In my early days of reporting on the area high school sports I was asked to put together a magazine for the Laurel-Leader Call. In the magazine I was told to put together a preseason top 10 list of the area players.
It’s been a few years but it’s something I have wanted to bring back. Area football finally kicks off this week with PCS traveling to take on Escambia Academy.
Consider this a fun tease as the football special section comes out next week.
The way I compiled this list is what, in my opinion, is the best returning players for the 2020 football season so here it is.
Ty Badon, Purvis RB
Badon is one of the most well-balanced running backs in the area. He’s the returning leading rusher for the Tornados with 735 yards with another 129 receiving yards and seven total touchdowns. Badon can effectively do it all as he can turn a corner, hit a hole and probably his strongest quality is breaking tackles and putting his head down. Purvis will be a run heavy team and it should cater for Badon to put up some numbers. Not to mention, Badon is an equally effective defensive back who can read an offense.
Jordan Coleman, Oak Grove WR
In the last two seasons, Coleman has been maybe one of the more underrated wide receivers in the area, especially with the depth Oak Grove has had at the position in recent years. Coleman is a traditional and dangerous deep ball receiver who is smart with the football. Last season, Coleman hauled in seven touchdowns and 500 yards. Four of Coleman’s touchdowns came from 30 or more yards out and he notably averaged 16.1 yards per catch.
Cameron Shaw, PCS MLB
Last season was the first time Shaw had ever played linebacker. He still has much to learn, but the natural linebacker racked up 101 total tackles and 22 tackles for loss in one season. Shaw is fast. He recorded a 40-yard dash time of 4.4 seconds. His speed is his strongest quality as he is capable of running down anybody on the field.
Rodney Parker, Lumberton SS, RB
Parker is one of two juniors on this list. Most players at Lumberton will play several positions, but his strongest quality is playing safety while at the same time being an effective playmaker for the Panthers on offense. Parker totaled 113 tackles and 11 tackles for loss in 2019. He also forced a fumble and recovered a fumble and caught an interception. Parker also ran for 408 yards, averaging 6.7 yards per carry, and three touchdowns in a talented running back room.
Cole Daniels, Sumrall DE, DT
Daniels has been causing problems for offensive lines since the eighth grade. Heading into the season, he is easily one of the most experienced players in the area as well as one of the most talented defensive lineman heading into 2020. Daniels is quick and is hard to stop when he’s coming from the edge. The South Alabama commit made 60 tackles and had 13 tackles for loss.
K’Nalyan Willis Lumberton WR
Willis is the area’s top returning wide receiver. That’s even more impressive considering how run heavy the Panthers are on offense. However, Willis is the team’s go-to target. Willis is fast and more importantly, he makes difficult catches look easy. Last season, Willis averaged 24.3 yards per catch as he hauled in 820 yards and 10 touchdowns.
James Ford, Sumrall MLB
As a sophomore, Ford made an absurd 120 tackles and 12 tackles for loss. Ford is smart and does an excellent job of watching plays unfold and staying patient. He can read plays and blows up what looks to be successful plays almost out of nowhere. His sense of knowing the play allows him to constantly be a part of every play Sumrall’s defense makes. Along with two sacks, Ford forced two fumbles, recovered a fumble and made an interception.
Jonathan Harris, Petal WR, DB
Harris is hands down one of the best two-way players in the area. As a wide receiver he is an excellent route runner which made him an easy choice for the red zone. He led Petal with 579 receiving yards and five touchdowns. On the defensive side of the ball, Harris is exceptional at reading the quarterback. Harris’ five pass deflections and three interceptions are complimented by his 40 tackles from last season.
Marquis Crosby, PCS RB
Crosby, to say the least, is good at running the football. What makes his 1,427 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns from last season even more impressive is that he put that performance together with an injured ankle and while sharing the load with the talented Rico Dorsey. Crosby is hard to tackle and makes defenders miss. The Louisiana Tech commit will have a bigger role in the upcoming year which should set the stage for some video game numbers.
Robert Henry Lumberton RB
Henry has been really good at football for a long time now in the area. Henry has been the backbone of Lumberton for two seasons now and has given coaches in Class 1A headaches. In three seasons, he has racked up 5,279 yards. In 2019, he flipped between quarterback and running back in which he had equal success. At quarterback, he threw 13 touchdowns and 1,089 yards which gave him a 121.9 quarterback rating. At the same time, he ran for 1,976 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns. He still hasn’t committed to a school for college so it’s safe to say he will try and make his senior season memorable.
Andrew Abadie of Pine Belt Sports can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @PineBeltSPORTS or @AndrewAbadie