By Louie Graves
The numbers are down even more than they were last year; and there are only three seniors on the team roster; but Mineral Springs head coach Jason Burns says this team has a quality more abundant than any squad he’s ever coached.
“This group is tight,” he said, meaning closely connected by friendship and respect.
The Hornets hope to improve upon last year’s 2-7 record in 2015.
“We need to start out better than we did last year,” the fourth-year head coach said.
The Green and Gold return seven starters on both offense and defense, although most of those players go both ways.
“We’ve got a pretty good offensive line,” Burns said, to go with a full stable of talented running backs. The Hornets will also depend upon the run more than the pass.
Junior quarterback Octavian Ceaser played sparingly last year because of an injury, but he’s back. His backup will be sophomore Peyton Haddan, and Burns says he has full confidence in Haddan whose older brother was also a Hornet signal-caller.
Returning running backs Deshawn Compton and Ricky Walker are both hefty ballcarriers who had productive seasons last year.
Receiver Raheem Brown may be the strongest player on the team, “pound for pound.” Other receivers counted upon are junior Dontarius Alexander and sophomore Ray Hawkins, Jr.
Burns describes his defense as “pretty solid,” and senior linebacker Fred Robinson is among a good group playing behind the Hornet defensive line.
Sophomores are coming up from a junior squad which posted a 6-2 record last year. The three seniors on the 2016 Hornet squad are Fred Robinson, wide receiver Kevonte Esters and defensive back Chase Murphy.
After fighting through a tough non-conference slate of Fouke, Strong and Center Point, Burns says the Hornets will not find easier going in conference games. He looks for most of the league teams to be improved, and Mountain Pine has replaced Gurdon in the conference. He says that until they are knocked off, defending champ Mt. Ida is probably the favorite. “Every one of them is tough – it’s like the SEC West.” The other District 7-AA opponents include Dierks, Murfreesboro, Foreman, Lafayette County and Spring Hill.
Burns’s staff includes assistants Gene Strode, John Martin, Reshad Sims and Roy Backus.