Sports

Buddy Singleton set standard of excellence at D'Iberville

JOHN FITZHUGH/SUN HERALD 
 D'Iberville coach Buddy Singleton watches his team play against Picayune during the second quarter of their game at Warrior Stadium in D'Iberville on Friday Sept. 5, 2014.
JOHN FITZHUGH/SUN HERALD D'Iberville coach Buddy Singleton watches his team play against Picayune during the second quarter of their game at Warrior Stadium in D'Iberville on Friday Sept. 5, 2014. SUN HERALD

End of an era?

You bet.

When Buddy Singleton stepped down as head football coach at D'Iberville on Monday night, we witnessed the end of a coaching career that few -- if any -- will ever attain.

Coach Singleton coached through so many different changes in his two tenures (1965-87, 2008-15) at D'Iberville High School as well as at St. John High in Gulfport (1997-2003).

Players change, their attitudes change, football tactics change, and there are social and demographic changes. D'Iberville has changed in those 50 or so years.

Yet through it all, Singleton brought his own brand of blue collar, hard-hitting football to D'Iberville and St. John. It is hard to find any Warrior player who played for him or any opponents who don't remember that year-in and year-out you were going to have play physical to stay on the field with D'Iberville. Or risk being embarrassed.

These past few seasons, the Warriors may not have hit in pads as much in practice as they did in the '60s and '70s, but that didn't mean that Friday night wasn't going to be a test.

Through his whole coaching career, he had only four losing seasons at D'Iberville. Unbelievable.

And two at St. John - and really just one on the field. The state finalist team of 2001 had to forfeit eight wins when the MHSAA ruled a player ineligible.

Those undefeated teams of 11-0 and 10-0 in 1978-79 with Reggie Collier and company could have easily won state championships if the state playoff format had been active. The state finally got back into the state playoff business in 1981.

The Warrior team of 1987 was good enough to win a state title but was upset at Laurel in the state playoffs. And upset would be the word. A game-winning touchdown on a flea-flicker was waved off because an official thought a Warrior offensive lineman was downfield. Even if that happened, the officials didn't see the personal foul committed in the end zone by the Laurel DB on the Warrior receiver who caught the TD pass.

The 2008 Warrior team -- which went 14-1 -- fell short of a state title on a missed field goal at the end of the state championship game. That team assembled three of the great skill players in the history of Coast football: Kevin Norwood, Jacoby Bell and Mark Seymour.

And that 2001 St. John team was driving to go up three touchdowns in the Class AA state title game. But the Eagle running back as he tried to cross the goal line was hit and fumbled, and the Aberdeen DB returned the ball for a touchdown. That turned the game around and the Eagles eventually lost 20-14.

A lot of could-have-beens.

But the accomplishments are so much: His positive influence on former players, the 298 wins, the 30 winning seasons, 18 playoff appearances, numerous conference and district titles. The list goes on and on.

What a legacy. He will be missed.

Doug Barber is a former Sun Herald Sports Editor who contributes regularly to the newspaper.

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