MOSS POINT -- With a new head coach and a drop down to Class 4A, the Moss Point football program is again at a crossroads.
The Tigers enter their first year under head coach Ed East as they prepare to enter Region 8-4A with the likes of St. Stanislaus and Vancleave.
Wins aren't as easy to come by these days at Moss Point, a program with a tradition as rich as any other in the state. The Tigers have won five state titles since 1983, but haven't won the trophy since 2000 as enrollment has gradually dropped at the school.
Over the last two years, Moss Point went a combined 9-13 under the direction of former head coach Kevin Jackson, who left in the offseason to take over at East Marion.
Enter East, who takes the job for one year on an interim basis after previously serving as an assistant on the Moss Point staff. He is a coaching veteran who has worked as a football assistant at Vigor, Citronelle and Davidson in Alabama.
Many observers expect Moss Point immediately to be the most athletic team in 8-4A this year, but it will have to contend with a non-region schedule that is likely among the toughest in Class 4A -- Pascagoula, Gautier, Ocean Springs, Gulfport and Biloxi.
While East is peppered with questions about the difficult schedule and the unknown of a new region, all he can do is worry about what goes on in the locker room, weight room and on the practice field.
"I'm just trying to put everything in," East said. "I've got enough already on my hands."If offseason success is measured by the number of players who showed up for workouts, East's first summer as head coach was a good one.
"We set a goal to get 90 percent of players here for summer workouts, and we accomplished that goal," senior Gabriel Jackson said.
The 6-foot-1, 250-pound Jackson is expected to be a key cog on both sides of the ball for Moss Point this season, lining up at defensive end and fullback.
Jackson's biggest impact will likely come on defense this season, but he showed a knack for getting in the end zone last year when he was started getting carries at fullback.
"It's probably going to be balanced out," Jackson said of playing offense and defense. "It's just how coach East feels. If coach East wants me there, he'll put me there."
Moss Point will have a new starting quarterback Bennie Curry, who received limited playing time as the backup last year.
East liked what he saw in the baseball standout during the spring, and he continues to build on that performance in the fall.
"He's just about continued what he's been doing," East said. "He didn't play but just a little bit of quarterback last year. He's being the leader and having to know what everybody does. He's doing well."
Jackson will share carries in the backfield with junior running backs Jamal Holloway and Keshun Wells.
Returning starter Keyvin Moody will team with fellow senior Tarin Cole and junior Taquii Williams in the receiving corps.
Junior guard Demario Magee is lone returning starter on the offensive line for the Tigers.
Jackson will lead the defensive front in a 4-2-5 scheme. East expects Jackson and senior defensive tackle Lajohn Reeves to be the toughest pair on the line this season.
Three players will share duties at the two linebacker spots with Nicholas Richardson, Rayshun Marcel and Michael Jacobs looking for snaps.Junior free safety Brandon Reaux has the potential to develop into a star this season following a strong summer. He stands 6-foot, 180 pounds.
"He played some last year, but he's grown up a little bit," East said. "We haven't changed a whole lot on defense so sometimes it takes a while to pick that up. He seems to be more comfortable with calls and stuff. I look for him to have a good year."
Sophomore Tre'von Dubose and Michael Doss are the two corners while Trenlon Harris, Anthony Plainer and Steven Marion will get playing time at the two other safety spots.
Xavier Walker, a soccer player, will handle kicking duties for the first time this season and Juan Parker returns as the team's punter.