By David Wheeler/NEMS Daily Journal
BOONEVILLE – Lavon Hooks has a message for schools on the Northeast Community College Tigers football schedule in 2012.
“We’re not playing around this year.”
Hooks, a sophomore defensive player from Atlanta, is a bit a of rarity at the junior college level – a two-sport star – having played 18 games for the Tigers basketball team this past season.
So he has had not time to play around the past months on the Northeast campus, though he took time out with the rest of his teammates for Media Day on Thursday at Tiger Stadium.
“We have a pretty strong linebacking corps, and some defensive linemen have stepped up in practice,” said Hooks, a 6-foot-4, 280 pound defensive lineman.
Hooks contributed 30 tackles and a sack to last season’s fast start and eventual 4-2 North Division record for the Tigers. In fact, Northeast was at the top of many defensive categories for most of the 2011 season as the Tigers defense helped the squad to an early 5-1 record.
But losses in three of the Tigers last four games left a bitter taste for many freshmen from last season, including Hooks.
“We want to start with Co-Lin, and send a message to every team we play,” said Hooks, whose Tigers open their 2012 season Thursday hosting Copiah-Lincoln. “The freshmen from last year remember the way we finished the season, but we’re in charge now.”
Hooks averaged 10.2 points per game and led the basketball Tigers with 9.0 rebound per contest in the just completed season.
“Coming out of high school, I thought I was done with basketball,” Hooks said. “It was fun playing here.
“I think it helped with my footwork for football.”
Another player echoing the defensive flavor from last season was defensive back Kareem Brown, a sophomore from New Albany.
“I like to think we didn’t rebuild, we reloaded,” said Brown, who had 24 tackles as a freshman last season. “After the East Mississippi game (a 63-35 loss), that left a mark on us.
“This year, we want to play every game like it’s our last.”
“I think the players are in about as good a shape as we could have them in, and I think they’re ready to play,” added Northeast head coach Ricky Smither. “We’ve pushed this group about as hard as we have anybody before.
“I know they think they’re ready to play.”
Aug. 30 Copiah-Lincoln 7 p.m.
Sept. 8 at Jones 7 p.m.
Sept. 13 at Holmes* 7 p.m.
Sept. 20 Northwest* 7 p.m.
Sept. 27 at Gulf Coast 7 p.m.
Oct. 4 at Coahoma* 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 11 East Miss.* (HC) 7 p.m.
Oct. 20 Itawamba* 3 p.m.
Oct. 25 at Miss. Delta* 7 p.m.
*-North Division game