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Scholarship day breaks out smiles

Wednesday was a beautiful day in Brookhaven and the MagnoliaState. National Signing Day dawned bright and cold. As the sunclimbed in the eastern sky, the solar rays steadily warmed theearth.

By afternoon, smiling faces of proud parents and wide grins ofscholarship signees had provided photographers with numerouspleasant pictures. In the Brookhaven High School field house, BHSathletic director and head football coach Tucker Peavey happilytook turns posing with the families of Marlon Dixon, T.J. Quallsand Orlandas Chapman.

The Ole Brook trio had signed football scholarships withcommunity colleges. Dixon is headed for Co-Lin. Qualls and Chapmanare destined for Southwest. Bragging rights currently belong to theSouthwest Bears who have kicked Co-Lin’s Wolfpack two straightyears.

Shucks, it’s just an arch rivalry but folks do take itseriously, especially on the football field. Ask State and Ole Missfans.

Beneath all the hoopla, predictions and projections is thebottom line. These scholarships do provide an education for theyoung athletes. They can be a spring board to bigger and betterthings, too.

At Co-Lin, head football coach Glenn Davis has won just twogames in two years but the senior scholarship opportunities stillbeckon to those players who are dedicated to their task.

For example, Co-Lin’s big offensive lineman, J.D. Hamilton ofNatchez, has landed two more years of scholarship with MississippiState. Defensive end Ryland Wilson is headed to MarshallUniversity, and offensive linemen Rex Hill and Damien Jones havesigned with Central Florida and Louisiana-Lafayetterespectively.

Since the Mississippi Association of Community/Junior Collegesinstituted a protected list for in-district players who areprospective scholarship signees, the recruiting battle hasintensified. Each sport is allowed to protect a certain number ofplayers. For example, football can protect 22 in-districtplayers.

Unprotected players are up for grabs. Large population districtareas like Hinds and the Gulf Coast usually have plenty ofunprotected players available. It becomes a matter of recruitingintelligence, namely tips from high school coaches and alumni,etc.

Southwest Mississippi Community College head football coach DomGreen is a firm believer in recruiting unprotected players.According to Green, 22 of his former signees who were unprotectedin other districts have signed senior college scholarships aftertwo years of football at Southwest.

That’s a great recruiting tool.

Green picked up two talented players from Brookhaven that Co-Lindidn’t protect. Defensive back Orlandas Chapman and linebacker T.J.Qualls were stalwarts on Ole Brook’s outstanding defense. Theyshould make big contributions at Southwest for the next twoyears.

Co-Lin’s primary target was Ole Brook linebacker Marlon Dixon,recognized as All-Region 6-4A Defensive Player of the Year and TheDAILY LEADER’s All-Lincoln County Co-Defensive Player of the Year.He signed with the Wolfpack yesterday.

Green does take issue with the MACJC’s provisions for aprotected list. He said, “Personally, I think this whole protecteddeal is unconstitutional.”

Giving an example Green said, “How can you offer one kid ahalf-scholarship and then some other school can offer a fullscholarship?”

For that matter how do the parents of a young athlete feel aboutthe situation? The way a coach handles scholarship offers can givethe entire athletic program a black eye and/or a less thanattractive reputation.

In conversations with some area high school football coaches,they have expressed bitterness about the so-called protected list.Their star has been asked to walk on and try out for the team.

Green provided another example. “If your son or daughter wasprotected and offered a half scholarship but their best friend wasoffered a full scholarship to go to Jones (County Junior College),how would you feel?

Despite the problems with the protected list, Green said it hashelped his program get stronger. He and his assistant coaches, RyanRoss and Doug Lucas, spend countless hours watching game films ofhigh school stars who are unprotected. Of course, the films areprovided by dedicated high school coaches who sincerely believethat Bubba can play at the next level, even if he is overlooked bythe closest community college.

So, who’s on first and what’s on second?

Football fans have to patiently await the 2006 season.

Write to sports editor Tom Goetz, c/o The DAILY LEADER, P.O.BOX 551, Brookhaven, MS 39601 or e-mailsports@dailyleader.com