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Harrison Central hopes it can ‘catch on’ early in ’16

2016 Harrison Central High School football team.
2016 Harrison Central High School football team. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com

Quarterback Tavis Williams burst onto the prep scene last season in a big way.

New coach Casey Cain opened up the offense, and the junior responded, completing 103 of 214 passes for 1,610 yards and 16 touchdowns to rank among the Coast’s leading passers.

Oddly enough, perhaps the biggest question facing Harrison Central heading into the 2016 season surrounds the passing game. While Williams is back for his senior campaign, the Red Rebels’ receiving corps returns only eight catches for 101 yards and one touchdown, all belonging to senior Tristan Moran.

“We need some guys Tavis can rely on,” Cain said.

The second-year coach is hoping to build depth at receiver as the season progresses to best suit his spread attack. Entering the team’s Aug. 26 opener at McComb, Cain has circled senior baseball standout Logan Virgilio and 6-foot-2 sophomore Isaac Harris as two players who could rise to the top of the depth chart.

“I’m hoping for big things out of Logan. I’m expecting him to have a big year,” Cain said. “He had a good summer in 7-on-7s. He’s a super intelligent kid. On the baseball field he’s highly competitive. I know baseball kids have great hand-eye coordination, so I always kind of knew he’d be OK.”

As for Harris, Cain sees an athlete who could not only become a reliable pass catcher, but who could possibly stretch the field as well.

“His potential could be great,” Cain said. “He’s a tall, rangy young kid. I think the more he plays the better he’s going to get. If he develops some confidence he could be really good.”

Cain is also optimistic 6-foot-3 junior tight end Chase Jones can become a factor in the team’s passing attack.

Strong ground attack

The Red Rebels should once again have one of the biggest offensive lines in South Mississippi as all but one of the projected starters tip the scales at 290-plus pounds.

Jacob Shoemaker (6-foot-5, 290) is expected to be the leader of the line at left tackle, with Calvin Hunter (6-5, 330) at right tackle, Bryce Ramsey (6-2, 315) at center and Wes Carter (6-3, 305) at right guard. Allen Funk (5-10, 225) and LaKeith Young (5-11, 230) are still duking it out for the other guard spot.

“Right now that’s the strength of our team,” Cain said. “There’s no doubt.”

In addition to a strong line, the HCHS offense will be powered by running back Keon Moore (5-11, 195). The junior emerged as one of the top running backs a year ago, rushing for 1,016 yards and six touchdowns. The Red Rebels are hoping for more of the same from Moore.

“Keon loves contact. He loves it,” Cain said. “I’m hoping with him running the football this year he’ll concentrate on hitting the sideline and scoring instead of finding somebody to run over.”

New-look defense

The Red Rebels’ defense will certainly have a new look this season as only two starters are back.

In ’15, HCHS was bolstered by a number of defensive dynamos like Jordon Beaton, Michael Boyce, Dee White, Steven Biggs Jr., Aaron Rainey, Chase Crosby and others. The group helped limit Region 4-6A opponents to 153 points, third best in the eight-team league. Now that the aforementioned group has graduated, Cain is looking to senior defensive tackle Noah Vance and senior defensive back Nehemiah Thompson to lead the group while the rest of the starters get acclimated to their new roles.

“You have to be strong up front and (Vance is) a strong kid,” Cain said. “He plays with a lot of energy and heart and is real relentless. He gives you everything he has. In two years I don’t think he has ever missed a workout.”

Thompson is possibly the fastest Red Rebel on the team and could play cornerback, safety and nickle back.

“He’s real fast, smart and has a great head on his shoulders,” Cain said.

Cain has high hopes for Charvis Gandy and Jordan Taylor to be successful flanking Vance along the defensive line.

“I really think Jordan and Charvis can replace the guys we had last year,” he said. “They have great length and unbelievable quickness.”

Aaron Mallette is also penciled in to start up front. In the secondary, Joqundre Herlong, Brandon Billingsley and Artrell Petties will be counted on to help Thompson. Rashaud Fairley, Darius Roscoe, Javion Khan and Doneiro Barnett are all projected to see significant time at linebacker.

Getting started

After opening the season on the road, HCHS returns home Sept. 2 to face Moss Point.

The Red Rebels travel to Pearl River Central (Sept. 9) and host Picayune (Sept. 16) before Region 4-6A play kicks off Sept. 23 at George County.

Patrick Ochs: 228-896-2321, @PatrickOchs

At a glance

2015 record: 6-7

Region: 4-6A

Head coach: Casey Cain

Assistant coaches: Jor’dan Beard, William Bentz, Robert Browne, Patrick Garvin, Marcus Jordan, Jason Morgan, Adam Robertson, Nicky Seymour, Kelly Weems and Calvin Wilson

Offense: Spread

Defense: Multiple

Harrison Central schedule

Aug. 26 At McComb

Sept. 2 MOSS POINT

Sept. 9 At Pearl River Central

Sept. 16 PICAYUNE

Sept. 23 At George County

Sept. 30 BILOXI

Oct. 7 ST. MARTIN

Oct. 14 GULFPORT

Oct. 21 At Hancock

Oct. 28 D’IBERVILLE

Nov. 4 At Ocean Springs

Harrison Central roster

1 Keon Moore

2 Tavis Williams

3 Tristan Moran

4 Josh Green

5 Brandon Billingsley

7 Joqundre Herlong

9 Vontrez Roessling

10 Logan Virgilio

11 Isaac Harris

12 Kenrickus Boler

13 J.T. Pickett

14 Azhani Ray

15 Nehemiah Thompson

16 Jack Sajwaj

17 Brandon Smith

18 Levi Myers

19 Artrell Petties

20 Austin Gray

21 Terrance Carruth

22 Doneiro Barnett

23 K’Randan Simmons

24 Rashaud Fairley

25 Charvis Gandy

26 Xavier Freeman

28 Darius Roscoe

29 Aldrec Salvage

31 Jordan Brown

32 Xavier Strickland

33 Chris Khalil

34 Robert West

35 Cam Patterson

36 Sam Quick

37 Blake Grimes

38 Devon Sprohar

39 Justin Ladner

40 Alex Deleo

42 Aaron Mallette

43 Jaderion Dillon

44 Chase Jones

45 Jordan Taylor

47 Javion Kahn

51 Connor Thomas

52 Anthony Guilotte

53 LaKeith Young

54 Kendal Bennett

55 Bryce McKinney

56 Rashon Reynolds

57 Dalton Cuevas

58 Blake Sharp

59 Adam Mirelez

62 Austen Russ

65 Roland Barnett

69 Adarius Buckley

70 Jacob Shoemaker

74 Allen Funk

75 Bryce Ramsey

76 Chris Hibbard

78 Wes Carter

79 Calvin Hunter

80 Anthony Barnett

81 Tworn Silas

84 Khyri Thompson

86 Jaeden Saucier

87 Deonte Johnson

88 Erion Moore

90 Dayrus Dorsey

91 Jeremy Waller

93 Raheem Raiford

95 Amonte Johnson

98 Henry Haynes

99 Noah Vance

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