season. Defensively we have big shoes to fill. Up front we are expecting big things out of Jeremy Porter at linebacker. He’s gonna be special. Rontavious Thomas returns in the secondary to lead that group. We will be a typical Laurel defense which is very big and can run to the football.”

Outlook: Laurel will usher in the Ryan Earnest era after Todd Breland resigned after eight seasons in January. Earnest spent last season as the offensive coordinator for Laurel and like always there are very high expectations. Offensively the Golden Tornadoes return a lot of firepower that averaged 31.5 points per game. Xavier Evans returns after passing for 1,562 yards with 16 touchdowns and also rushing for another 1,503 yards with 15 touchdowns. Evans split time at quarterback and running back last year but will be primarily used at running back this year. Dexter Scott has made huge improvement over the last two years at quarterback. Scott tossed for 371 yards with five touchdowns last year. Four-star wide out Kanarius Johnson will be a big-play threat on the outside after recording 714 yards receiving with eight touchdowns in 2019. Tyrone Jones and Kiron Benjamin will also be key factors in the passing game. Defensively, promising sophomore Jeremy Porter (70 tackles, 3 fumble recoveries, 2 sacks, 2 interceptions last year) returns at linebacker along with defensive tackles Ashun Pruitt and Rashad Love to lead the front seven. Defensive back Rontavious Thomas (5 interceptions in 2019) is back to anchor the secondary.

Season Opener: Sept. 4 at Hattiesburg.