No. 3 Co-Lin ready to host No. 19 Itawamba

Published 11:30 am Thursday, August 28, 2014

WESSON – The long wait is over as football comes back to Wesson on Thursday when the No. 3 Copiah-Lincoln Wolfpack hosts the No. 19 Itawamba Indians in the season opener for both teams.

The lofty ranking in the NJCAA Preseason Top 20 is the highest position for a Co-Lin team in recent memory. The expectations are built on a strong 7-2 season by Co-Lin in 2013 and the return of several key players.

Chief among the returnees is sophomore quarterback Daniel Fitzwater. Fitzwater passed for 2,684 yards with 19 touchdowns and five interceptions as a freshman. Co-Lin also returns Demond Tucker, reigning National Defensive Player of the Year. Tucker, a product of Hazlehurst High, racked up 53 tackles and 13 sacks as a freshman.

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The Wolfpack also returns experience in wide receivers Courtney Foy, Germie Martin, and Koy McFarland; running backs De’Lance Turner and Diquan Davis; defensive backs Arthur Maulet and Ricky Green; offensive linemen Jacob Fleming, Quintarius Willis, Cullen Greer, and Nick Luckey; and defensive linemen Johnathan Calvin, Ryan Duckworth, and Darrell Vanerson.

Calvin and redshirt freshman wide receiver Donald Gray are both committed to Mississippi State. Gray missed the 2013 season after suffering an injury in the preseason. Safety Nick Beasley is another player who missed 2013 to an injury and is expected to be a key contributor.

The opening opponent Itawamba is a squad that is familiar to the Wolfpack, as the two teams met in Wesson last season on Oct. 3, 2013. The Wolves won that game 48-7 on a night that saw the home team get every lucky bounce and break. Coming into the game Co-Lin was ranked No. 9 and Itawamba No. 4 by the NJCAA.

That night the route started early as Fitzwater threw a 73-yard touchdown pass to Casey Gladney on the third play of the game. Fitzwater would finish 28-for-40 for a career best 483 yards and four touchdowns. The Co-Lin defense would hold Itawamba under 200 yards of total offense and would force three turnovers.

Thursday night will be the coaching debut of Itawamba first year head coach Sean Cannon. Cannon takes over after former head coach Jon Williams left to take a position on the staff at Southern Miss. Cannon, who previously served four seasons as the defensive coordinator, was announced as the head coach in a press conference on July 17.

The Indians are a team built from scratch as they have 46 players that will be making their college debut on Thursday. Sophomore defensive ends Xavier Pegues and Larry Jefferson anchor a unit that will be the strength of the Indian’s team.

Kickoff in Stone Stadium is 7 p.m. Season tickets for mid-field chair-back seats are available for purchase for $100 by calling 601-643-8494. Walk-up individual tickets in the reserved section are $15 each. General admissions tickets are $5 for students and $8 for adults. Co-Lin students get in free with their student ID.

The game can be heard on 104.3 FM in Brookhaven and it will be streamed live at