Watts twins betting on themselves; Bridges inks with MGCCC

By CAMAL PETRO,

PETAL – The Petal Panthers celebrated three skill players Wednesday during a National Signing Day ceremony, as wide receivers Marquise Bridges and Natorian “Deuce” Watts and do-it-all man Nataurean “Phat” Watts signed to play football at the next level.

The Watts twins will suit up for Jones County Junior College next season, and Bridges will play for Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. There’s a guarantee the former high school teammates will faceoff against each other at least once when the two JUCO teams play.

“We’ll be waiting for that one. Oh yeah, there’s going to be some (trash talking),” Bridges said with a laugh.

Deuce received offers from four-year schools like South Alabama and Arkansas State, but he chose to stay close to home and play with his brother. He admitted he’s betting on himself by going the junior college route.

Deuce said the recruiting process was tough, especially when some schools didn’t follow through with him in the last couple of months leading up to Wednesday, but he trusted the process, took everything in stride and accepted what was offered to him.

“Everybody said to go D-1, but I’ll go JUCO and grind it out,” he said.

The last time the brothers weren’t on the same team was Phat’s first year of playing football as a kid. Deuce didn’t play that year, but the two have been teammates every year since.

“We couldn’t do it,” Deuce said of not playing together next season. “We have that twin connection.”

Deuce caught 51 passes as a senior for 980 yards and 10 touchdowns, finishing his two-year Petal career with 1,587 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns. Counting his freshman and sophomore seasons at Richton, he caught 119 passes for 2,346 yards and 28 scores.

When the two moved to Petal prior to their junior season, both admitted this was the ultimate goal for the brothers.

“When I first got here, that was my main goal,” Phat said. “Get out and get my college paid for, and that’s what I did. Jones gave me the opportunity.”

Like his time at Petal, Phat said the Jones coaches have talked to him about playing multiple positions on the field. He rushed for 1,321 yards and 20 scores on 208 carries this season with the Panthers, and he caught 47 passes for 762 yards and six touchdowns.

He began his career with the Panthers at receiver, but moved around all over the field because of his versatility. He found a home in the backfield this season, though, and he finished his career with 6,690 all-purpose yards on offense between his time at Richton and Petal. Serving as Richton’s quarterback, he passed for 2,046 yards, then added 3,222 yards rushing and 1,422 receiving over the past four years.

The recruiting process was very stressful for Phat, as he looked for the best fit and which coaches were being the most sincere. Jones was the right fit for him, he said.

“I feel like I’ll be out of there after two years,” Phat said. “Maybe a semester depending on how the season goes.”

Jones was 8-2 overall this season, as its only two losses came to the eventual NJCAA National Champion, East Mississippi. Deuce said he’s ready to take on the challenge of JUCO football, hoping to help lead Jones to new heights.

“I want to hop on the bandwagon and go help them beat East Mississippi and win the Natty,” he said.

When Bridges took his trip to Gulf Coast, he knew it was the place he was going to spend the next one or two seasons. Bridges wanted to be a part of the program because it was heading in the right direction, too.

“I’m excited and thankful,” he said. “I was already considering them and leaning towards them. Then when I went on the visit, I loved the campus, I loved the coaches and I just felt like it was the perfect fit for me.”

Bridges caught 27 balls for 297 yards and three scores, and he averaged 11 yards per reception.

A member of the basketball team, too, Bridges had to juggle his football recruitment while being a key fixture on a Petal basketball team that’s seeing a lot of success this season.

“It can be stressful, but it can be a good feeling, as well, knowing you have opportunities to play at the next level,” Bridges said. “At the end of the day, if you played your hardest, you pray about it and you feel what’s good for you, you’ll find what’s home for you.”

MGCCC finished 5-4 overall last season.

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