‘Primetime 23’ showcases area’s talent

Published 10:13 pm Saturday, July 23, 2016

File Photo/ Brookhaven high linebacker Wesley Calcote just missed the “Primetime 23” list but is sure to be a force on defense for Ole Brook this season after totaling 75 tackles as a freshman.

File Photo/
Brookhaven high linebacker Wesley Calcote just missed the “Primetime 23” list but is sure to be a force on defense for Ole Brook this season after totaling 75 tackles as a freshman.


A state newspaper put the public on notice as to who would be the top senior football players in the state with the release of the annual Dandy Dozen.

The list included some high profile names such as Clinton’s Cam Akers, the only five-star prospect in Mississippi, and Starkville linebacker Willie Gay. While the list was for the most part spot on, it still got me thinking.

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True enough, I have not yet had any significant exposure to the teams and the athletes The Daily Leader’s coverage area has to offer.

However, during my short time here I have done my homework on them. I have spoken with every coach from Tommy Clopton at Brookhaven to Todd McDaniel at Hazlehurst. I have scoured the internet, The Daily Leader’s website and old newspapers of the past year in efforts to gather as much intel as possible on every athlete, every coach and every school our coverage area expands to.

What I found is that there is serious talent in this area, hidden like diamonds in a vast desert. For whatever reason, some of that talent generally goes unnoticed. It could be because many of the schools in the area are in smaller classifications like 1A or 2A. It could be because some are not as fortuitous as others as far as wins go.

Whatever the reason the Wesley Calcotes, the Sherman Jacksons and Dematre Collinses alike may not necessarily be getting their due. It does not seem just that these athletes could go out and play at a high level night in and night out without proper recognition.

Sure, naming a Player of the Week here and there is fine and good but why not do something more? Something that could possibly give these talented young athletes the exposure they deserve while also injecting some excitement into the buildup of the upcoming season.

Well, after spending weeks searching for something of that nature —the actual idea came to me a while ago, most of the time was spent thinking of a decent name — I feel I may have found a solution. That solution is “The Daily Leader’s Primetime 23”. It is essentially exactly what the name indicates: a listing of the top 23 athletes in the area by position.

The 23 players are represented by a starting 11 on each side of the ball and an athlete, or a player who could line up at any of several positions on a nightly basis. These will be the players fans should expect to shine the brightest in the darkest moments. These select few will be the guys likely to make a game-saving tackle, break for an insanely long run, make a key block in the trenches or catch a pass at a pivotal point in the game to move the sticks.

They are the cream of the crop in what promises to be a competitive and talented group of area teams. Since the season has yet to kick off and because anything is liable to happen between now and December, this list is not set in stone.

At season’s end it will be re-evaluated and players will be added or dropped accordingly. So, if a fan favorite happens to miss the cut, he could easily vault into the top 23 with a standout season.

With such a terrific pool to choose from and only 23 slots available, a few well-deserving players were sure to be left out. Some players who missed the cut but still should be viewed as some of the best playmakers in the area are:

• Wesley Calcote, Brookhaven linebacker

• Tanner Waldrop, Enterprise running back

• Malik Gray, Hazlehurst running back

• Ladarius Norman, Franklin County linebacker

• Madison Smith, Brookhaven Academy quarterback

• Sherman Jackson, Bogue Chitto linebacker, running back

• Jeffery Johnson, Brookhaven defensive lineman

The first member of the inaugural “Primetime 23” will be announced in Tuesday’s edition of The Daily Leader. If the players listed above are any indication of the talent that is sure to grace this list, the area should definitely be in for a great season of high school football.

Anthony McDougle is the sports editor at The Daily Leader. Contact him at anthony. mcdougle@dailyleader.com.