State football champs reloading

Published 8:30 pm Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Riding the crest of a 2012 state football championship, the Brookhaven Academy Cougars cruised through spring practice and are busy with summer workouts. BA head football coach Tripp McCarty said his team made plenty of progress in the spring, because of the large number of players who saw playing time last season.

“We are actually returning more (starters) than we lost,” said McCarty. “We didn’t do the traditional spring. We picked up where we left off. We are way far ahead than where we had been the previous year.”

McCarty’s Cougars posted an 11-4 record and captured the MAIS Class AA State Championship, beating Marshall Academy 49-40 in an offensive show held last November on Harper Davis Field, located on the Millsaps College campus in Jackson.

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Offensively, the Cougars graduated record-setting quarterback Gage Posey, plus a stable of outstanding receivers, led by Seth Rushing and Matthew Evans. They also lost Drew Philipp at left tackle and Colby Culbertson at guard.

On the bright side, BA’s offensive line returns three starters, led by all-state tackle Travis Thornton. Also back are Cody Thornhill at center and Wyatt Pepper at left guard. Garrett Pace will be strong at tackle. Pace was a strong force on defense, too.

“Our tackles almost have to be like guards,” said McCarty. “We move them around a lot.”

Linemen expected to make an immediate impact are John Ethan Coleman, Tramel Shedd, Joey Rushing and Collin Hall. Rushing is one of the strongest players on the squad.

“We are really high on this new receiver group,” said McCarty. “Top to bottom, this bunch is super.”

Receivers Ross Foreman and Caleb Brown played last year. Jacob Thurman has vastly improved. Steven Williams had a super spring.

Another senior, Jordan Lea, is at wide out.

McCarty said placekicker Kevin Nettles would be missed.

“We are searching for a punter and a placekicker,” said McCarty. “We have some young kids who we feel like they will be OK. We graduated both of our punters and our kicker.”

He said Parker Myrick has seen some duties as a kicker and running back.

At quarterback, Heath Hickman and Ross Foreman battled in the spring. Bailey Warren has transferred from Wesson to BA and gives them additional experience and depth.

At running back, Connor Dorman and Landon Nettles are moving well. Michael Fiorella, a junior, will be more of a fullback.

On defense, McCarty said, “We try to play as many as we can. Some go both ways. We are really blessed with a bunch of players who have had defensive reps.

“Last year we played a lot of kids at linebacker and in the secondary.” He said Jacob Boyd, a senior linebacker, had shown much improvement.

McCarty finished spring with 37 players.

Chris McGraw, formerly of Adams County Christian School, has joined the coaching staff.

Johnny Lane Ball, works as BA’s defensive coordinator and strength coach. Andrew Hickman coaches the secondary; David Gilbert, wide receivers; and Caleb Dunaway is a volunteer assistant.

Preseason practice begins Aug. 1. The Cougars play their first game Aug. 23, at Centreville. McCarty said the team might participate in a jamboree on Aug. 16.