LYMAN -- Three Division I commitments. A rugged defense. New artificial turf. A stadium face lift.
Those are four building blocks for optimism for the Harrison Central football faithful this fall.
Harrison Central coach Steve Jones is in his second season at the helm, and believes his team can be a contender for Region 4-6A honors and a state playoff berth.
"We expect to compete for a division championship,'' Jones said.
Defensive back/quarterback Tito Windham (5-foot-11, 190 pounds) has committed to Oklahoma. Defensive back/wingback Lashard Durr (6-0, 190) has committed to Mississippi State. Defensive tackle Ladarius Kidd (6-3½, 315) has committed to Alabama-Birmingham. And linebacker/defensive end Rejohn Franklin (6-2½, 250) is another potential college prospect. He has been nominated to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, which will be played Jan. 4, 2014.
Windham was a Region 4-6A first-teamer in the secondary in 2012 while Durr was a 4-6A second-teamer, also in the secondary. Durr picked off seven passes last season.
"You are always excited when you have players who can move on -- especially to Division I college football,'' Jones said. "We had a good spring with quite a few starters coming back from last year.''
The Red Rebels are looking for their third district/region title since the inception of the state playoff system in 1981. The Red Rebels won division titles in 1989 and 1991, and came oh-so-close to a region title in 2009. But an upset loss to Hancock in the regular season finale pushed Harrison Central into second place in Region 4-6A.
Defensively, the Red Rebels return 10 starters. Kidd and senior Travante Chandler (6-0, 245) anchor the middle at defensive tackle.
Franklin, Britian Thompson (6-3, 197) and Justin Lee (5-11, 215) are solid and experienced at end. Thompson played at Mobile-Murphy before transferring to HCHS last year.
Seniors Chris Crosby and Haywood Granger, along with sophomores Steven Biggs and Aaron Rainey, give the Red Rebs talent at linebacker.
Durr, Windham and Shawn Towner are solid in the secondary.
Offensively, HCHS got a spark in the latter part of the season when Jones inserted Windham at quarterback. Jones noted that he may have changed his philosophy at that position, looking for an athlete at quarterback who can make a gain when a play breaks down.
Running back Dwayne Barnett is a playmaker in the backfield, rushing for 675 yards a year ago. He is joined in the backfield by running back Demarcus McInnis.
On the offensive line, the Red Rebels have size, ranging from 250 pounds as high as 325 pounds.
In terms of physical facilities, Harrison Central will get a new entrance to its stadium, ticket booths and concession stand as well as artificial turf. As a result, the Red Rebels will play only one game on real grass the entire season on Sept. 20 at West Jones.
The Red Rebels closed out the 2012 season with victories over St. Martin and Hancock, finishing at 3-7.
After opening the season against a pair of 5A schools -- Stone and West Harrison -- on the road, the home opener is scheduled for Sept. 13 against Greene County. The game at West Harrison on Aug. 30 will be the first football game between the two programs.
The Region 4-6A opener is at Hattiesburg on Sept. 27.