IAHS: Keeping the momentum

PHOTO BY SCOTTY NICHOLS I BUY AT PHOTOS.ITAWAMBATIMES.COM Daniel Freppon, who led IAHS with 167 total tackles last season (13.9 per game), will lead a fierce Indian linebacking unit that includes senior Brandon Gates and sophomore Jamal Shumpert in 2015.

PHOTO BY SCOTTY NICHOLS I BUY AT PHOTOS.ITAWAMBATIMES.COM
Daniel Freppon, who led IAHS with 167 total tackles last season (13.9 per game), will lead a fierce Indian linebacking unit that includes senior Brandon Gates and sophomore Jamal Shumpert in 2015.

FULTON – Clint Hoots is entering his first season as IAHS head football coach.
After serving as an assistant in Fulton for the past nine seasons and defensive coordinator for the past five, Hoots knows the program inside and out. He, along with much of the current staff, has witnessed kids come up from pee wee and the middle school program.
“There’s a ton of talent and depth at every position this season,” Hoots said. “We’ve got tremendous ability in our starters but it’s a great thing when there is little or no drop off when you start looking at names under them on the depth chart.”
The Indians return 10 starters on the offensive side of the ball and eight starters on defense from a team who struggled a bit in the win column during nondivision play, but then hit their stride and mowed through division play like a hot knife through butter.
“We were in a lot of those nondivision games,” Hoots said. “Our record didn’t show a lot as far as wins go, but we were in most of those games until the fourth quarter.”
IAHS hosted Ripley in the opening week last season and engaged in a slugfest with the powerful Tiger squad until a late Indian turnover led to a touchdown and a 34-21 Ripley victory.
“That first one means a lot,” said Hoots. “Obviously it isn’t necessarily a season-breaker, after the way last season turned out, but it can definitely set the tone. We hurt ourselves and couldn’t catch a break in all but one nondivision game last season, and it started there. We hope to go get them (Ripley) back and start this season off on the right foot.”
IAHS trounced New Albany 35-0 on the road in week two, but then fell to Saltillo, 22-7, and Center Hill, 23-15, before dropping a 55-28 game at Aberdeen.
The Indians were tied with Aberdeen just before halftime, but surrendered the lead with just a few ticks left on the clock and couldn’t generate anything in the second half.
“We limped into the off week last season and sat down and had to re-evaluate ourselves as players and coaches,” Hoots said. “Things started to click that week, and it showed in the last seven games.”
Click, things did.
IAHS routed their five division opponents by an average score of 41-17, on their way to a perfect 5-0 record.
On top of that, the Indians hung 55 and 56 points on the two teams (Amory and Corinth) that were the top contenders for the 1-4A title.
IAHS knocked off Gentry in round one of the playoffs before falling to Kosciusko in round two, finishing the most important part of the season with a 6-1 mark.
“Almost all those guys are back,” Hoots said. “We’re definitely looking to build off of last season’s second-half success. We brought in a couple of great guys and football minds, with offensive coordinator Ron Price and offensive line coach Zane Thomas, to go with the awesome staff that we already had in place. We’re looking forward to a big season.”
The offense seemed to be the better off of the two units, but the defense showed that they’re definitely on the same level during last Saturday’s scrimmage.
Senior quarterback Vijay Miller found sophomore tailback Chris Chandler on a jailbreak screen that ended up going for a 60-plus-yard touchdown.
The defense then decided that was enough for a while.
The headhunters baffled the talented offensive unit with a series of three-and-outs, frequently forcing fourth-and-very-long situations.
“The offense will get a lot of attention because of all the weapons we have, but don’t sleep on this defense,” Hoots said. “We lost three key guys from last season, but we have a ton of guys with meanginful playing experience who can absolutely go get it.”
Anchoring the defensive unit will be the linebacking corps, which will be manned by seniors Daniel Freppon and Brandon Gates, and sophomore Jamal Shumpert.
“This is probably the best group of linebackers I’ve ever had,” Hoots said. “They’re all big, strong and fast kids. They plug up the middle, can run sideline to sideline, and also make plays in the defensive backfield. They’re great all-around players at the position.”
With the offensive diversity, the Indians will sport multiple looks and formations this season.
“We have one of the best quarterbacks in the state in Vijay, three excellent running backs, six great receivers that we will rotate and an offensive line that is very experienced and talented,” Hoots said. “We’re gonna try to be pretty balanced on that side.”
Thomas had a unique perspective on the offensive philosophy:
“We want to be a smash-mouth spread team,” he said. “We want to spread out defenses and put a lot of athletes on the field, but we also want to be able to line up and run it right at people. I think we have the personnel to do whatever we want on the offensive side of the ball.”
Price said that he felt “like a kid in a toy store” when he got a look at the skill players he had to work with for this season.
“We have 12 or 13 guys at quarterback, running back and wide receiver who we aren’t afraid to put in the game,” Price said. “The wild part is that only three of them will graduate this season.”
It’s apparent that the mindset is on another level than years past with the IAHS football program, and the players and staff are looking to take the accomplishments of the program to the next level as well.
“We talk about it to the kids,” Thomas said, regarding a potential trip to the state championship game. “If you don’t talk about it to the kids, it seems like more of a dream than a realistic goal. When the goal is perceived as very possible, it changes things. Work ethic gets better, drive gets stronger and heart gets bigger.”
“Of course we don’t know how the season will play out. It often takes a little luck, and a good bounce here and there, along the way,” he said. “But I can tell you that these kids are talented and are putting in the work and doing things the right way.”
IAHS kicks off the beginning of Friday night lights with a trip to Tupelo for a preseason game Friday night.

 

scotty.nichols@journalinc.com
Twitter: @ScotNic24

About Scotty Nichols

Graduate of THE University of Mississippi. #HottyToddy. I like sports. And BBQ.

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