For a refresher or to fill in for anyone, last week, I wrote about what sports teams and dynasties should have their own ‘The Last Dance’ documentary series. I chose stories from across the country, which ranged from college athletics to professional.
This week I am concentrating on what local teams, players, or coaches that could deserve an in-depth style documentary.
Maybe one day I’ll have the funding and time to do these myself, but here we go.
5. SOUTHERN MISS Baseball
Picking the fifth spot was very difficult because I feel like my top four choices are all guarantees in some order on this list. I pondered who should fit this spot, but considering the dominance Southern Miss baseball has had in the 21st century, it is worth bringing up.
The stories of the teams in the 2000s are filled with talented players, and of course, the 2009 World Series team would be a fun dive. The changing of the guard between Corky Palmer and Scott Berry would be fun to look at it as well. I think it could to get insight into their coaching styles.
I started covering Southern Miss in 2017, the countless heroics and Conference USA tournament memories showcase a variety of great moments for me.
Some that come to mind are Mason Strickland’s complete-game shutout in 2018, Taylor Braley’s walk-off home run against Charlotte, and 2019’s comeback win over Rice, which was capped off with a Matt Wallner walk-off.
The countless All-American athletes I’m sure all have some interesting stories.
4. SACRED HEART HS SOCCER
It’s remarkable to have one highly dominant sports dynasty at a small high school. It’s even crazier for a small school to have two and still win against schools that have larger enrollments.
However, the Sacred Heart soccer programs do just that.
Since 2011, the Sacred Heart girls have won six state championships and have made South State eight times while earning 119 wins. In that stretch, the Lady Crusaders only missed the South State game just once. This is a dynasty that rivals the New England Patriots.
The boys have been just as dominant as the program has racked up 134 wins, four state championships two state runner ups, and eight South State appearances since 2011. Like the girls’ team, the boys have only missed the South State championship game just once in that stretch.
The 1A programs, which have been known to regularly have players that are as young as seventh-graders, play against schools that are as big as 3A schools in the playoffs and regularly challenge 5A programs during the regular season.
The deep-dive would be fun to get a preview and more in-depth dive into Joe Falla Sr. who leads the girls’ program and Joe Falla Jr., who is the boys’ coach. The father-son duo also helped develop Gracie and Gabby Falla, who have been critical parts in the girls’ success.
I’m going to say that it is probably one of the most underrated dynasties in Mississippi high school sports history.
3. USM COACH JEFF BOWER
The former Southern Miss football coach has ingrained his roots and named into Hattiesburg history. Bower, who was a former Golden Eagle quarterback in the mid-1970s, eventually made his way back to his alma mater after becoming offensive coordinator in 1988 and later returning to Southern Miss as head coach in 1990.
Bower pushed the program into its Golden Age of football which would be fun to examine. Bower won four C-USA championships, six bowl wins, which included two Liberty Bowl wins, and had the Golden Eagles ranked as high as No. 13 in the Coaches Poll.
The insight on his love for USM and the players he groomed would be fascinating to see. He notably had major upsets over LSU, Georgia, Auburn, Alabama, Oklahoma State and TCU. His success earned three Coach of the Year honors by the conference.
2. OAK GROVE HS FOOTBALL
This was a pretty well-documented event, but Oak Grove football led by Nevill Barr and Brett Favre was undoubtedly an intriguing event.
The former NFL and Southern Miss great joined Oak Grove’s coaching staff as the team’s offensive coordinator.
Despite finishing 7-4, Oak Grove’s averaged 30 points per game in 2012.
The next season, the Southern Miss filled recruiting class featured Kirk McCarty, Taylor Braley, Picasso Nelson Jr. and Jordan Mitchell, to name a few.
In 2013, as I’m sure Oak Grove fans fondly remember, the Warriors finished 14-1 and won the 6A State Championship with a win over Tupelo.
The Oak Grove offense averaged 38.5 points per game that was spearheaded behind McCarty’s arm that threw for 4,043 yards and 44 touchdowns.
The amount of future talent combined with the coaching minds of Favre and Barr culminated in a dominant football team.
It must have been an exciting experience being coached by the NFL great. I would love to have been a fly on the wall for the film sessions with Favre and Barr.
1. SUMRALL HS BASEBALL
Sumrall baseball will forever have its name ingrained in Mississippi high school baseball history. The Bobcats went on a 67-game win streak, which is the fourth longest ever winning streak in the nation.
Sumrall claimed a national championship and won four state titles from 2008 to 2011. In 2009, the Bobcats went 36-0 and was ranked No.1 by several national polls.
Getting a deep look into Larry Knight’s coaching style as well as what it must have been like playing for an undefeated team in baseball would be fun to see. I can’t imagine what that was like, especially for a small town like Sumrall.
The Purvis and Sumrall games were easily some of the best baseball to watch in all of Mississippi, not that it still isn’t fun to watch. I’ve heard stories of how thousands of people would regularly come and watch Sumrall baseball games.