Rebels play for 2A State TitleBy JAMES PHILLIPS PHOTO BY BILLY FREEMAN,
During the 2018 Mississippi 2A High School Football playoffs it has become very clear that the Scott Central Rebels are on a championship mission. The way they have played all season long winning 14 out of their 15 games has shown this is a team with lofty goals, but during the playoffs the Rebels have hit their stride and taken it to another level.
The Rebels started the 2018 season with a new head coach and a lot of new faces in the starting line-up, but the returning senior nucleus of this team was left with a bad taste in their mouth after a loss in the 2017 2A North Championship Game cost them the chance to play for the state title. They swore they would do whatever it took not to fall short this season, and thus far they have lived up to it and will play for the state championship against undefeated Taylorsville this Saturday at 3:00 p.m. in Hattiesburg.
When former Rebel standout Devin Cooper accepted the job as head coach at his alma mater, he knew coming in that he was taking the reigns of a very talented team that fell one win short of playing for the state championship in 2017 after an upset loss to Winona. He also knew that his team had work to do because it had graduated a lot of offensive talent from the previous season. Cooper put the team to work hard in early practices and started building what would be the 2018 Scott Central Rebels.
“I knew coming in that we had great leaders, great coaches and an administration that supports this team,” Cooper said. “The returning leaders on this team fell just short of playing for it all last year, they swore they would not let that happen again and that is exactly what you are seeing out on the field.”
“I knew we were going to be tough defensively, but we had some questions that had to be answered on offense,” he said. “I’m very proud how Treyon Wash and Jackie Donald have stepped up all year long to lead our offense and they have truly answered every challenge thrown their way.”
The Rebels responded quickly and coming in to the season it was believed that this team had all the important intangibles required to be a very good team, but it would take time to find out if they could be great. The Rebels started off the year hot and reeled off nine straight wins behind a very strong defensive group led my seniors Hydee Barlow, Navonteque Strong and Vontae McDonald, and an offense that could strike and score at any time from anywhere on the field.
“Our defense has been solid all season long and I feel like the offense has found their identity and really stepped it up to even us out,” Cooper said. Even working through their learning curve the Rebels have averaged 35 points per game this year.
The Rebels were rarely tested during that nine-game win streak, but then on October 19 came a heartbreaking loss and what many believe as the turning point for this team. The Rebels lost 21-19 to then undefeated Pelahatchie, and while every team hates to lose, the loss to Pelahatchie served as a team building moment and a stepping stone for these Rebels. Since the loss in mid-October the Rebels have come together as a team and played better each week.
Since that loss the Rebels convincingly beat Philadelphia on the road to win the district title and have dominated through the first four rounds of the playoffs outscoring opponents 144-20 with their stingy defense pitching two shutouts. This year’s run through the playoffs has been impressive to watch as this team looks to be playing together as one solid team with a single-minded mission to hoist that 2A State Championship trophy come December 1.
“One really great quality about our team is that this is the most unselfish group of football players as I have been around,” said Cooper. “Every player on this team is dedicated to doing whatever it takes to win and is not worried about anything but winning and if you are going to play for the state championship you have to have everyone doing their job.”
By coming together and playing as one the team has answered every challenge and has only one challenge left remaining and that is the Tartars from Taylorsville for the winner take all championship. Cooper said he is doing his best to keep everything as normal as possible, but this is not a normal week by a long shot. “This week is not normal with so much going on and whats on the line Saturday,” he said. “The team that handles all of this the best and focuses on playing football and the game itself will win this thing.”
Taylorsville comes into the championship game with a 15-0 record and has defeated some of the best teams in 2A football on their path to the championship game. The Tartars have a strong defense that can keep them in every game. Cooper said, “Taylorsville is really strong on defense, they are really fast and can cover the whole field really good so this will be a hard fought game.”
This motto for Scott Central Athletics this year is “Chasin Rings” and the football Rebels are doing their job. This Rebel team is looking to earn it’s spot among the best teams to ever play for Scott Central, and has brought back memories of the championship Rebel teams of the early 2000s. This team has been on a championship mission all season and has been playing week-to-week not to get ahead of themselves. Well now it is time to talk championship as this team led by a group of seniors that refuse to go out without a championship have the chance to make that a reality this Saturday with a win over Taylorsville in the 2A State Championship Game.
The game is set to kick off at 3:00 p.m. at M.M. Roberts Stadium on the campus of the University of Southern Mississippi.
Coach Cooper Page 1 Photo by Billy Freeman at the 2A North State Championship game.