Football Notes

Photo by C. Todd Sherman

A NeMiss player will start at quarterback Thursday night for the North in the Bernard Blackwell Football Classic (7 p.m. at Mississippi College). The question is, which one?

As of Tuesday afternoon, Starkville’s Brad Henderson appeared to have the edge over Shannon’s Michael Ledbetter, which is a bit surprising. Henderson had a solid year, completing 53 percent of his throws for about 1,500 yards, but his numbers don’t stack up against Ledbetter’s –  2,705 yards and 27 touchdowns.

“I think if things don’t change, Brad will start, and that’ll probably be somewhat of a surprise,” said North head coach Jamie Mitchell, who as Itawamba AHS coach the past two years has seen plenty of Ledbetter. “He’s handled under center and in the gun a little better than Mike has. … I think Brad’s just a very polished quarterback.”

Henderson, an East Mississippi CC signee, wasn’t even on the roster until Clinton’s Wesley Mounger backed out. Starkville coach Bill Lee isn’t surprised that Henderson will start.

“Brad’s a pretty good quarterback,” Lee said. “If you remember, he had great stats his junior year. We were four-wide and had those speedsters out there.”

Shumpert and MSU
William Shumpert, Mitchell’s star defensive lineman and fullback at IAHS, verbally committed to Mississippi State earlier this week. The 2007 Daily Journal Defensive Player of the Year will play offense in Starkville. At 6-foot, 230 pounds, he’s built for that role.

“I think his size pushes him toward playing fullback,” Mitchell said. “But he may get a shot on the other side of the ball as well.”

Shumpert’s commitment came after he attended a camp there last weekend. As a junior, he made 84 tackles and 13 sacks.

DeSoto gets burned
DeSoto Central’s stadium sustained damage after two kids set the bleachers on fire last Friday. The Jaguars will likely have to play some home games at an alternate site until the damage is fully repaired.

“I was absolutely stunned that a fire could do that much damage to those aluminum bleachers,” Ken Reid, the school’s assistant superintendent for business, told the Commercial-Appeal.

DeSoto Central, which competes against Tupelo and Starkville in Division 1-5A, opens the season at Bruce on Aug. 29. Its first home game is scheduled for Sept. 5 against Byhalia.

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Thrasher Has a Coach, Again

Thrasher has a new football coach. Shannon McGregory is expected to receive approval tonight at a special school board meeting. He replaces Jeff Boren, who backed out of the job four days after taking it.

McGregory comes from Sheffield (Ala.) High, his alma mater. He was offensive coordinator there since 2004. This will be his second head post; he was 30-44 in seven years at Colbert Heights in Tuscumbia, Ala.

The 39-year-old played football at Northeast Mississippi CC and North Alabama.

Read more on this story in Thursday’s Daily Journal.

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Odds and Ends

Raise your hand if you stayed up to watch the end of the All-Star Game last night … well, I did. Nice send-off for Yankee Stadium.

No overriding theme today, just some tidbits. We covered the Booneville-Tupelo American Legion game yesterday as well as the Pros of Tomorrow golf tournament. Tomorrow night is the Bernard Blackwell Football Classic, which I’ll cover. I will preview the game in Thursday’s Daily Journal with a focus on Okolona’s Willie Grady.

I’d like to update y’all on the Thrasher football situation, but I’m playing phone tag with Prentiss County super Matt Smith. Poor guy hasn’t had a very relaxing summer. In softball news, Kossuth is halfway done replacing the departed Alan Wood. Baseball coach Steve Lyles will coach slow-pitch this fall, but the fast-pitch position is still vacant.

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Link of the Day

Photo by Deste Lee

Lafayette County quarterback Montez Phillips has reneged on his commitment to Mississippi State, sort of. He made his commitment a couple of days ago, but it sounds to me like he’s got some folks in Oxford pulling on him. He said he’s now a “soft commitment” to MSU – which is like telling your girlfriend you want to get married, but let’s see other people.

Phillips’ stock has risen a lot in the past year, even though his 2007 numbers weren’t eye-popping: 834 yards, 7 TDs rushing; 958 yards, 9 TDs passing with a 50 percent completion rate. He’s being recruited as a wide receiver by MSU, but Ole Miss says it wants him as a QB.

He’s definitely a great athlete. I know he wants to make his decision before the season starts, which makes sense, but he better be sure next time. One interesting thing Phillips said is that he wanted to “get out of town” when he went to college. Wouldn’t be the first time the Rebels let a local talent get away, but maybe Houston Nutt will snag this one.

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Coaches: Who Can Win?

So here we are, 20 days until August drills begin, and the football coaching carousel is still slowly turning, but with a creaking sound. Okolona finally got a new coach in place, Marty Warren. Thrasher, however, lost its new hire; Jeff Boren backed out of the job.

The longer it takes, the harder it’s going to be for Thrasher to find a quality coach. Most guys aren’t looking for a job in mid-July. As for Okolona, Warren will be hard-pressed to make this into a playoff team on such short notice, especially playing in Division 1-1A.

This has me wondering which new coach has the best chance to succeed. Based solely on the teams themselves, I’d go with Justin Hollis of Vardaman. He’s a first-time head coach, but the Rams are always strong and have plenty of returning talent from last year’s 8-4 squad. The man he replaced, Mark Bray, is now at South Pontotoc and is the most proven of the new hires. But South Pontotoc was 1-9 last year, and simply making the playoffs is a big deal for the Cougars (they’ve never won a playoff game).

The most highly touted new coach is New Albany’s Ron Price, who was already on staff as an assistant to Bubba Davis (now at Columbus). He was hired in January and has had plenty of time to establish himself with players. I say he’s the most highly touted because of all the good things I’ve heard about him from different people.

Among the private schools, Tupelo Christian is in good shape with Aubrey Boren (no relation to Jeff). The Eagles will have their first senior class this year and should improve upon last year’s 5-6 mark.

Most of the area’s eight new coaches are taking over programs in need of a boost. Will one of them be able to pull off the kind of turnaround that Chris Duncan did at Aberdeen last season? If anyone can, it’d be Bray.

I’m afraid that for Thrasher, it’ll be another tough year, no matter who’s coach.

Here’s the rundown on the new hires:

• Aubrey Boren, Tupelo Christian
• Mark Bray, South Pontotoc
• Jack Clark, Nettleton
• Leroy Gregg, Oak Hill Aca.
• Justin Hollis, Vardaman
• Ron Price, New Albany
• Brian Sims, Starkville Aca.
• Marty Warren, Okolona

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Green Wave: Full of Confidence

Photo by C. Todd Sherman

First order of business: the North swept the Mississippi Association of Coaches All-Star Basketball Games on Saturday in Clinton. The boys won 105-99, while the girls romped 96-73.

I spoke with West Point football coach Chris Chambless (pictured above) on Friday. I’d been wanting to ask him about Markell Lee, the stud linebacker who transferred from Corinth. The rising senior was a Daily Journal All-Area first-teamer last year, but Chambless has never seen film on him and isn’t altering any preseason preparations on his account.

“Right now, we’re not even counting on him,” Chambless said. “It’s just going to be a bonus if we do get him.”

Chambless has spoken with Lee, an Ole Miss commit who has attended some summer workouts. Lee previously attended West Point until ninth grade.

Chambless was already confident about the Green Wave’s prospects for this season, despite the fact that only five starters total return from last year’s Division 4-4A champion. The entire offensive line, which featured two all-staters last year, is being replaced. Chambless said there is plenty of talent, it’s just untested.

“I couldn’t even begin to make a prediction on how we’ll be,” he said. “We are talented, there’s no question about that. It’s just if we can put it all together.”

One place West Point won’t be hurting is quarterback. Junior Michael Carr, a standout defensive back the past two seasons, will step into the role. A super athlete, he fits the mold of his run-first predecessors; and like those QBs, he can pass when needed.

Carr has been doing some 7-on-7 this summer, and he threw three touchdown passes in the first half of West Point’s spring game.

“We’re going to throw the ball 7-10 times a game,” Chambless said, “and we’re going to be real efficient when we do.”

What gives Chambless the most confidence, though, is an intangible. Already, he sees the kind of team chemistry that can take a team far, with or without Markell Lee.

“The kids are very supportive of each other, whether it be in the classroom, weightroom, inside the locker room,” Chambless said. “They get along better than any I’ve had since I’ve been here. You always have your problems, but it makes it a lot easier to solve those problems when everybody gets along.”

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Link of the Day

Ah, modern American ingenuity! Take someone else’s idea, perfect it, and make a killing. That’s what a Texas man did with his product, Put-In-Cups.

You’ve seen cups stuck in chain link fences to spell out words, right? Like, “Go Tigers.” Well, this fella “invented” square, durable cups and is selling them by the box. They come in different colors, so you can design a likeness of your mascot. Pretty cool. Wish I’d thought of it.

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