Tupelo Christian Prep kicked off the 2009 season without the services of its head coach – Aubrey Boren.
He was at home with the swine flu.
Instead of prowling the sideline for the Eagles’ first MHSAA football game, an eventual 34-14 road loss to Mantachie, Boren listened to the game on the radio.
“It was surreal,” he said, looking back. “Your team’s playing and you’re not there to say anything or do anything.
“It was one of my craziest experiences ever as a coach.”
Boren was H1N1-free as of Monday and plans to be on the field Friday when Class 1A independent TCPS kicks off its season in a 7:30 p.m. rematch against Class 2A Mantachie.
“Lord willing, as far as I know, I plan to be there,” Boren said, then laughed.
Fans who attend the season opener will see two of Northeast Mississippi’s top-rated quarterbacks – seniors Will Cockrell of TCPS and Dalton McMillen of Mantachie.
Cockrell completed 22 of 40 passes for 251 yards and one touchdown against the Mustangs last season in his first varsity start under center. For the season, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound QB completed 118 of 226 passes for 1,077 yards and 10 touchdowns in 10 games.
“Will Cockrell will be the leader we expect,” Boren said.
‘He torched us’
Mantachie second-year coach Andrew Aldridge hopes he has figured out a way to contain Boren’s talented signal-caller.
“We played him in 7-on-7 twice this summer and he torched us,” Aldridge said.
Boren has the same concerns in trying to stop the run-oriented, 6-3, 205-pound McMillen. He rushed for one TD and passed for another against TCPS last year.
“He’s a mature leader who runs the ball hard,” Boren said. “He’s a big kid, a tough one to bring down. Our job’s going to be tough Friday night.”
McMillen has drawn a lot of NCAA Division II interest in the preseason.
“He’s mentally tough,” Aldridge said. “He’s got a good knowledge of the game and he understands what we’re trying to do.
“His strongest trait is running the ball, but he has a great anticipation when it comes to throwing the ball.”
Contact Gene Phelps at 678-1593 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal