Three consecutive 6-4 seasons is starting to sound like a broken record to the Northwest Mississippi Community College Ranger football team.
Northwest, which is ranked pre-season No. 19 by the NJCAA, hopes to put an end to that stretch and take the next step when it opens the 2009 campaign against the No. 2 ranked Gulf Coast Bulldogs Aug. 27 in Perkinston. The game, which kicks off at 7 p.m., can be heard live on WQLJ FM 93.7.
“We’ve had some good practices,” said second-year Head Coach Ricky Woods. “We believe we have some players who will help us get to where we want to be.”
A year ago, the Rangers finished second in the MACJC north division with a 5-1 mark. Northwest qualified for the playoffs for the third consecutive season, but were eliminated by Gulf Coast 42-6. The Bulldogs gave the Rangers two of their four losses.
Northwest returns seven starters on offense from a unit that was fourth in the state last season averaging 353.1 yards. Quarterback Casey Weston of Prattville , Ala., was one of the state’s top passers in 2008 by completing 204 of 354 attempts for 2,072 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Three of Weston’s favorite targets also return in Marquise Green of Byhalia, Colton Barnett of Horn Lake, and Lynn Williams of Southaven.
Green led the Rangers with 34 catches for 544 yards and six touchdowns as a freshman, while Barnett was second with 23 receptions for 282 yards and two scores. Freshmen receivers include Michael Lindsey of St. Petersburg, Fla., Darryl Kinkle of Holly Springs, Xavier Lee of Pope, and Montez Phillips of Oxford.
Sophomore Germichael Sanford of Courtland is Northwest’s lone returnee at tailback. Sanford rushed for 351 yards and six touchdowns last season. He will be joined in the backfield by freshmen JoJo Cox of Macon, Ga., and Calvin Malone of Southaven.
Northwest coaches have to be excited about the offensive line where all five starters are back. They are tackles Justin Shaw of Bruce and Jake Paylor of Holly Springs, guards Cordarrius McMurry of Courtland and Cameron Wagner of Batesville, and center Willie Oliver of Courtland.
Depth on the offensive will be provided by Marjarvin Chapman of Pope, Jonathan Hardin of Batesville, Bobby Barksdale of Holly Springs, and Jeffrey Bolton of Coldwater.
Defensively, the Rangers will rely on the experience two returning stars in the secondary— cornerback Bud Barksdale of Batesville and strong safety V.J. Street of Senatobia.
Street led all Ranger defensive backs with 51 tackles last season, while Barksdale registered 34. Both Street and Barksdale tied for the team lead with two interceptions each. Sophomore Aubrey Shelton of Grenada was moved from tailback to the secondary in the spring. First-year defensive backs are Brandon Lawrence of Calhoun City, Michael McKinney of Batesville, and Keshun Cowan of Olive Branch.
Sophomore linebacker Timothy Kirk of Charleston is also expected to have a big season. Kirk was third on the team in tackles last year with 62, including five quarterback sacks, and 12 tackles for loss. He will be joined by sophomores Denny Hansen of Olive Branch and Desley Brown of Holly Springs. Freshmen Eric Fields of Warner Robins, Ga., Jasper Brooks of Atlanta, Ga., and West Almond of Olive Branch will push for playing time.
Northwest lost its entire defensive front from last season, but freshmen Chris Little of Macon, Ga., and Jomantay Pilson of Greenville, Ala., have the potential to be solid players. They will be joined by freshmen Justin Harris of Batesville, Renaldo Buck of Sarah, and Courtney Easterwood of Olive Branch.
Freshman Kevin Buford of Greenville will handle punting and placekicking duties for the Rangers.