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Co-Lin players excited about Mississippi Bowl

WESSON – There’s no shortage of excitement on  the Co-Lin campus. The state champion Wolfpack boarded a bus Friday morning and headed south to the Gulf Coast for the Fifth Annual Mississippi Bowl.  Co-Lin (9-2) plays the Garden City, Kan. Community College Broncbusters (6-4) Sunday at 2 p.m. in Biloxi’s Indian Stadium.

     Co-Lin, ranked No. 7 in the NJCAA National Poll, hopes to continue its winning streak against Garden City. This is Co-Lin’s first bowl appearance since 2006, when the Wolves shut out Georgia Military 21-0 in the Sea Island Company Golden Isles Bowl in Brunswick, Ga.

     Sophomore center Stone Underwood of Brookhaven said he was excited about playing in a bowl game. “I’m very much looking forward to it. We will have a good time. We’ll do a little charity work and then get after the boys from Kansas.”

     Underwood and his teammates are expected to visit a few hospitals during their 3-day stay on the coast. Both teams will be honored at a banquet tonight, scheduled for Keesler Naval Base.

     Underwood spent his first season of college football at Southeast Louisiana University in Hammond. He transferred to Co-Lin and was moved to center.

     “Our offensive line has really come along since the start of the season,” said Underwood. “Coach Mac (Robert McFarland), our line coach, has been a big part of that.”

     Underwood said Co-Lin has something to prove, after two comeback victories against favored foes East Mississippi and Gulf Coast in the MACJC State Playoffs. “We are considered the best league in the nation. We can back it up.”

     Co-Lin sophomore quarterback Chandler Rogers of Brookhaven agreed. “At the start of the season, I don’t think anybody outside our team and coaches gave us a chance. This team has been together a long time and we have gotten better each week.”

     Rogers has completed 209 of 338 passes this season for 2,788 yards and 26 touchdowns. He’s thrown 11 interceptions.

     “I have some experienced receivers and they run good routes,” said Rogers. “Our line has improved a lot.”

     Sophomore wide receiver Marquis Hayes of Brookhaven (Loyd Star) made a major impact in the state championship game as the Pack avenged a 54-21  homecoming loss to Gulf Coast. He caught 6 passes for 211 yards and 3 touchdowns.

     “Chandler and I have been through a long journey,” said Hayes. “We both came from small schools. It’s a big difference when you get to the college level. We had to listen to the coaches. I worked hard every day in practice to get better.

     “Chandler’s a good quarterback,” Hayes pointed out. “We worked out a lot during the summer.”

     Asked to describe the Co-Lin team, Hayes answered, “We play together as a team in all phases of the game. We don’t really have any special players. We just all play good.”

     Sophomore Tevin Tobias of Bogue Chitto serves as the team’s long snapper. It’s a major responsibility on punts, field goals and extra points.

     “You have to put in a lot of practice,” said Tobias. “Every time they call me, you have to be perfect.”

     Tobias said Co-Lin’s success didn’t surprise him. “I knew Co-Lin would be good. Everybody said it would be a rebuilding season. We brought in some people who would be able to contribute to the team.”

     Tobias said he was anticipating  the bowl game. “I’ve never been in that kind of environment but I am looking forward to it. We just have to play our game and be physical.”

     Shamonte Brooks, a sophomore linebacker from Brookhaven, said, “We have to prove ourselves every game. We just go out there and play hard and play together.”

     Brooks said the revenge match with Gulf Coast was sweet. “It was a dream come true to win state. We had a grudge on our shoulders. They had embarrassed us at home.”

     Freshman teammate Greg Sims of Brookhaven sealed the state title victory with a last-minute interception in the end zone. Sims had 3 picks this season and hopes to get some more against Garden City’s strong-armed quarterback Nick Marshall (6-2, 205).

     Marshall, from Pineview, Ga., has tallied nearly 2,900 yards passing and just under 1,000 yards rushing. He was the Kansas League’s Player of the Year.