Buddy Stephens knew the East Mississippi Community College football team hadn't had a lot of success before he took the job.
He didn't care.
Inside the Game: Columbus-Noxubee County
MACON -- Regardless of the score, Columbus High School senior free safety Hezekiah Manigo signed up for four quarters of work Friday night.
"This team will always keep battling," Manigo said. "That has become our battle cry this year. We are a different team. On defense, we take pride in working hard for four quarters. We didn't do our job right in the second half. It doesn't matter how many things go wrong in a game. We have to keep fighting to keep the other team out of the end zone.
SCOOBA -- East Mississippi Community College freshman running back Jacquez Horsley has never doubted his athletic ability.
He has doubted whether he could stay healthy enough to realize the depth of that talent.
Injuries put a major damper on each of Horsley's final two seasons at Starkville High School. Those setbacks also might have played a role in his lack of major Division I offers, so signing with the state of Mississippi's premier junior college program was in his words "a chance to re-start my career."
The opening act of the new career was a smash hit.
SCOOBA -- Having played football his entire life, East Mississippi Community College defensive lineman Ronald Ollie knows the length of a football field.
However, Ollie had never really thought about how much of that field he could cover with the other team in pursuit in live action.
Ollie returned a fumble 24 yards for the go-ahead touchdown Thursday night at Sullivan-Windham Field. From there, the floodgates opened as No. 1 EMCC beat Southwest Mississippi C.C. 69-20 in the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) season opener for both teams.
West Point High School football coach Chris Chambless is aware of his community's expectations for the program.
After all, Chambless, his staff, and his former teams are a big reason for the expectations.
"It really doesn't matter who we line up against on a Friday night, folks expect us to win," Chambless said. "Players want to be a part of this program because of the past success. There is an expectation. There is an excitement. We understand that. That is why it is a privilege to coach here and play here, to back that tradition."
SCOOBA -- East Mississippi Community College sophomore running back D.J. Law admits he was disappointed when Division I football wasn't in his immediate post-high school future.
The hurt lingered for a while. After a couple of months, he decided it was best to make the most of his new football home.
EMCC reaped the immediate rewards of that decision.
New Hope High School senior catcher Will Godfrey quickly recalls his favorite memory from the 2015 prep baseball season.
"The home run against Oxford was my No. 1 memory," Godfrey said. "It was amazing I was the one that hit it. I was happy. However, I would have been happy had any other player on the team hit it as well. That was just the type of team we had. Everybody was in it together."
Kylin Hill admits his eyes light up when he sees a ball coming in his way on a kickoff.
Columbus High School football coach Randal Montgomery slowly made changes to his new program last season.
FULTON -- Ladarius Gallion figured out quickly what it was going to take to excel in college.
"I had to get bigger, faster, and stronger," said Gallion, a former standout at West Point High School who is now sophomore
defensive lineman on the Itawamba Community College football team. "In high school, you are the big guy. Here, you are simply one of the big guys. I slimmed down a lot and put the weight where it needed to be most. You learn so much when you play junior college ball. It's an exciting time knowing your sophomore year is your last year here, so it's a big year."
The New Hope Jamboree again proved a huge success Friday and Saturday at Davis Wade Stadium.
One can't read too much into the results on the field. Only one half of varsity ball was played. A lot of coaches experimented with new players in new positions.
When the games count for real, you will see different mind-sets and philosophies from just about everyone.
However, with any type of physical activity, some observations can be made.
SCOOBA -- D.J. Law didn't grasp the concept of perfection when he arrived at East Mississippi Community College.
Now he understands.
"It's all about perfection," said Law, a sophomore running back and a native of Haines City, Florida. "We may stop a drill at noon and come back at 9:30 that night and do the same thing. We do everything in this program the right way. We will do something over and over and over until we find perfection. Great is not good enough. It's perfection."
De'Andre Johnson, the former Florida State University quarterback dismissed from that team after video surfaced showing him punching a woman, will not play for the East Mississippi Community College football team this fall.
STARKVILLE -- The New Hope High School football team found its offensive rhythm late Friday night in the New Hope Jamboree.
New Hope scored two touchdowns in the final 2 minutes, 38 seconds to rally past Amory 14-10 in the opening game of the two-day, seven-game event at Mississippi State's Davis Wade Stadium.
Each game included the varsity squads playing a regulation half and junior varsity squads playing a 20-minute half with a running clock.
STARKVILLE -- West Point High School sophomore Marcus Murphy admitted he was a little nervous before making his first start at quarterback Saturday night.
The offensive line then did its job, Murphy found the end zone, and the nerves went away.
Murphy rushed for two touchdowns and finished with 160 rushing yards as West Point rallied past Kosciusko 21-14 at the New Hope Jamboree at Mississippi State's Davis Wade Stadium.
Eric Spann felt pretty good Saturday afternoon.
The Aberdeen High School first-year head football coach had just experienced a series of emotions in his debut with the Bulldogs.
Aberdeen played well offensively, even though a couple of turnovers stopped critical drives. On defense, Aberdeen excelled with a pair of goal-line stands in the final quarter with the game on the line.
In the end, it was still a tie.
Kylin Hill spent the summer learning.
Columbus High School second-year football coach Randal Montgomery has seen a transformation in one of his star players.
When the lights go on Friday night at Davis Wade Stadium, the 2015 prep football season will be upon us.
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