Co-Lin hosts East MS for season opener

Published 11:00 am Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Season No. 20 for head coach Glenn Davis leading the Copiah-Lincoln Wolves football program begins on Thursday with a matchup against the No. 8 ranked East Mississippi Lions. Kickoff in H.L. “Hook” Stone Stadium is set for 6:30 p.m.

Co-Lin is coming of a 5-4 season in 2022, which included a 33-0 loss in Scooba to East Mississippi in the season opener.

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It was the best finish for the Wolves since the 2018 team went 6-4 and lost in the first round of the MACCC playoffs to EMCC.

Last week, the Wolves went to Hinds CC and took part in a scrimmage that allowed both teams to see live action against an opponent before opening the season on Thursday.

“I thought we looked good,” said Davis. “We definitely saw some stuff that needed to be adjusted and improved, but that’s the good part about having a scrimmage where you’re going against another team in a live setting.”


Tott returns to anchor Co-Lin offense

Hopes are high that the Wolves will compete at the top of the MACC South Division this season as they return an experienced quarterback in sophomore DeVon Tott. Tott prepped at Mandeville High (La.) and then redshirted for a season at McNeese State before coming to Co-Lin.

In nine games last season, Tott went 137-for-271 through the air for 1,841 yards. He tossed 13 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

One thing Tott did was show improvement as eight of his interceptions came in the first three combined games. Davis felt like Tott got better as the season progressed as he’d not seen live game action since he senior season at Mandeville in 2020.

Freshman Will Loy, a graduate of Wesson, will back up Tott at quarterback.

Sophomore Jaylen Smith (Jacksonville, Fla.) is one of Tott’s top returnees at wide receiver. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Smith caught 17 passes for 326 yards and three scores last season. Smith originally signed with Bowling Green University out of high school.

Carlos Martin (Laurel High), O’Ryan James (Homa, La.), Jamarquez Melton (West Point) and Cade Dedeaux (Sumrall High) are all returnees at the wide receiver position that Davis and his staff hope to get more production out of in 2023.

The position group has a new coach in Michael Thompson, who’s most recently been on the staff at Southern Arkansas University. Thompson is a native of New Orleans who was also previously on the staff of the Louisiana prep powerhouse Edna Karr High School Cougars.

Also in the mix at wide receiver is Southern Miss transfer Richard Mayes (Ridgeland HS) and Western Kentucky transfer Dakota Thomas. Thomas is a native of Snellville, Ga. who started in a bowl game at WKU earlier in his career.

“We’re expecting those experienced guys like Jaylen, Richard and Dakota to be our leaders at wide receiver, which should be one of our deepest position groups,” said Davis.

Brookhaven Academy product Trevor Fortenberry is also a freshman wideout for the Wolves.

Another area where Co-Lin is returning experience is at running back as Johnnie Daniels, a sophomore from Crystal Springs, ran for 485 yards last season while battling injury.

Natchez product Tray Minor is another freshman ball carrier that will see action for the Wolves.

The line will mostly be new this season as that position group also has a new coach in Co-Lin alum Jacob Fleming. Fleming is a North Pike grad who starred at CLCC before playing at Southern Miss.

One thing that fans might notice different about the Co-Lin roster in 2023 is an increase in the out-of-state players on the team. In the past, MACCC teams only had eight players on their rosters that didn’t hail from Mississippi.

That number has increased as MACCC programs can now have up to 15 players that aren’t from the Magnolia State.

One position group where you’ll see more of that out of state talent than usual is along the offensive line.

Fleming has two offensive line transfers from the University of Akron in Jourdon Hale-Frater (Cincinnati, Ohio) and Ka’Marri Landers (Dearborn, Mich.).

The line also has a transfer from Mississippi College in Zane Hooper, a player Fleming coached previously in his career as an assistant coach at Denham Springs (La.) High School.

“Those are three guys (Hale-Frater, Landers, Hooper) who’ve made us a better team,” said Davis of the transfers on the offensive line.

Among the freshmen in the offensive line group is Brookhaven High product Landon Smith.

Brookhaven Academy product Tyler Fortenberry has made the move to tight end after playing quarterback at CLCC last season.

The 6-foot-5, 240-pound Fortenberry will be joined at tight end by freshmen Torriq Cooper and Elijah Lagg. Cooper prepped at Copiah Academy while Lagg hails from Mountain Home, Arkansas and was a state wrestling champion during his high school career.


Defense preparing for fast-paced EMCC offense

East Mississippi head coach Buddy Stephens knows who his starter will be at quarterback on Thursday, but the Co-Lin staff won’t likely know until the first snap., Whether it be Ty Keyes or Jacquez Hunter, they’ll be directing an offensive system that likes to play with great tempo.

Keyes, a transfer from Southern Miss who was a decorated high school quarterback at Taylorsville, would seem the likeliest candidate to draw the start.

Davis says the key to slowing down East Mississippi starts with the most basic fundamentals of football.

“You’ve got to really be sound at tackling against them,” said Davis. “They’re always going to have guys that can run and catch, and you can’t expect to beat them if you aren’t committed to tackling the right way.”

Co-Lin assistant coach Matt Gordon has some experienced pieces returning as he begins his second season directing the Wolf Pack defense.

Crystal Springs product Navarion Benson is back as a defensive back after making 37 tackles last season. Benson is committed to next play at Troy University.

Sophomore Dre Ross, an alum of Brookhaven High, is another experienced defensive back that Gordon will count on.

Freshman Malachi Williams (Brookhaven High) and sophomore Collin McGowen (Wesson) are two local products that will be battling for reps in the linebacking corps along with returnee Zavion Shaw (Terry High) and freshman LaKentrick James (Northside High).

Out-of-state talent on the defense includes defensive lineman Billy Pullen (Kaufman, Texas), defensive back Jahron Manning (New Orleans, La.), defensive back Adrian Huey (Nashville, Tenn..), defensive back Brent Barnes (McCalla, Ala.), linebacker Fernando Washington (Macon, Ga.), defensive lineman Clyde Pinder Jr. (Tampa, Fla.) and defensive lineman Amery Edwards (Tioga, La.)

Pullen and Manning are both familiar to Gordon from his time on the staff at Tyler Junior College in Texas. Huey has previously played at the University of Kentucky.

There is a new kicker/punter on the roster as Bradon Gilliam (Warren Central) has transferred in from East Central CC to take that job. Bogue Chitto alum Eli Cupit returns to handle long snapping duties.

Joining Davis, Fleming, Thompson and Gordon on the 2023 coaching staff are returnees Micah Davis (quarterbacks coach), Darius Buck (defensive backs coach) and Maurice Johnson (defensive line coach). Additionally, the team will have former NFL standout defensive lineman Tommy Kelly as a volunteer assistant working with the defensive line.


Wolves own some memorable wins over Lions

East Mississippi is 7-3 in its last 10 games against Co-Lin, but a couple of those victories by the Wolves have been memorable wins.

In 2012, the Wolves won 47-46 in Scooba in the MACCC semifinals. The game was decided by a 90-yard kickoff return by Co-Lin receiver Joe Craig Jr.

Craig was a transfer from Clemson who had run track and played football for the Tigers before coming to Wesson. He appeared to be shot out of a cannon as he raced down the visitor sideline for the go-ahead score with just second left on the clock. Co-Lin then went on to beat Gulf Coast the following week for the state title.

That 2012 game was the first time for EMCC to lose at its home stadium, the new Sullivan-Windham Field.

In 2015, EMCC came to Wesson with a truckload of cameras in tow as they were in the midst of filming the first season of the Netflix series, “Last Chance U.”

On that night, East Mississippi was trying to tie the all-time NJCAA winning streak with a victory.

The Wolves made sure the Lions didn’t get consecutive win No. 26 by securing a 31-24 overtime victory in Stone Stadium.

The winning streak for EMCC began after their last Co-Lin loss and the 2015 win was sealed in overtime when CLCC defensive back Jaquarius Landrews picked off a pass to end the game.

EMCC went 8-3 last season as they beat Northwest Mississippi 36-28 in the MACCC championship game. The Lions lost to Jones, Northeast and Northwest during the regular season.

“The biggest thing for us is that we’ll need every guy to do his job,” said Davis when assessing what his team needs to focus on ahead of this 2023 matchup. “If you do your job and your accountable to the guys next to you, then you’re going to get some opportunities to make plays and that’s what you hope for in a game like this.”