Before we put the football season to bed for good, I thought it would be fun to take a quick peek ahead to the 2008 season. I’ve already compiled a very tentative preseason top 5 based on what I know (and I know more about some teams than others). So don’t hold me to this; I guarantee it will change by the time the annual Football Journal publishes on Aug. 24.
1. Tupelo (9-4): The only big concern is replacing RB Ken Davis. A passel of seniors – including WR/KR Chad Bumphis and QB Chris Garrett – are back and could give South Panola and Olive Branch a run.
2. Itawamba AHS (11-2): The Indians’ only major loss is QB Bret Jefcoat, a Louisiana Tech commit, but his replacement is supposed to be pretty dang good. Maikhail Miller is a 6-2, 200-pound rising sophomore who coach Jamie Mitchell said throws as well as Jefcoat.
3. Lafayette Co. (8-3): The Commodores return most of their starters, including QB Montez Phillips. Coach Anthony Hart has proved his mettle, and he’s as intense a competitor as I’ve ever seen.
4. Shannon (10-2): QB Michael Ledbetter and WR/DB Arceto Clark are gone, but much returns. WR William Green, RB Keon McGaughy and most of the defense will make the Red Raiders contenders again.
5. West Point (11-2): Every year I think West Point is going to slack off, and every year the Green Wave’s football mill churns out more talent. DB/WR Michael Carr will be one of the state’s top juniors.
1. Aberdeen (9-4): This season was no fluke, and Daily Journal Coach of the Year Chris Duncan returns a lot of talent that isn’t so raw anymore. QB Marcus Hinton could make an argument for being the best at his position in NeMiss next fall.
2. Bruce (9-3): Daily Journal Offensive Player of the Year Richard Freelon will try to top his remarkable 2007 campaign, when he rushed for 2,536 yards and 33 TDs. The Trojans will return nine starters on offense and 10 on defense.
3. Corinth (9-5): The Warriors just got better as the season wore on, reaching the Class 3A North final, and a lot of guys who gained valuable experience are back. Among them are QB/DB Zerrick Payne and stud LB Markell Lee. And don’t forget RB Hubert Crawford, who was averaging well over 100 ypg before being injured four games in.
4. Baldwyn (10-3): The Bearcats will again be deep at the skill positions – see: WR Dorian Berry, RB Jaymel Tyes, RB Xzadrian Shelley – and will again be big up front.
5. Ripley (12-1): Yes, the Tigers are losing a ton of seniors. Got two words for you: Mac McCurry. He could wring water from a rock.