The Choctaws Look To Push The Basketball This Season And Play With More Pace. By Corey Rholdon, Sports Editor

The Mississippi College men’s basketball team started their preseason practices last week. The team looks to take the next step this season and make it to the GSC tournament after coming up short last year.

The Choctaws are looking to push the ball and play at a faster pace this season. Junior forward Brandon Boston believes that energy and pace will help the team offensively. “In camp, we have been focusing on defense and getting into shape more. This season we plan on going up and down the court more, so we are going to need to be in great shape to do that,” said Boston.

Sophomore forward Jon Harding wants to see the team get back to the tempo which led the team to a 9-8 start during the 2017-2018 season. “We need to move the ball up the court, not sure we played with the same amount of pace at the end of last season. We played slower, and we felt like that was not playing to our advantage. This year we have some guys who can get out and go. We are seeing more intensity, trying to get up and down to get more easy buckets,” Harding said.

New assistant coach Alex Ainsworth wants to see the Choctaws improve defensively during camp. “Our focus is on energy and defense. We have to be excited about the things that we are doing, and I think if we can get some stops, that defense will fuel the offense. We have some really talented guys who can score the basketball, so if we get to the point where we get some stops and we share the basketball, we can be a really special team,” Ainsworth said.

MC has high expectations entering into the 2018-2019 season and the team is returning two of its top scorers with Guard, Donovan Ham and Forward, Brandon Boston. Ainsworth is excited to see what MC’s talented roster can do this season. “I think with Donovan and Brandon returning it gives us some experience and gives us two guys that we can really count on. We also added some special pieces like Marcus Lytle who is really versatile and can guard some guys bigger than him. I think we have a really good chance to make a run and to do some special things this season,” said Ainsworth.

The Choctaws learned from their mistakes from the season prior and Boston’s wants him team to compete from the get-go. “We have to come into every game with a competitive mindset; we cannot take anybody lightly. We lost a lot of close games at the end of last season, and we have to finish games this season,” Boston said.

Although the basketball team has some key returning starters, the team did lose their leader and point guard Anthony Johnson, who graduated last May. Harding has seen Sophomore Dyllan Taylor step up thus far in preseason camp. “Dyllan Taylor has taken a lot of strides; he has taken a hole on the spot and has improved every day so far in camp. So has Trey James, who is a junior college transfer from Alabama. He is a pretty witty guy,” said Harding.

Last season Boston averaged 14.6 points and 7 rebounds. This season, Boston wants to improve his game defensively. “I need to improve defensively, and I want to also improve my ball handling. I need to get to the rim more. I obviously want to make the GSC tournament, and I want to be first-team all GSC,” Boston said.

MC’s first exhibition game is against division 1 Nichols State on Nov. 6, and their regular season opener is against Belhaven on Nov. 9 at home.

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Preseason Practice: It’s Game Time By Marquisha Mathis

A quote from Allen Iverson says, “When you’re not practicing, someone else is getting better.” The game of basketball is not just a man’s sport. It began long ago for women and still is evolving to this day.

The women’s basketball team is back in action and is ready to get back on the court. All fifteen players have been gearing up, putting in many hours each week at the gym, and working out to get their bodies in shape.

Getting ready for the new season, the ladies of MC’s basketball team can be found working hard at practice and dribbling up and down the court every day. “Preseason practices are quite intense. We wake up at 5 a.m. to prepare for conditioning at 6 a.m. To prepare for the games this year, I am practicing every day, working on my defense, as well as my offense, and learning more about my teammates,” said Lauran Sheriff.

“A lot of time is being put in. When we’re not in class, we are practicing and lifting weights,” said Elly Nash. To prepare for a game, Moriah Hurst said, “I start the day before, by stretching and getting my body prepared and making sure I eat well. I also pray and listen to music to get focused.”

Sheriff says, “This new season is a bit tough. I have been injured, so coming back was hard for me, but it’s a challenge I’m willing to take.”

“Working with this team has been very helpful; they’re patient. Being a freshman, I am learning a lot,” said Lindsey Vaughn.

“Having the strength to finish the game and to play to the best of my ability is how I prepare,” said Kaleigh Wren.

“I am truly blessed to be a part of a team that has a great coaching staff who is easy to work with and who can guide me along, whether it’s on or off the court,” said Lauran. “After MC, I still want to play basketball; I don’t see myself doing anything else,” said Elly Nash.

“Playing basketball at MC has allowed me to make really good friends who have become a part of my family. Now I am more confident in being the person that i’m supposed to be. I have been given an opportunity to further my education and to go on in life and do what I really want to do,” said Kaitlyn Thompson.

“I am inspired by my mom, who is the reason why I wake up every day and am able to play and do what I love. Also, setting a big example for the children and older kids in the community who look up to me and want to find a way out is inspirational to me,” said Sheriff.

Continuing with her comments on the game, “All I’ve dreamed of since a young age was playing basketball. I plan to go overseas and play,” said Hurst.

“The game has given me lifelong friendships, confidence, and a positive mindset,” said Kaleigh Wren. Basketball is one of the few women’s sports that developed right behind men’s and became very popular, especially in college. “Believe in yourself,” said Vaughn.

 

 

Choctaws get ready for Homecoming vs. 3rd ranked West Georgia By, Mary Elizabeth Ballard

The screams of the crowded spectators, the thrumming beat of the drumline, the clatter of equipment colliding during a tackle, and the rush of adrenaline as you see the ball soar after kickoff: these sounds and sights let you know that we are in the thick of football season.         Homecoming is always a highly anticipated game every year on campus. There are alumni reunions, tailgating, concerts, and of course, the football game. This year, the Mississippi College football team will be facing off against the undefeated West Georgia Wolves for the annual Homecoming game on Saturday, Oct. 27. The team has been on the road since the first week of this month, and they have brought home a 37-24 win against Shorter University.

West Georgia is going to be a challenge for MC. They’re currently ranked third in the division 2, and they bring an impressive offense to the game. The Choctaws will take the field directly following their thrilling victory over Shorter, which was sealed when sophomore defensive lineman D.J. Smith returned an interception 73 yards for a touchdown. Senior running back, Tiberias Lampkin, said, “We need to be physical and intense. If we can play our game and be intense, we’ll be alright.”

Junior defensive back, Turner Rotenberry, added, “That running back we’re going to face is pretty good, so if we can contain him and make him go sideline to sideline, I think that’d be a great accomplishment for our team.” The team is definitely prepared to take on this challenge.

Detric Hawthorn, the starting quarterback, has such ability that even at away games, you can hear the crowd of the opposing team talk about his speed. “We’ve been getting focused at practice, making sure everyone’s locking in. We’ve made a couple of changes with the offense; defense just needs to keep doing what they’re doing. The offense is going to stay strong,” said Hawthorn. “Defense sets the tone,” he added, “I hope defense gets on the field first. If they get the stop, then the offense gets in, and we’re going to go ahead and score. So, if we start off with a touchdown, it’s going to be great.”

Detric has been a force to contend with, rushing for 592 yards so far this season. His new nickname, “The Great Eight,” might just stick. Laughing, he said the moniker makes him “feel like a hero.”

When it comes down to it, it’s more than just a game. When asked about what a win would feel like for this team, Lampkin stated, “It would mean everything, since [West Georgia is] ranked #3. Not just for me personally or for our team, but for our university and for the city of Clinton. I feel like it’d be big, but I feel like we’re going to get it done.”

Additionally, there’s a lot of talk about brotherhood amongst the players this year. Rotenberry mentioned how the team “plays for each other.” As the Choctaws return home, they’ll be fighting hard and playing for each other, whatever the competition. Because of the excitement of this team, what started as a tongue-in-cheek catchphrase around campus has now become a passionate cheer: Choctaws on the Move!

 

Striding to the Finish By: Damon Wright

The fall sports for Mississippi College are beginning to wrap up, and these teams are no strangers to finishing strong. The Choctaw football team beat the Shorter Hawks on a late-game pick six, the men’s soccer team has come from a 2-0 deficit to beat out rival Delta State, and the women’s soccer team has been perfect so far in GSC play. The men’s and women’s cross-country teams are no different in this regard as they gear up for the Gulf South Conference, which will take place on Saturday, Nov. 3.

The men’s cross-country team finished the season with an overall team win at the MC Division II Invitational on Oct. 20. The Choctaws have seen much improvement in the 2018 season. The team has come together and has proven that they are a force to be reckoned with in the conference.

From young runners such as 4-time GSC freshmen of the week, Evan Del Rio, to Staples to cross-country team members such as Jordan Pritchard, the Choctaws have made huge strides in the program. From the very beginning of the season, the team could see that this would be a special season. “This season has been great; just starting off the year we did a little time trial. The top eight guys ran faster than the fastest guy last year, and it was awesome to see that,” said Pritchard.

Another special moment in the year for the Choctaws came at the Greater Louisville Classic where the team finished in second place. “We placed second overall at the Louisville meet this year, and that was the big marquee meet that we were trying to get after this year, and there was a lot of great competition… it was a great team effort, and it was really special because we went out there and accomplished a lot of great things; we ran the fastest team time we ever had, and it was just really special,” said Pritchard, as he was boasting a baseball bat that is awarded to the runner up of the meet.

The women’s cross-country team has had a little bit of a different start due to the 2018 team being a relatively new and young team. “It has been a different season for us because we have three sophomores and a transfer sophomore, and then we have seven freshmen, so it has been a really young team. It has been a growing year,” says sophomore runner, Madeline Campbell.

Though the Choctaws are young and boast a lot of newcomers, that does not change the fact that they are ready for the conference championship. “There is a little bit of nervousness going into the meet but I think that everyone is pretty encouraged and is really hoping to step up and make each other proud … Alabama Huntsville, Union, West Florida, and Lee are some teams that we have to watch out for, but I know we will be ready,” says Campbell.

Assistant coach Matthew Reneker has both the men’s and women’s teams striving to achieve major goals, which have set the foundation for the 2018 cross country season: “It is a growth mindset; that is what we talked about in our goalsetting sessions at the beginning of the year. We are really happy with the leadership of the team and that they keep the goals at the forefront of every single practice and every single week… what has been indicative of our success has been taking each practice and meet one at a time … I have seen the leaders talking to the underclassmen about what was done well and what can be improved, and I think that is why we are having exceptional seasons on both the men’s and women’s side,” said Reneker.

Mentality is the name of the game when it comes to any sport, and the Choctaws boast a lot of mental fortitude and that has shown inside results. “Our sport is done to exhaustion every single season. There is no way to get around it, grinding out mileage, and people are falling down at the end of every race. I have been impressed with the mindset of the freshmen coming from a high school program to fighting for a spot at a college. There is a psychology to that, and the people on this team are learning the mental resiliency that it takes to be a distance runner,” says Reneker.

The Choctaws will have stout competition to overcome if they are hoping to bring home a GSC title. Reneker highlighted some of the areas of improvement for both teams. “On the women’s side, a controlled confidence is the thing we have been working on. We have a lot of perfectionists and they need to realize that not everything is going to go perfectly, and they need to learn how to be resilient in any situation … on the men’s side, it is learning how to communicate with each other, along with using a team dynamic and learning how to be successful at the regional and national level,” said Reneker.

Though there are areas of improvement, the excitement buzzing around the team is contagious and brings life to both the men’s and women’s teams. “There is an excitement, we have been stringing together really good work outs and then those work outs turn into really good races, and that will help us realize that we do not need to do anything special. We just need to perform how we have been and do what we always have done. There is no need to overhype the situation,” said Reneker.

This year for the 2018 cross-country teams has been one to remember and both the men’s

and women’s teams look to put an exclamation point on their seasons with a great finish in the conference meet. Reneker recognized that this is a special group of athletes, and they will be remembered as one of the most impactful teams to come through Mississippi College. “Trailblazing is a good way to describe these teams; we are trying to do something in this conference that is new to a lot of people. We have been successful, but being a division II national qualifying team has not happened in the recent past … we are trying to make a pathway and show that it can be done and the steps necessary to achieve greatness… these teams will be seen as the genesis and the beginning of the new norm, which is success at all levels. I hope that when people see the picture of the 2018 teams, they will appreciate that this is the team that showed those results and showed that goals can be achieved,” said Reneker.

Lady Choctaws fall just short in ‘Match of the Century’ By Elliot Reeder

Texas vs. USC in 2005, Michigan vs. Ohio State in 2006 and LSU vs. Alabama in 2011: these are all recent occurrences in College Football of matchups between the #1 and #2 ranked teams and were all called “game of the century.”

When Mississippi College and West Florida met in women’s soccer on Thursday, Oct. 25 at Longabaugh Field, it was a battle of two juggernauts who were ranked first and second in the conference and were both nationally ranked. It was a battle of two teams with double digit game winning streaks, and it would decide who would win the GSC regular season title and the #1 overall seed in the GSC tournament. The game easily could have been called “Match of the Century,” and it lived up to the hype.

West Florida came into the game with a record of 15-0 (11-0 in conference) and were ranked #2 in the nation according to the United Soccer Coaches poll. The Lady Choctaws came in at 13-1 (also 11-0 in conference) and were riding a program record 12 game-winning streak, while being ranked #18 in the nation. Both teams had to endure sloppy conditions due to rain before and during the game. MC came out a little slow in the first half, and West Florida went up 1-0 on a 37th minute goal off a corner kick and would take the one goal lead into the break. MC came out energetic in the second half and controlled the pace of play the majority of the half. Coach Daryl Longabaugh said he feels that in the second half, his team “came out really strong with determination.”

“We started playing the brand of soccer that we are capable of and that we are used to, and even went a step ahead of what we have normally done,” said Longabaugh. The Lady Choctaws had numerous chances in the box during the second half but were unable to put one in the back of the net, missing by mere inches several times.

Sophomore Lindsey Stephenson said that she feels that “we had a lot of chances that we could have scored, but we just did not put them away today.” Even though MC controlled the majority of the 2nd half, they fell just agonizingly short, losing 1-0.

Even though the Lady Choctaws fell just short, Coach Longabaugh still liked the team’s relentlessness all the way to the end. “The kids never quit; they never backed down. That’s always positive when you are going against the #2 team in the nation.” Stephenson also spoke to how the team did not give up, even trailing a West Florida team that has only allowed eight goals all season.

Up next for the Lady Choctaws will be Senior Day on Saturday, Oct. 27 against 1-13-1, Spring Hill. MC will honor eight seniors. The seniors are Goalkeeper Andrea McDonald, defenders Gaylynn Cooper, Lauren Dodge and Cara Benedict, midfielders Samantha Carson, Peace Gill and Julie Reid, and then forward Lauren Smith.

Longabaugh said, “I’m not looking forward to Saturday because it’s Senior Day, and I don’t want to say goodbye to some of my seniors yet.” Stephenson said of the seniors, “I have gotten really close to each and every senior and knowing these are their last few games is heartbreaking, but I hope I can at least give everything I have for them on Saturday.”

After Senior Day, the Lady Choctaws will head into the GSC conference tournament, which will begin next week. MC will walk into the tournament as the #2 seed and will host the first tournament game on GSC “Super Tuesday” on Tuesday, Oct. 30. The Lady Choctaws will host either West Georgia, Christian Brothers, or Montevallo. If MC wins on Tuesday, they will head to Montgomery for the conference tournament semifinals on Friday. The tournament championship game will be on Sunday, Nov. 4.

The GSC tournament will feature several of the top teams in the country. Stephenson spoke to how challenging the tournament will be and said, “Every year, it’s always really tough, but we are hoping to come through and finally win it and give everything we have.”

After the conference tournament will be NCAA Division 2 regionals (if the Lady Choctaws advance). MC was ranked 3rd in the latest Regional rankings. Longabaugh and Stephenson both feel that the team can go deep into postseason play and potentially compete for a national title. Longabaugh pointed to how his team had the #2 team in the country in West Florida on the ropes in the 2nd half as proof that the Lady Choctaws can compete with any team in the nation. MC will have to rebound after a heartbreaking defeat, but the team has the confidence that they can rebound strong, even if it means playing West Florida again or any other highly ranked team in the country.

 

Defense and Leadership Has Led to the Lady Choctaws 5-1 Start! By Corey Rholdon, Sports Editor

The Mississippi College Lady Choctaws are currently ranked 22nd in the country, and have started out the season with a 5-1 record. A big reason for that is defense; MC started out GSC play with 3 straight road games and in those games, the opposing team has scored 0 goals.

After waiting two years, goalkeeper Gabby Kayser has gotten an opportunity to play, and she has made the most of it, winning the GSC defender of the week. “It is so awesome. It is unbelievable that all this hard work I have been doing for two years is paying off,” said Kayser.

The Lady Choctaws Head Coach Darryl Longabaugh believes that back line will only continue to get better. “I think our formation is a part of it, as we run a 3-5-2. You get a little bit more support from the mid-field. Gaylynn Cooper, Liza Wise and Scarlett Hodges have been doing an outstanding job shutting everything down. Liza Wise has been doing a great job playing centerback in that group. When we make mistakes, we have Gabby Kayser in back making the saves. They are working well back there, and I see it only getting better because we are also getting healthier back there too,” Longabaugh said.

Junior mid-fielder Lauren Kate Carter has also praised the back line for not only their great play but their leadership and communication. “Our defense is solid; we have great communicators in the back. Your leadership needs to come from the back because they see the whole field in front of you. It is awesome to have a defense to tell me as a mid-fielder what I can do and what spaces are open,” said Carter.

While the defense has been dominating, the offense has gotten off to a slow start but Carter and Coach Longabaugh believe that the goals will start to fall. “Simple…Simple…Simple… Put the ball past the keeper into the net. That is all that we need to do; we have over-complicated it. I think it is going to come, we are too talented up top for it not to start falling. I think we start to relax and understand that is when we will start scoring 2 to 3 goals a game,” Longabaugh said.

“We have had so many opportunities in front of the goal, so we just have to be patient and execute when the opportunities are there. We have to make our shots, be consistent and have composure under the goal,” said Carter.

MC has gone to the GSC tournament championship games in back-to-back seasons. The team lost to West Florida by the score of 2-0 in 2016, and last year fell to Lee 1-0. This year, the team is motivated not only to go back to the GSC championship but to win it. “It is motivating going two years in a row, getting so close to that championship title that we just more determined than ever to come away with it,” Kayser said.

The Lady Choctaws also want to get back to the NCAA tournament, in which they were the number 1 seed in the South Regional but lost in the first game to West Florida. “The loss in the NCAA Regionals has motivated us to get back because we do not want that to be a dark spot on our program,” said Longabaugh.

Mississippi College plays two home games this weekend vs. Shorter on Friday and against Lee on Saturday. Lee is the team who beat the Lady Choctaws in the Championship game last season, and Coach Longabaugh said that his team needs to out-match the Lady Flames’ intensity to win that game.

On the Verge of a Big Step Forward By Elliot Reeder,

After an up-and-down and injury-riddled start to the season, the Mississippi College Volleyball team feels they are on the verge of taking a big step forward. First year Head Coach Shawna Laurendine said, “I’m really looking forward to having everybody healthy, and seeing what we can actually do once we get everybody healthy, and have some depth in some positions, and challenging the teams in our conference. We’re going to surprise some people in the 2nd half.”

An incredibly young Choctaws team has gotten some big playing time from numerous freshman including Jamie Boros, Kendall Platt, Lexie Laurendine, Rylee Markham and Gwenyth Prenter. Junior Julia Martin says that at first most of the freshman were shy, but they quickly stepped out of their shyness due to how many of them there were and how important they were going to be to the team.

Over half of MC’s roster is made up of freshmen, and another 26% of the roster is made up of sophomores. The young Choctaws roster is continuing to improve every day. Martin went on to say that the team has focused on some fundamentals and that “each day we get out and perform the best we can.” Lexie Laurendine says that she feels her and her fellow freshmen are working on not having a freshman mentality, and working to play like they have been in the program for just as long as everybody else.

With such a young roster, the Choctaws have relied on some crucial leadership from players such as senior co-captain and libero Jill Brown, junior co-captain Shelby Grace Mays (who is expected back soon from an injury), and sophomore Brandi Bundy. Martin, who was also mentioned as a leader, spoke to how important a period this past spring, when only the handful of returning players were around, has been to building the camaraderie between the returners that was then passed on to the freshmen when they arrived.

The squad has worked hard on keeping the tempo and energy up in practice, even in the middle of a grueling season. Coach Laurendine said, “We’ve worked really hard, the girls are improving every day.” She also mentioned how important good practice is after tough losses. Freshman Lexie Laurendine said, “When we first come in, we try to have positive and consistent enthusiasm throughout the day.”

Martin and both Laurendines spoke to how important communication has been to the team throughout the first half of the season. Martin also talked about the connection the team has worked on though drills throughout the different positions and different experience levels.

The Lady Choctaws currently have a 7-9 record about halfway through the season. They have a road trip to Georgia (to play Valdosta State and West Georgia) scheduled on September 28th and 29th. They then return back to AE Wood Coliseum for a big GSC home stand that starts October 2nd against West Alabama. The home stand includes matches against Alabama-Huntsville and the Crohn’s Awareness game against Montevallo on Saturday October 6th.

Lexie Laurendine spoke about a mantra the team has called “finish empty.” This refers to leaving all of their energy and effort on the court and finishing with an empty tank. If the Lady Choctaws get some players back from injury, get continued development from their youngsters and buy into finishing empty, then they really could turn their season around and surprise the GSC in the 2nd half of the season.

Camaraderie Carries the Choctaws By: Damon Wright

In the history of sports, there have been many good teams: teams that have enough talent to take themselves deep into a playoff or tournament in hopes of playing for a national championship and realizing the dream of being immortalized in the history books as the best team of that specific year. These good teams can be celebrated and praised for their achievements, but they come up just short of greatness. There is a fine line between a good team and a great team, and in many instances, that line is the camaraderie present on a team.

The Mississippi College Men’s Soccer team is led by head coach Kevin Johns, who is in his 16th year at the helm of the program, and he has recognized the strong feeling of teamwork has enveloped the team, on and off the pitch: “The depth and camaraderie of this team has been a massive boost for us … it is a hard working group of guys that care about each other; they do a lot of things off the field and they get along together and it really carries over to the field, and I think that is one of our biggest positives,” said Johns.

The team is currently 4-2 and is coming off a huge GSC win over rival Delta State, a game in which the Choctaws came behind from a 2-0 deficit to win by golden goal in the 107th minute. The Choctaws will have a stretch of 8 GSC games to finish out the season, which will begin Friday against the Shorter Hawks and Sunday against the Lee Flames. Both games will be at home, weather permitting.

Junior defender Connor Johnson has been happy with how the team has performed so far but is looking for improvements as the season progresses: “I think it has been up and down; we have had the highest of highs like beating #9 West Alabama at home, but we have also had the lowest of lows, losing against Alabama Huntsville, and then a big win against Delta State. It has been up and down; we would like to have a little more consistency,” Johnson said.

This consistency will be needed for this bout of GSC matches, which includes a 5-game stretch where the Choctaws will not be on the home pitch. Though the games will be a difficult, wins will be crucial, and senior forward Joshua Robinson says that the team is prepared for the challenge ahead: “We’re ready. We have a few training sessions before our game against Shorter; we are hitting the ground running, we are going strong as a unit, and we are eager and excited to see what the future holds,” Robinson said.

Robinson, who also received GSC player of the week honors at the beginning of September, is looking to see the team improve mentally for the remainder of the season: “Usually what I would say needs improving is having cohesion, but we already have that strength and unity, so the most important thing to me is our mental game — going out there with the hunger and the passion I feel like we have been lacking, but it can improve,” said Robinson.

Coach Johns is confident with this team, especially going into the most important stretch of the season. Johns says that the depth of the team is something he has never seen before and that will be a big help to finish the season: “Every game in this conference is extremely important. I have told the guys multiple times that pretty much every game is the championship because every game has so much meaning. It is a one game at a time mentality … the depth is so strong and will be crucial for these games, and we are confident that we can bring in anybody off the bench, and they can before just as good as the guy in front,” said Johns.

Connor Johnson is excited for the future of MC soccer and looks to leave a mark of success on an already established powerhouse program: “Hopefully the future holds a regular season championship and then a conference championship. My freshman year we won the regular season, and we just hope to win a championship this season. That is our main goal,” Johnson said.

Senior Joshua Robinson has given his all to this program and has the same goal in mind: “I want to be remembered as that one British guy that came here and did his job and left with his head held high and hopefully a ring around his finger,” Robinson said.

Football’s Hot Start By Elliot Reeder

A hot start to the season has given the Mississippi College Choctaw Football team a renewed sense of energy and confidence as they head into Gulf South Conference play. The Choctaws have opened up the season with two home non-conference wins over Clark-Atlanta (31-30) and Southwest Baptist (34-9) respectively, and they have opened up the season 2-0 for the first time since 2010.

The Choctaws installed a new Triple Option based offensive system under new Offensive Coordinator Tommy Laurendine over the offseason. The new Choctaw offense has been nothing short of spectacular, averaging 32.5 points a game so far this season (almost triple the average per game of last year’s squad). Senior running back Tiberias Lampkin, who is second on the team in rushing yards and first in attempts, said “just adjusting to it at first was a little challenging mentally, but now I wouldn’t trade it. Now we’re 2-0.” Lampkin also mentioned that moving to more of a fullback role was difficult, but went on to say “…after the adjustment, Coach Laurendine is a pretty smart guy, so he’s going to play to your strengths.”

Choctaw Head Coach John Bland, who is in his fifth season as MC Head Coach, also raved about the new offense and his new coordinator, saying, “It’s always good to put points on the board, no matter what style of offense you have, but Coach Laurendine has brought a new energy to our team.”

The Choctaws’ run-based offense is averaging 283 rush yards per game and has already scored six rushing touchdowns on the year. Quarterback Detric Hawthorn has flourished in the new offense. He leads the Choctaws in rushing yards with 216 and also has a team high three rushing touchdowns, not to mention his average of 8.6 yards per carry. He also has completed 10 of his 18 passes for 177 passing yards (with 1 passing touchdown and 1 interception) on the year.

The Defense has also stepped up, holding its opponents through two games to just 19.5 points per game (a stark improvement from the 32.7 points per game it allowed last season). A big part of the success on the defensive side of the ball has been the takeaways produced by a very aggressive defense. Senior Linebacker Colton Magee says that this is not by accident: “Coach instilled it in us from day one; he hammered us over the head with it. He was like, ‘Takeaways are going to win us the game,’ and we have believed that since day 1.”

The Choctaws have forced 5 takeaways (4 interceptions and 1 fumble recovery) through the first two games, including an interception with under a minute left by Elijah Rogers to seal the season-opening win over Clark-Atlanta. Coach Bland also pointed to a stretch at the end of the half against Southwest Baptist when the defense forced two takeaways in the final minute to turn a 7-3 lead into a 17-3 halftime lead as a big momentum shifter.

The Choctaws have a team full of leaders, but some who were pointed out include Lampkin, fellow running back Ja’Mori Mark, quarterbacks Detric Hawthorn and Aaron Feazelle, wide receiver Moregan Sharp, linebacker Trey Thompson, defensive lineman Dalton Frederick and defensive backs Turner Rotenberry (who returned an interception for a touchdown against Clark-Atlanta) and Corey Rholdon. Tiberias Lampkin praised all of the defensive backs as a whole, saying the whole group were leaders and one of the best defensive backfields he has seen.

A big part of the Choctaws success early on has been the crowd and a true home field advantage that has been created by the student body. Magee said, “The fan support is huge; it’s major. The more fans you have and the louder it gets, it’s always a home field advantage.” Lampkin spoke about the role the fans have played in motivating the team, “…If you got somebody riding behind you, and you got support, that stuff is big.” He also mentioned the great support from a group of students who have painted up at both home games to start the season. Coach Bland mentioned a great moment after the Southwest Baptist game when the players went over to thank and celebrate with the fans.

Mississippi College will now head into Gulf South Conference play. The Choctaws were scheduled to travel to face new GSC foe North Greenville in their conference opener on the 15th, but that game has been cancelled due to Hurricane Florence. The Choctaws will instead open up GSC play at home against 2017 Division 2 National Runner-Up West Florida on Saturday, September, 22nd. The Choctaws realize that the GSC is one of the toughest conferences in Division 2, but they will continue to take the season on a day-by-day basis and will attempt to just stick to the game plan.

This Choctaws team is a committed, attack-oriented and aggressive squad that has started the season well after improving on both sides of the ball. Mississippi College has a tough schedule for the rest of the season, but the Choctaws have momentum, have bought into the system, have plenty of talent and are off to their best start in years.

 

 

 

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