By David Wheeler/NEMS Daily Journal
Thursday nights on the calendar are the usual domain of Mississippi’s junior college football teams.
But season openers are five Thursday’s away for the like of the Itawamba Community College Indians and Northeast Mississippi Community College Tigers.
Still, with that gap on the calendar, that does not mean head coaches Jon Williams of ICC and Ricky Smither of Northeast are not thinking football in July.
“We’re finishing up our summer workouts this week, then give them a week off,” said Smither, who will be entering his fourth season as the Northeast head coach. “We bring back a bunch of guys on defense, and we feel like we’re ahead of schedule with their fitness level.”
Itawamba and Northeast are in very similar situations at this point.
Both are coming off 5-4 overall and 4-2 North Division marks from the 2010 season, which put them in a three-way tie for second place in the division with East Mississippi. And both are looking at players officially reporting Aug. 7, with an eye toward Sept. 1 openers – Itawamba at Hinds and Northeast hosting East Central.
“There’s really not a lot of time left before the season opens,” said Williams, who will be entering his second season as ICC’s head coach. “As coaches and players, we’ve got to find a way to get started faster than last year.”
While turnover is the norm for two-year schools, Itawamba must also integrate into the mix new offensive coordinator Aaron Flores, who was previously at Butler Community College in Ks. Itawamba already looks pretty stout in the offensive backfield with cousins Keon McGaughy from Shannon and DeShawn McGaughy from Fulton returning.
For Northeast, its defense should be one of the top-rated in the state with its returning experience. In the defensive backfield, Deion Belue from Tuscumbia, Al., is already generating national recruiting interest for Northeast, and will be valuable on special teams as well.