MC Football Returns With Exciting Season / Jace Aymond
After an abnormal fall last year due to COVID-19, Saturdays at MC felt off without the roar of the Choctaw faithful at Robinson-Hale Stadium. However, after a year’s break, everyone including athletes, coaches, students, and all those involved with Mississippi College are itching to return to Choctaw football this semester.
After finishing an even 5-5 in the 2019 season and taking the eventual national champion, West Florida, into overtime, the Choctaws used their time wisely in the year hiatus. After being tested against a talented Tarleton State in an official game, the Choctaws also scrimmaged against Southern Arkansas and Arkansas Tech.
With the ever-improving Gulf South Conference, this year’s schedule was described simply by Coach John Bland as “brutal.” Almost everyone involved with GSC football will say that this conference is the best in Division II. Bland said of conference play, “There is not an off week and you’re always going to be playing one of the best teams in the country.” For a Choctaw team who was undefeated at home in the 2019 season, Bland knows “it’s easier and more of a benefit to us” that they’ll be playing the top teams in the conference and country, Valdosta State and West Florida, here in Clinton.
In the preseason polls, the Choctaws were picked to finish sixth, in front of North Greenville and Shorter. Two players were also selected as preseason all-conference members: defensive lineman Fred Walls and linebacker Jonathan Jones. According to Bland, Walls is “explosive, talented, great speed, powerful, and a good leader that leads by example. I think he’ll do great things for us in his senior year.” Jones finished the 2019 season as a second team All-GSC member but “is going to be an impact player for us and in this league. He’s all over the field and made a lot of big plays for us… so we’re excited about him and the whole linebacker core.”
The offensive side of the ball will be led by quarterback DeAnte’ Smith-Moore, and Bland is glad that he “is coming in with some experience running the triple option. But also, he’s got some experience in this league and against this type of competition.”
The Choctaws also have “talented fullbacks” coming into this 2021 season in senior Jaylin Jones and Air Force transfer Cole Fagan who also look to provide big numbers for a full 2021 season. The offensive line, led by Blane Cannon and Matt Toles, excites Bland, who claims, “We are better in our offensive line than we’ve ever been. We have more [good players] this year and we’re deeper, faster, and able to fit into this offensive style better than we’ve ever been.”
Mississippi College football is fast approaching as the first two games of the season will be home, non-conference games. The Choctaws begin their 2021 campaign on Sept. 2 against Albany State before taking a two-week long break before a game against the University of Fort Lauderdale on Sept. 18.
With a Choctaw team that has now solidified their place and is comfortable in the Gulf South Conference, the 2021 season should be one to remember. After almost two years of no football Saturdays in Clinton, it returns in the very near future. With an excited football organization full of key new players and experienced seniors, the Choctaws should be a threat in the Gulf South Conference for the 2021 campaign.