Meridian Star

Sports

June 26, 2014

Kemper Co. coach working on improving his players

DEKALB — It's only the summer, but the Kemper County High School players and coaches already have big plans for this fall.

"Championships," head coach Chris Jones said. "I come from Noxubee County, so all we do is football. We win, win, win. I played at Jackson State, so I'm used to winning. My previous coaching job before here is Louisville (High School), and that's a school that's won eight straight titles. I'm here to win championships."

So far, Jones has the Wildcats on the right track. In his first season in De Kalb last fall, Jones led the team to a 9-4 record and a second-round appearance in the MHSAA Class 3A playoffs. This was fresh off the heels of a 1-10 record in 2012, and with summer workouts under way at Kemper County, the plan is to take the Wildcats even further.

"We have the skillset to do what we have to do, we just have to work like champions and prepare like champions," Jones said. "It's other stuff that makes champions, and I'm just trying to teach that and instill that into these guys."

Like his coach, junior receiver Otis Cross said he's already set the bar high as far as expectations go.

"I think we can go to the championship and win," Cross said. "We've been working hard and have a good offense and defense."

Added sophomore receiver DJ Clayton, "We're shooting for a 3A state championship, and I think we have the team to do it. Everyone came back, so I think we have a good team."

Team workouts, which consist of weight lifting and agility drills, began at the start of June for Kemper County, and the numbers started out around 55 before getting progressively smaller over the last few weeks, Jones said. This week, his offensive and defensive linemen are at a skill camp at East Mississippi Community College.

"We're still just a 3A school, so the numbers aren't what I'd like, but you just have to do what you have to do as a coach," Jones said.

Jones also said most of his team's core players are present every day, which is the most important.

"I want everyone here, but I understand that where I am, it's kind of a country, rural area, so it's kind of hard to get kids here consistently every day for various reasons," he said. "Our core guys are working hard and buying into it and relaying the message by their actions showing what it takes to be a starter or a good player."

Senior linebacker/running back Lacederick Odom, who has an offer from Alcorn State University, said summer workouts play a big part in the success of your season.

"It isn't easy," Odom said of the workouts. "It's hard. You have to come out here and do a lot of work. The sun's out, and you have to put in the work with you and your teammates. But seeing these guys out here every day (makes it worth it)."

Senior cornerback Jonathan Jones said the coaches have done a good job preparing the team for the fall.

"They work us, and they lead us on the field and off the field," Jones said. "They're good coaches. As a player, you're supposed to like getting worked."

Summer is also a time for newcomers like senior running back Devante Scott, who transferred from Noxubee County High School, to get adjusted to new teammates

"It's a good team," Scott said. "We have a good chance to go to state and a good chance to win it. It's a good fit."

Scott broke his arm in a recent 7-on-7 tournament, but he said the injury hasn't slowed him down.

"It's all right," he said. "It's just a minor setback. I'm still able to do everything."

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