Rebels kick off 2019 season with championship rematch

By JAMES PHILLIPS,

The Scott County Times 2019 Gridiron Edition was released today, and just as it does every year, the release of the Gridiron Edition means the start of another season of Mississippi High School Football.

Mississippi is located right in the middle of the “Bible Belt,” and congregating for church is the most important community gathering. Second only to church, congregating on Friday nights for high school football is next most important gathering for Scott Countians.  

All county schools played in jamboree scrimmages last Friday as part of their final preparation for the kickoff of the 2019-2020 football season.

The hot summer practices, weight room sessions and offseason conditioning will now give way to gridiron action because the time has finally arrived for area teams put on the pads, game jerseys and snap the helmet straps tight as the Friday night lights illuminate the skies.

On August 23, the Scott Central Rebels picked up right where they left off last year in the preseason scrimmage. The Rebels defeated Jackson Academy 13-0, before coming away with a 7-7 tie against the Forest Bearcats.

The Rebels are the reigning 2A State Champions, and they earned their way to the top of the mountain in 2A football finishing last season 15-1 after dominating Taylorsville High School in the state championship game.

The first game of the Scott Central’s 2A gauntlet is none other than the Tartars of Taylorsville High School. The Tartar’s are the preseason No. 1 team in 2A, and will be looking to make it back to the state championship for a third year in a row.

Even though Taylorsville is the consensus No. 1 team in Class 2A, don’t count out the defending champs. The Scott Central roster is still very talented, and full of players with lots of game experience.

After losing seniors leaders Hydee Barlow, Navonteque Strong and Vontae McDonald to graduation, Head Coach Devin Cooper, who led the Rebels to a 2A State Championship in his first year as head coach at his alma mater, knows this year’s team is completely different than the Rebels from 2018. 

“We lost some really good football players,” Cooper said. “Those three guys are the ones we leaned on all year, and they helped us win a lot of football games. They were our team leaders and the three leading tacklers on defense, but we have eight starters back on defense and seven starters back on offense so we do have a lot of guys with experience coming in to this season.”

Having players with playing experience will be key this year for the Rebels because of the very tough schedule they face. The Rebels only have four home games, along with six road games at some of the toughest places to play in 2A football.

Because of district shake-ups, Scott Central will travel to Pelahatchie, Union and Philadelphia all for the second year in a row, and each of those teams are ranked in the 2A preseason top-10 rankings. Pelahatchie was the only team to beat the Rebels last year ultimately ending up as SC’s only stumble during the championship season.

Cooper said that this is a completely different team and that they are going to be tested early and often this season. “We have a really tough schedule this year starting week one with Taylorsville. We also have to go to Philly, Union and Pelahatchie which are all tough places to play. It’s going to be tough, but we are going to be battle tested for sure,” he said.

The Rebels return a lot of talent and experience at the skill positions on offense. Quarterback Treyon Wash returns as the field general of the potent Rebel offense after throwing for 1,070 yards with nine TDs and rushing for 917 yards with 12 TDs. Jabrelynn Vivians also returns and will be a busy man in the backfield after rushing for 861 yards with 10 touchdowns last season.

“On offense we return enough skill players that they should be confident with our offensive schemes,” Cooper said. “On defense we have to overcome the guys we lost, but we have some guys that we are looking for them to step-up and fill those big shoes. They will get that chance early on because Taylorsville is really talented on offense, with a very good quarterback so we will get a chance to see how we measure up.”

The championship rematch between Taylorsville and Scott Central was actually agreed on by the coaches during on-field warm-ups prior to last season’s state championship game. “We both had a hole to fill in the schedule and we talked about it on the field before the state championship game in Hattiesburg,” Cooper said. “We actually agreed to play this game that day before we played. Taylorsville is the caliber of team you have to be able to play with in order to compete for state championships in 2A, so this is the type of challenges we want.”

Taylorsville has made the 2A state championship game both of the last two years, and is the early season favorite to make a third trip in a row. The Tartar’s are on to the new season, but one has to wonder if the team has forgotten the loss to Scott Central in 2A finale last December. 

Early season games, especially in the deep South, can be determined by which team can make it through four full quarters without running out of gas. “During the early part of the season the teams that are successful and survive the four-quarter battles win in turnovers, special teams and conditioning, and we are ready to go out and see where our team really is,” Cooper said.

The Scott Central game will kickoff Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. in what is expected to be a standing room only crowd.

The Forest Bearcats are ready to start the 2019 football season after an eventful summer that saw the Bearcats change football coaches two times. The Cats have put that part of the preseason behind them and are ready to get the 2019 season underway.

Bearcats Head Coach Ty Weems has his team ready to travel east on Hwy 80 to Lake for an in-county matchup with the Hornets. Both the Bearcats and the Hornets made the playoffs in 2018, and will look to start the 2019 season strong. Kickoff is scheduled for Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at Death Valley on the LHS campus.

The Sebastopol Bobcats will be on the road to get their 2019 football season underway Friday night. The Bobcats will  travel to Meridian to take on the Clarkdale Bulldogs. Second year head coach Nicky Mooney and his team will look to better the team’s 4-7 record from 2018. In order to get off to a winning start the Bobcats will have to beat a tough Clarkdale team on its home field. The game will kickoff at 7:30 p.m. Friday night at Bulldog Field.

The Morton Panthers, and first year head coach Sean Gerald, will kickoff their 2019 season when they travel to Newton to take on the Newton High School Tigers. MHS will be looking to get back to their winning ways after suffering through two straight losing seasons. MHS lost its preseason scrimmage game last Friday to Magee Trogans which is the No.1 ranked team in 3A football. The MHS Gerald era will get underway this Friday night with the kickoff scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at E.L. Morgan Field in Newton.