Copiah enters new season with high hopes in a new division
By James Beasley
The Copiah Academy Colonels are about to enter the unknown. No, we’re not talking about the “Twilight Zone”; instead, it’s the MPSA Division II AAA. And now that CA boasts a total enrollment of approximately 680 students, the Colonels get to play against the “big boys.”
Copiah’s division will consist of only three teams: CA, Oak Forest (LA), and East Rankin. Of those, head coach Scotty Cline considers Oak Forest the team to beat. The top two teams will advance to the playoffs.
“I’m pleased with where we are right now,” Cline said last weekend in his office at the Copiah Academy field house. “We were fortunate to get 20 (preseason) practices in.”
The Colonels had a week of preseason drills at Millsaps College in Jackson and conducted two-a-days in Gallman last week. Other than the “normal bumps and bruises,” the only major injury appears to be Trevor Blocker (elbow), who may be lost for the season.
Coming off a 6-6 season which ended with a loss to Winston Academy in the opening round of the playoffs, Copiah faces a huge challenge in moving up to AAA. “Every year has new challenges,” the coach said, “and this year is no different. The school is doing so well right now. We need to remember that academics comes first. If we can better the school, we need to do it.
“Our goal in football, as always, is to win a state championship,” he continued. “Part of this group has been there, and once you get that feeling, anything less doesn’t satisfy.”
For the Colonels to accomplish their ultimate goal, a lot will have to happen. Several things are already in place. “We had a good summer and everyone reported in good shape,” Cline said. “Plus we have a good group of seniors who are going to provide strong leadership.”
Among them are Bryce Guess, Russ Singleton, Brandon Smith, Hunter Renfroe, Ben Boone, Michael Williams, Steven Upton, Will Davis, BJ Newman, and Rob Pyron. First-time seniors include Houston Brock from Ridgeland and Colton Brown from Byram.
“We also have lots of depth at the skill positions,” Cline noted. “Our biggest concern is the (lack of) depth in the offensive line. We’ve got to stay healthy, especially across the front.
“Offensively, we’re going to be spread-out. We’ll run multiple formations, and our passing game will be 50-50. In Renfroe, we have a senior who is a two-year starter. We need him to really step up.” Other two-year starters include Ben Boone, Bryce Guess, and Rob Pyron.
Returning offensive starters off last year’s team are all seniors: Singleton at wide receiver, Boone at tailback, Renfroe at quarterback, Pyron at guard, and Williams at guard.
Defensively, returning starters include Brandon Smith at defensive end, Upton at tackle, Singleton at cornerback, Guess at linebacker, and junior linebackers Bradley Sharp and Drew Granger. According to Cline, the team is counting heavily on a group of sophomores: fullback/linebacker Devin Harper; tailback/defensive back Kelton Smith, a newcomer from Terry; wide receiver/defensive back Adam Pitts, and guard/defensive end Grey Williams. Another important cog is junior tailback/linebacker Jeremy Newman, who saw lots of action in the backfield at the end of last season and who is a likely defensive starter at outside linebacker.
Others on the varsity roster include juniors Latham Pyron (quarterback/linebacker), Taylor Rigby (wide receiver/defensive back), Trevor Blocker (tight end/defensive end), T.J. Smith (tackle/defensive tackle), and Josh Nelson (tackle/defensive end).
Remaining sophomores are newcomer Barry Blackwell (wide receiver/defensive back), Michael Bagley (wide receiver/defensive back), Peyton Whitehead (tailback/defensive back), newcomer Tabarus Vaughn (tackle/defensive tackle), Asa Newman (center/defensive tackle). Zach Mattingly (tight end/defensive end) is the only freshman on the squad.
Cline’s coaching staff consists of newcomers Barrett Donahoe (offensive coordinator) and Kent Chamblee (defensive assistant) along with assistant Keith Lockhart and volunteer line coach Richard Byrd.
The public will get their first opportunity to see the Colonels during the annual Copiah Football Jamboree this Thursday, August 13, in Gallman. Activities get underway at 5:00 PM, with CA scheduled to face River Oaks at 6:35 and Hillcrest Christian at 8:05. Other teams participating include Newton Academy, Central Hinds, ACCS, East Rankin, and Huntington (LA) Academy.
The regular season opens Friday, August 21, when the Colonels host Riverfield (LA) at 7:00 PM.