With a record of 34-6 over the last three seasons, the Resurrection Catholic football team has earned its place as one of the better Class 1A programs in the state.
The Eagles lost 25-9 to Simmons in the state title game in 2015 and followed that up with a trip to the third round of the playoffs last year, losing 27-0 to 1A powerhouse Nanih Waiya.
St. Stanislaus and RCS have been the most consistent programs on the Coast over the last three years.
In 2017, the Eagles don’t appear ready to take a step back.
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The most important departure from a year ago is running back Patrick Watts, who surpassed the 1,000-yard mark in his junior and senior seasons and accounted for 48 rushing touchdowns (50 total) during his career.
Justice Sharp, who rushed for 569 yards and seven touchdowns last season, is also gone, but nearly every other important piece is back on offense.
The Eagles will feature one of the better senior quarterbacks on the Coast in Blake Porter, who completed 57 percent of his passes for 1,195 yards, 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions last season.
With Watts no longer around to carry the load, Porter will get more opportunities to look downfield for what should be a solid receiving corps.
“(Porter) has bulked up so he’s throwing harder, quicker,” Sisson said. “He acts like he wants to tuck it and go sometimes. He’s gotten stronger.”
Sisson is listed at 6-foot-1, 170 pounds.
Receiver Patrick Roth is set up for a big senior season after catching 30 passes for 447 yards and six touchdowns to lead the team a year ago.
Porter can also look for 6-foot-3, 220-pound senior tight end Caden Hinman, who hauled in 16 passes for 259 yards and two scores.
One player to add to the mix at receiver is senior Ty Tingle, a baseball standout who sat out football season a year ago.
“We’ll be able to do a little of both this year, a lot more of both,” RCS head coach Scott Sisson said of mixing the run and pass. “We’ve got most of the line back. We’ll only have one new starter up there.”
Senior Cearly Parker, who is listed at 5-9, 200, is likely to be the feature back for RCS this season after rushing 62 times for 443 yards and eight touchdowns last season.
Senior Jackson Byrd, who made the Sun Herald All-South Mississippi Team as a defensive lineman last year, will help lead an offensive line that should again be one of the better units in all of Class 1A. Byrd is a powerful 6-foot-1, 285-pound tackle.
The only new starter is junior tackle Lane Wienewitz, who stands 5-foot-10, 235 pounds.
The rest of the offensive line is senior center Gavin Backs (6-0, 275), junior guard Jack Sisson (6-0, 220) and senior guard Andy Murphy (5-9, 235).
Byrd has a chance to be an even more dominant force at defensive tackle for the Eagles this season. Last year, Byrd registered 82 tackles, including 24 for negative yardage and five sacks.
“If he does what he’s done the last couple of years, that’s fine with me,” Sisson said. “He looks like he’s ready to put on a show. He’s steady.”
Byrd will be joined at defensive tackle by another returning starter, senior Tyus Bond, who is listed at 5-11, 210. Junior Ky Smith (5-10, 195) and sophomore Terrance Spivey (6-2, 185) will be the two defensive ends.
RCS will feature plenty of experience in the linebacking corps with Parker and 6-1, 200-pound senior Becht Rowell. Parker had 126 tackles last season and Rowell led the team with 131.
Sophomore Brandon Orozco, who had 37 tackles last year, should step in well as a starter at the other linebacker.
Sisson will be working with a healthy rotation in the secondary with Tingle, Roth, Clark Presley, Johnson and Patrick Lee all seeing playing time.
RCS last started the last three seasons with the realistic goal of reaching the Class 1A state title game, but Sisson and company try not to emphasize expectations.
“We try not to talk about it,” he said. “What we try to do is give our best effort every day and get better every day. If you’re trying to do that, you will.”
Aug. 18: at Perry Central
Aug. 25: at Escambia Academy
Sept. 1: Maplesville, Ala.
Sept. 8: at Forrest County AHS
Sept. 15: Northlake Christian
Sept. 22: Sacred Heart
Sept. 29: at Stringer
Oct. 6: Salem (hc)
Oct. 13: at Mt. Olive
Oct. 20: at Lumberton
Nov. 2: East Marion
2 Patrick Roth
3 Patrick Lee
4 Ty Tingle
5 Kollin Thompson
7 Jonathan Burgett
10 Blake Porter
12 Terrance Spivey
14 Jerry Johnson
16 Will Hinman
18 Baylor Brady
20 Avery Barlow
21 Will Cleamens
23 Norman Douglass
25 Cearly Parker IV
28 Layken Simkins
30 Kye Smith
34 Kelton DeCuir
37 Braden Orozco
44 Becht Rowell
51 Andy Murphy
53 Hunter Sharp
55 Peyton Hartman
57 Lane Wienlewitz
59 Jackson Byrd
60 Tyus Bond
61 Jason Fayard
65 Gavin Backs
72 Jack Sisson
78 Zack Mitchell
83 Caden Hinman
89 Clark Presley