Dan Mullen has a plan to build the Mississippi State football program into a winner. The first-year coach said successful recruiting will help the Bulldogs implement that plan and help them return to postseason bowl games, something they have done once (Liberty Bowl, 2007) in the past five years.
An abundance of playmakers has helped the East Mississippi Community College football team climb to No. 2 in the nation. The contributions are coming from the usual places — like All-America sophomore quarterback Randall Mackey — and plenty of unlikely sources, particularly a player with a broken hand.
Southeastern Conference teams know depth in the backfield is crucial. Vanderbilt University is glad to have it. With senior running back Jared Hawkins still unable to do very much in practice with a foot injury, freshmen Zac Stacy and Warren Norman and junior Kennard Reeves have emerged for the Commodores.
ABERDEEN — Fernando Davis has a good memory when it comes to football scores. Davis recalls plenty of results from his playing days at the University of Alabama. But Davis can go back even before that and show off an impressive ability to recall the smallest details from his career as a linebacker at Aberdeen High School.
STARKVILLE — Greg Byrne understands the importance of recruiting for his head coaches. That’s why the Mississippi State Athletic Director believes in keeping coaches’ financial contracts at four years. Byrne has recommended that the contracts of basketball coach Rick Stansbury and baseball coach John Cohen be extended through June 30, 2013. The item on the College Board of Education’s agenda this week still has Stansbury’s contract through June 30, 2012, but Byrne expects it to be extended.
University of North Texas football coach Todd Dodge doesn’t mind going after Mississippi junior college talent. Dodge intends to do plenty of more recruiting there if it means his program will get players like senior offensive guard Gabe Hollivay, who was a standout at Hamilton High School, and junior wide receiver Michael Outlaw, of Starkville. Hollivay transferred from Itawamba Community College, while Outlaw transferred from East Mississippi C.C.
While growing up in Amory, Chris Wilson was a football fan of the University of Mississippi football team. Wilson especially liked Ole Miss when Amory natives Rufus French (tight end, 1996-98) and Joe Gunn (running back, 1998-2001) starred for the Rebels. Wilson aspired to play for the Rebels and was recruited by former Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron. Wilson will be on the field Saturday when the Rebels play host Southeastern Louisiana, but he won’t be in an Ole Miss uniform.
STARKVILLE — Mississippi State appreciates Wade Bonner’s effort. The Bulldogs just want to make sure the sophomore doesn’t get overworked. Not only does Bonner back up Zach Smith at free safety, he also helps out on special teams. Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen likes Bonner’s versatility, but doesn’t want to use him too much.
Three weeks after kicking off the season against one rival, the Lamar County High School football team will play another Thursday night. Lamar County beat South Lamar 61-20 in its season opener and is completing its game plan for its matchup at 7 p.m. Thursday against Sulligent. “It kind of gets you started off right,” Lamar County coach Ken Adams said of the rivalry games. “There’s always a respect factor with either team, but there’s probably more intensity when it comes to the Sulligent game. Nobody here wants to lose to South Lamar, but the community gets even more intense when it comes to the Sulligent game.”
STARKVILLE — Charles Mitchell gave a statement on behalf of the Mississippi State defense Monday. Coming off a 49-24 loss to Auburn University on Saturday, Mitchell expects the Bulldogs to play better.
MABEN — A clogged running lane or a solitary tackler isn’t enough to stand in Josh Poe’s way. If he wants to get to the end zone, he will find a way. Such was the dilemma for the West Oktibbeha High School running back Friday night in overtime against Noxapeter.
STARKVILLE -- The Mississippi State basketball program has had another preseason blow due to injury at the guard position. After sophomore point guard Twany Beckham was lost for the season because of hip surgery in August, it was confirmed by MSU team spokesman Gregg Ellis last week that junior guard Riley Benock will miss up to six weeks following a procedure to repair a stress fracture in his right ankle. Benock, who averaged 2.3 points and 11.4 minutes per game last season, may be recovered enough in time to join the Bulldogs for practice by late October.
STARKVILLE –– Mississippi State receiver Leon Berry knows he and his teammates need to have short memories. With another road game coming up for Mississippi State on Saturday at Vanderbilt, Berry said the Bulldogs need to put a 49-24 loss to Auburn behind them quickly. “We have to forget about this,” Berry said. “We have to get a win (at Vanderbilt).”
STARKVILLE — Black, blue, and green. If West Point High School football coach Chris Chambless had his way, he would rely on a handful of plays and his offensive line and pound away on opponents. When you have a stable of running backs and a shifty quarterback, it’s easy to keep the ball on the ground. On Friday night, West Point used a bruising first-half effort and rolled up 269 yards rushing en route to a 33-13 victory against Starkville.
CALEDONIA — The Nettleton High School football team approached its game Friday against Caledonia with a game plan. Coach Jack Clark knew coming in that the Tigers to wear out the Confederates up front before they could run the football. He said he drilled his team harder on being physical to help his players move the Confederates up front. The strategy paid off in the third quarter as the Tigers shut down the Confederates’ momentum en route to a 29-7 victory.
WEST POINT — The Oak Hill Academy football team held its own against Leake Academy on Friday night, trailing by 12 points at halftime. But the Rebels exploded in the third quarter to quell any thoughts of a Raider comeback and went on to a 38-7 victory. “We came out and played with a sense of urgency,” said Leake Academy coach Billy Pickens, who felt his team was satisfied with a two-touchdown lead. “That’s what we talked about at halftime, coming out with urgency and the impact play.”
MERIDIAN — Heritage Academy first-year football coach Brad Butler walked up to a fan after Friday night’s game against the Lamar School and said, “Mama said there were going to be days like this.” Friday night was a day Butler would just as soon forget, as the Patriots suffered a 49-12 thrashing at the hands of top-ranked Lamar School at Grey Cobb Field. Senior quarterback Witt Haggard and wide receiver Bo Bidgood combined for four touchdown passes to hand the Patriots their first loss in four games this season.
AMORY — There’s nothing like a blowout against a traditional county rival to silence the boo birds. That was the case here Friday as the Class 3A Aberdeen Bulldogs rolled to an impressive 36-3 victory against the Class 4A Amory Panthers. Coming off a 10-3 finish a year ago and ranked No. 3 in The Clarion-Ledger Class 3A preseason poll, Bulldog fans had visions of an unbeaten season and the school’s first state championship.
If the Philadelphia High School football team keeps this up, it might have to change its mascot. The Tornadoes came to Lowndes County for a battle of undefeated teams, but it felt more like a Category-5 hurricane hit the area after they took a 48-0 halftime lead en route to a 48-16 victory against West Lowndes. It took Philadelphia (4-0) 18 seconds to find the end zone, as junior Tyriq Patrick returned the opening kickoff 85 yards to give the Tornadoes a 7-0 lead.
The New Hope High School slow-pitch softball team remains a work in progress. But if the Lady Trojans play defense like they did Saturday afternoon, they just might get another opportunity to play for another state title. Even with only three players getting more than one hit on the day, New Hope still earned 1-0 and 5-2 victories against Quitman in a doubleheader at Lady Trojan Field.
4. Walters column: Noxubee County rarely backs away from challenge HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
5. Central Academy softball looks for return to state tournament HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS