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Ole Brook football in rebuilding mode

The Ole Brook Panthers are in a rebuilding mode. Fresh from arunners-up finish to West Point in the Class 5A state championshipfootball game, the Panthers must replace 26 seniors, among them 18starters.

Golly, gee. That sounds like a large parade of starters who willbe walking across King Field next May to receive theirdiplomas.

Coach Tucker Peavey’s Panthers completed their campaign with a9-5 record. They rebounded from a 2-3 start to go 6-4 in theregular season. Then they performed a miracle, winning threestraight playoff games against favored opponents, making it aCinderella campaign.

Obviously, Brookhaven was the only No. 4 seed reaching the statetitle finals last weekend at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadiumin Jackson. Mount Olive (10-4) had the same number of losses andfinished 11-4, winning the Class 1A state title over Durant.

Scanning the list of graduating seniors, it resembles a BHSSports Hall of Fame list for 2010. In the backfield, all-everythingquarterback Duwone Harris is graduating. Returning will be1,000-yard rusher Travorius Showers and backup runner JustinBlue..

Brook’s receiving corps will see Trent Powell, E.J. Hendersonand Joel Patrick graduate. Tight ends Nick Peavey and PhillipHamilton also graduate, along with center Mitch Case, guard TameusHooker and tackles Sam Ballard and Stone Underwood. The lonereturnee is guard Tyler Collins.

Dewey Stailey, Brook’s versatile punter and placekicker, alsograduates. Returning on offense are wide receivers Ross Hill andSherrod Gray.

Sophomore Zach Smith is the heir apparent at quarterback.Devonte Stewart, a senior return specialist and defensive back, sawsome duty at quarterback against Clinton, Lawrence County and WestJones the first time around while Harris recovered from a shoulderinjury.

On defense, Jaboree Poole and Thevis Cooper are returning atend. Tackles Jawaun Merchant, Chance Smith and Edward Guttergraduate. Malcolm Stewart returns to the trenches.

Linebackers Shamonte Brooks and Jacoby Cooper graduate.Returning are linebackers Jonah Hill and Calen Calcote. Thesecondary loses Henderson at cornerback. Greg Sims at corner andChris Seals at safety are returning.

When spring practice arrives in April, there will be numerousnew faces on offense and defense for Peavey and his staff ofassistant coaches to train. How well the team progresses in thespring and summer workouts will determine their success level nextfall.

Speaking of next fall, football teams can start playing games inthe middle August so make sure you’re hydrated. BHS will face somenew opponents in Region 3-5A. The new guys on the block are Pearl,Wingfield and South Jones. Back for another go-round are WestJones, Wayne County, Stone County and McComb. Picayune and PearlRiver Central have moved back to a coastal region and Forest Hillhas been promoted to 6A.

Offensive tackle Stone Underwood and defensive tackle JawaunMerchant will represent Brookhaven in Saturday’s 24thMississippi-Alabama All-Star Classic in Mobile, Ala. Kickoff is 1p.m. in Ladd-Peebles Memorial Stadium. They are among 40 of thestate’s best players who hope to knock off the favored hosts.

Louisville coach M.C. Miller is directing the Magnolia Statesquad. Quarterbacking the team are Ben Stevens of West Jones andJaquez Johnson of Starkville.

West Point is represented by quarterback/cornerback Justin Coxand defensive lineman Tommy Keys. Running out of the Power-Iformation, West Point rolled to a 15-1 record and a 21-3 victoryover BHS. Keys often lined up as a blocking back in the Iformation.

A week later, Dec 18, the Bernard Blackwell All-Star FootballClassic kicks off in Ocean Springs, featuring a North-South format.Representing BHS on the South squad is offensive tackle SamBallard.

Other area players on the South team are linebacker LeviticusCain and defensive back Gabriel Gray of Hazlehurst, and widereceiver Milton Griffin of Franklin County.

Gray and Griffin are exceptional athletes with bright futures inbaseball, too. Co-Lin plans to sign both of them.

Speaking of Co-Lin, head baseball coach Keith Case is recoveringfrom surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon. He hopes to be offhis crutches before the baseball season starts in February.

In the meantime, assistant coaches Bryan Nobile and JustinBrewer are taking care of the manual labor on Co-Lin’s baseballfield.

In other JUCO news, Mississippi Gulf Coast outscored GrandRapids, Mich., 62-53 in the Mississippi Bowl held last Sundayafternoon in Biloxi’s Indian Stadium. The MACJC State champion and7th-ranked Bulldogs (10-2) were directed by freshman quarterbackClayton Moore of Louisville who completed 26 of 47 passes for 354yards and four touchdowns.

Grand Rapids got an outstanding performance from freshmanquarterback James Stallone who threw for a bowl-record 465 yardsand seven TDs. Sophomore wideout Dominique Collins caught 10 passesfor 232 yards and four TDs.

Write to sports editor Tom Goetz, c/o The DAILY LEADER, P.O.BOX 551, Brookhaven, MS 39602 or e-mailsports@dailyleader.com