The Mississippi College Choctaws begin their 2017-2018 season on Thursday as they travel to Atlanta, Georgia to face the Clark-Atlanta Panthers. John Bland begins his fourth season as head coach and looks to improve his 6-24 record. Bland says with the addition and contribution of new players on the roster, the team has improved greatly over the last three weeks of preseason practice. “They’re growing together as a team,” Bland says, “and that’s awesome to see.” He, along with the rest of the coaching staff, is excited to see the team “on display in the regular season.”
To start the season, the Choctaws are on the road for the first three weeks before playing two home games in a row[a]. Bland says the constant travel will have the more effect on the coaching staff rather than the players. Although being on the bus for such a long time will be difficult, he doubts it will have any effect on their playing abilities.
Looking forward to the new season, Bland hopes for some victories to add to the Choctaws record. He says, “We’ve used the majority of our scholarships,” something that hasn’t happened at MC over the last 22 years. “Being able to compete at a higher level” he feels will carry over into the win column.
Senior Chris Manning is excited to continue his football career for a fourth and final season with the Choctaws. The Gulf South Conference chose Manning as the only nominee for the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team for his contributions on and off the field. Manning has made a huge impact on both his teammates and community.
Starting as defensive back, Manning says the team is “developing talent wise and we’ve all grown together as a family.” He is one o only a few players who have been with the Choctaw team all four years. With years of experience behind him, Manning feels that his most important role on the team is to be a leader because other team members look up to him. After a month of long summer practices, he’s excited to get this new season underway. “We’re just ready to play another team besides ourselves.”
The Choctaws are looking for their third consecutive win in a season opener against first time opponent, Clark Atlanta. Next week, the team travels to Bolivar, MO to face the Southwest Baptist Bearcats.