BY ADAM MINICHINO
The challenge has been issuedto Jake Thomas, Quan Latham,and Demarcus Vance:EachColumbus High School senior has a statement to make in hisfinal season of high school foot-ball. Thomas wants to complete hismaturation into a college prospect and to step out of the shadow of his older brother, Zach. Lathamhopes to recover from a backinjury that forced him to miss thefinal five games of the season. Vance intends to prove he cantake the place of Deontae Jonesand become the Falcons’ go-toreceiver.Individually,each challenge willplay a key role in Columbus’ suc-cess. Collectively, the hurdles thethree seniors face represent a sin-gular obstacle Columbus must clear if it wants to continue to moveforward and make the playoffs.Columbus coach Tony Stanfordbelieves all three seniors will be able to meet their individ-ual and team challenges.“We have always told them theleaders are only going to be asgood as they lead us,” Stanfordsaid. “If other players see themnot putting in the time, they’regoing to think they don’t have toput in the time.” Thomas, Latham, and Vanceagree they all have to hold uptheir part of the deal if Columbusisgoing to take the next step after finishing 7-4 last season. Thethree-game improvement from2010 was nearly enough to qualify for the Class 6A North State play-offs, but the Falcons lost out on a tiebreaker due to point differen-tial. It just so happens that thegame that turned the tide — a 35-7loss to Southaven — was thegame Columbus lost Latham toinjury.Latham, who suffered a rup-tured disc and two fracturesof hisspine, is back to 100 percent. Inaddition to seeing time ondefense, Stanfordsaid theFalcons will showcase Latham onoffense in an attempt to find a playmaker to help replace thegraduation losses of quarterbackCedrick Jackson, running backDamian Baker, and Jones.“Ihave a lot of work to do andalot of stats to put up,” Lathamsaid. “I have a lot of interceptionsto put up and tackles to make, a lot of punt and kick returns andkick blocks.”Latham prepared for a bigger role by adding 30 pounds. He saidthe hard work in the offseasonhelped him get faster andstronger. Not only did he want toprove he could come back fromthe injury, he also wanted to erasethe frustration he felt in his play. This season, he said he won’tbeas uptight about his mistakesbecause he knows as a senior heis expected to set the tone.
Trace Lee (Jr.),Keith Brooks (Sr.)
Lee, an All-State base-ball player and a soccerplayer,shared time withCedrick Jackson last sea-son. This season, he willlook to take on a biggerrole in a new offense thatwill feature multiple forma-tions and a few plays.“Hehas had a great early camp and he has thrownthe ball really well,”Columbus High Schoolcoach Tony Stanford said. “Ilook for a great year out of him.”
Kevin Jackson (Jr.),Kendrick Conner (Jr.),Quan Latham (Sr.),Jarcquarius Clark (Jr.),Corey Brown (Jr.)
The Falcons will try tofind a go-to back afterDamian Baker,who led theway the past two seasons,graduated. Clark and Brownwill share time at fullback.“It will be by committee,”Stanford said. “If we want adifferent look we will get Qin thereto be a biggerback.Heis real good, hasood speed, and cuts realell. The other two are kindfscat backs. When they eethe seam they hit iteal fast, but they’re notoing to run over you a lot.”
DeMarcus Vance (Sr.),RodHogan (Soph.),Dalon Moore(Sr.),JJ Swanigan (Soph.),Meunta Verner (Jr.),Iziah Jones (Sr., TE),Kris Releford (Jr., TE)
Columbus has plenty of players with potential,including Vance, a sprinteronthe school’s track andfieldteam. He is coming off hamstring injuries in thespring. Stanford hopessomeone emerges to helpake up for the loss of eading receiver DeontaeJones. Meunta is the broth-er of former Columbus Highfootball player and power-lifter Justin Verner.
Jake Thomas (Sr., T),Jeremy Morgan (Sr., C),Tyrus Brooks (Jr. C),Kenneth Miller (Jr., G),Jarvis Glenn (Jr., G),TreMarcus Monroe (Jr., G-T),Jeremiah Caine (Soph., G),Darius Poindexter (Jr., T)
The discussion beginswith Thomas, a Dandy Dozen selection by
.The 6-foot-5,300-pounder is beingrecruited by MississippiState University, theUniversity of NorthCarolina, StanfordUniversity,and VanderbiltUniversity. After that,Stanford said the Falconswill mix and match andhope things come together.“It’s a work in progressright now,” Stanford said.“It is probably the spot weneed to improve the mostto have a good footballteam. If they don’t comealong it will be a long year.”
Chris Releford (Jr.),Ramadus Beasley (Sr.),Ryan and Bryan Ezell(Soph.), Corey Brown (Jr.),Jalen Stewart (Jr.),Greg Sykes (Jr.),Leon Payne (Soph.)
While one side of theball is lean on experience,Stanford likes the unit andfeels it could dominate.“This is probably our strongpoint,” Stanfordsaid.“There are more startersreturning there than any other position. They are big,strong, and fast. They arethe main part of ourdefense right now.”
Jarcquarius Clark (Jr.),Martavious McKinley (Sr.),Larry Williams, (Sr.), JohnNeil Stanback (Soph.),Damian Moore (Jr.),Gemriah Williams (Sr.),Quavis Sherrod (Jr.)
Stanfordsaid this unitwill have to come togetherto make the defense solid.He said Stanback really isdoing an outstanding job.
Jimmy Cockrell (Jr.)Rashad Meeks (Sr.),Vonshay Walker (Soph.),Tyler Sanders (Sr.),Quan Latham (Sr.),Alex Lipscomb (Soph.)
Another area of possiblestrength. Stanfordlikes theexperience and athleticismin this group. He saidJimmy Cockrell hasn’t beenwith the team this weekbecause he has been at abaseball camp.“After we lost a couple of people like Byke (ByersonCockrell), we feel like thiscould become a strength,”Stanford said. “Quan playedabout half of the yearbeforehe was injured, sowe have some experience.”
Rashad Meeks (Sr.),John Neil Stanback (Soph.),Michael Sturdivant (Jr.),Greg Sykes (Jr.)
Meeks and Stanbackwill sharethe puntingduties. Sturdivant andSykes will handle the kick-ing and extra points.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 12, 2012
HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PREVIEW
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Mississippi High School Activities Association:Class 6A, Region 1; 2011 Record 7-4
Aug. 17ABERDEENAug. 24 OpenAug. 31 WEST POINTSept. 7 New HopeSept. 14 LOUISVILLESept. 21 TupeloSept. 28 SOUTHAVENOct. 5 So. PanolaOct. 12DeSOTOCENTRALOct. 19HornLakeOct. 26OLIVEBRANCHNov. 2GrenadaHOME GAMES IN CAPS
Aug. 19W, 31-14AtAberdeenSept. 2 W, 35-27 OTWEST POINTSept. 9 W, 33-0NEW HOPESept. 16 L, 22-10AtLouisvilleSept. 23 W, 24-23TUPELOSept. 30 L, 35-7At SouthavenOct. 7 L,21-7SO. PANOLAOct. 14W, 34-6At DeSotoCentralOct. 21W, 41-21HORN LAKEOct. 28L, 43-14At OliveBranchNov.4W, 48-21GRENADAHOME GAMES IN CAPS
ACLOSER LOOK AT THE FALCONS
QUARTERBACKRUNNING BACKSRECEIVERSOFFENSIVE LINEDEFENSIVE LINELINEBACKERSSECONDARYSPECIAL TEAMS
Region 1, District 2
ColumbusDeSoto CentralGrenadaHornLakeOlive BranchSouthavenSouth PanolaTupelo
:Top four qualify forplayoffs.
Chris Childers (offensivecoordinator), BrandanHaynes (offensive line),Lawrence Hill and JamesRichardson (widereceivers), Brandan Brown(defensive coordinator /secondary), Jim Hamilton,Cody Rader, and ZachLeech (linebackers),Lee Davis, Rader,Childers(junior high program)
Sam Gause/Dispatch Staff
From left:Columbus High School seniors Quan Latham, Jake Thomas, and DeMarcus Vance will play integral roles this season in helpingthe Falcons overcome key graduation losses in hopes of building on a 7-4 finish last season.
Seniors hope to meet challenges, set tone