May 21, 2009
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
Progress won''t be measured for real until at least three months -- and for some teams it will be even longer than that.
But Chris Duncan, Bubba Davis, and M.C. Miller all came away impressed Saturday with the performances of their football teams in their spring finales.
Aberdeen High defeated South Delta 30-0, Columbus beat Yazoo City 18-0, and Noxubee County blanked Provine 6-0 in scrimmages in Jackson.
The efforts left Aberdeen and Noxubee County with the confidence that they could remain in the Class 3A and Class 4A state title pictures in 2009.
Columbus'' victory helped it conclude its spring work with the feeling that it is ready to forget a 1-10 finish last season and build a fresh start.
None of the coaches, though, want their players to get too full of themselves.
That might be a challenge for Duncan, whose team already is being pegged by some to be the favorite to win Class 3A in 2009.
Aberdeen''s case should be buoyed by the fact that two-time defending Class 3A state champion Louisville has moved up Class 4A.
Aberdeen (11-3) lost twice to Louisville last season, including a 41-21 decision in the North Half State title game.
The Bulldogs still will have to find a replacement for quarterback Marcus Hinton, but Duncan liked what he saw from rising senior Aaron Andrews, who is expected to take over for Hinton.
"Quarterback is one of our big questions, and I really think Aaron did a heck of a job. He looked really good," Duncan said.
Andrews played wide receiver and linebacker last season. He has served as the backup the past two seasons, and he figures to inherit a talented offense if he gets the starting nod.
Aberdeen also should have rising senior running back Jamerson Love, who is attracting interest from Southern Miss among others, back with a talented group of wide receivers that includes Erik Buchanan, Rashad Pargo, and Mario Lucas.
Duncan said Andrews, who is 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, might give the Bulldogs a better chance to utilize all of those weapons.
"He has a real good arm, and a very explosive arm," Duncan said. "He still has some things to learn, but I think he is faster than Hinton and I think he has a better arm than Hinton. I think he has an extra gear, so he is a threat (to run the football). I think we will be very unpredictable as to who is going to get the ball."
Duncan said the test for Andrews will be to see how he performs under pressure. He said Hinton was so successful because he knew how to react quickly when things broke down.
Defensively, Duncan said the Bulldogs tackled better and ran to the ball well. He feels the players are listening better and are more physical, which are byproducts of having been in the system for several seasons.
With only three or four graduation losses to replace, Duncan feels the 2009 team could be solid. But he knows the team will have to work hard and remain focused because it won''t sneak up on anyone and it will face high expectations all season.
"We''re still a long ways from (winning a state title)," Duncan said. "There are a lot of good teams in Class 3A. I am pleased with the progress that we made, but we still have a ways to go."
Davis knows how Duncan feels.
Last season was trying in many ways for the veteran coach, his assistant coaches, and his players.
But a solid offseason of weight training has increased the team''s overall strength and confidence.
Those traits came through in resounding fashion in practice, as the Falcons enjoyed a hard-hitting spring.
They capped the two-week stretch with an effort against Yazoo City that impressed Davis.
"I thought we played very, very well," Davis said. "I felt like that was the best we have played since I have been here."
Davis credited his players for playing with intensity and his coaches for doing a great job of coaching the kids.
"This might have been one of the best springs I have had as a coaching staff," Davis said. "The coaches went out every day and did an excellent job."
Now the trick is to carry that effort through the summer and into the 2009 season.
Davis said rising junior Randy Brown, who handled the majority of the quarterback duties last season, looked good splitting time at tailback and quarterback. He rushed nine times for 48 years.
Jamie Taylor rushed for 56 yards on four carries, and rising junior Jaquadious Green also carried the ball four times for 23 yards.
Rising sophomore Cedric Jackson was 6 of 16 for 120 yards and two touchdowns to Dontae Jones (four catches, 86 yards).
Davis said the Falcons, who performed well in seven-on-seven camps last fall, went to the spread offense in the second half against Yazoo City and played well.
Davis also praised the efforts of offensive linemen Ricky Knox, Zach Thomas, Casey Williams, Denzel Baker, and Justin Verner.
Defensively, Tevin Harris had an interception and was in on three tackles, Chris Jackson had four tackles, Tim Hudgins had three tackles and caused a fumble, Ian Williams caused a fumble, recovered a fumble, and had two tackles, and Caleb Richardson had three tackles and recovered a fumble.
"It was good to end on a big positive," Davis said. "Now we get into our summer workout and see if we can get them ready to get after it this fall."
Davis said it was important to finish strong because the team didn''t have a lot of success last season. He hopes the lessons learned from the offseason and the spring game will give everyone plenty to build on when the team gets back together.
"Yazoo City was somebody we thought would test us, and I think the kids responded real well," Davis said. "We had something good to happen to us, and, hopefully, it will make us work harder in the offseason. When August gets here, we will have to play in three weeks, so we''re going to have to have had a good summer workout to be ready to play."
Miller knows what it means to face high expectations.
Noxubee County entered last season intent on forgetting its loss to Laurel in the Class 4A state title game. All season it had a bull''s eye on its back as the "team to beat," and it didn''t disappoint, edging D''Iberville to win the championship.
This season, the expectations remain even though Miller and his coaches lost standout wide receiver Patrick Patterson and at least 13 other players who received offers to play football in college.
Miller said Shaunessy Roby and Jared Johnson played well at quarterback. He said they committed typical mistakes for a spring game and should have plenty of time in the offseason to get comfortable in an offense that will look to rising senior wide receiver Vincent Sanders to emerge as one of the state''s best players.
Sanders caught a touchdown pass from Roby for the only score against Provine.
"We made a lot of mistakes, but we''re going to get that straightened out. As a whole I was pleased with them," Miller said. "I think we will be all right when we get used to what we''re doing."
Miller said Noxubee County will be small on defense but that it will be pretty quick and plenty aggressive.
"We''re going to be pretty small compared to what we were last year," Miller said. "But our offensive line is going to be pretty big."
Miller said his goal is not to play his offensive linemen both ways to keep them fresh. To do tat, he said players will have to emerge in the offseason to help the team develop the depth it will need to make another run at a state title.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.