25 Teams in 25 Days

Gators filling in the backfield blanks

The 2016 Gautier High School football team.
The 2016 Gautier High School football team.

The Gautier High School Gators felt they had a “three-headed monster” of sorts in the offensive backfield in 2015 with quarterback LeCharles Pringle and running backs William Beverly and DeAndre Torrey.

After having graduated two-thirds of that monster, the 2016 iteration of the Gators will need two new leaders to emerge to fill the production void.

“I think in the past there’s been a lot of players who have relied on Pringle to step up and make plays. That’s understandable. The great football player that (Pringle) was, to have his hands on the football at quarterback every snap, a lot of people looked to him and rightly so,” said coach Chris Peterson, entering his fifth season at Gautier. “We need several players to really step up and play like they’re capable of playing. They’re going to get opportunities to make plays, and when they do, we just need them to make them.

“We don’t need them to be thinking too much. We need them to react and use the God-given ability that they have.”

Gautier, coming off a 5-6 season, will look to Torrey to help lead the offense. As a junior, the 5-foot-9, 190-pound running back rushed for 722 yards and five touchdowns, twice eclipsing the 100-yard mark. A versatile athlete, Torrey was also Gautier’s leading receiver with 12 receptions for 217 yards and two scores.

“Deandre can handle it. He’s a very competitive player and worked extremely hard in the offseason,” said Peterson, also complimenting Torrey’s football IQ and athleticism. “I think he understands how to push himself when no one else is looking. He comes up here a lot on his own and works.”

Torrey is drawing interest from the likes of Southern Miss, Princeton and Yale and should garner more attention. Torrey’s running mate will be senior Sirshamus Smith, who rushed 13 times for 130 yards last season.

“We have a hard-nosed running back in Sirshamus Smith, who saw a lot of playing time last year as a junior,” Peterson said. “We feel he’s going to make a lot of plays for us, but it is hard. We lost a lot of production, so we do need some other players to step up.”

The biggest question mark to program outsiders surrounds the quarterback position. With Pringle now playing defensive back at Alcorn State, the Gators will break in Kameron Kincaid. The 5-foot-8, 160-pound sophomore led Gautier’s freshman squad last season.

“He’s more of a passer,” Peterson said. “Not really the option quarterback like Pringle, but he has the chance to be a really solid player for us. He has a lot of potential.”

The Gators will look to ease the youngster into his new role during a non-region schedule that includes George County, Moss Point, Vancleave and Biloxi.

“He still needs game experience, no doubt,” Peterson said. “He needs to get his feet wet. When the bullets are flying when you line up to play it’s a different animal. But I think he’ll be just fine.”

Luckily for Kincaid, he’ll have two senior running backs flanking him in Torrey and Smith, plus one of the best offensive lines on the Coast.

Prime protection

Senior tackles Paul Gainer and Justin Scott are listed at 6-4, 275 and 6-2, 280 respectively. They’ll anchor an experienced line that also includes Daylon Slater, Shone Hallman and Mario Love.

Gainer, already a Mississippi State commitment, is considered one of the best tackles in the state. Scott currently holds an Alcorn State offer with several other schools showing interest.

“They’ve been playing there since they were sophomores — Paul, the end of his freshman year. Both of them are big, strong, move their feet well, and just do a tremendous job of blocking,” Peterson said. “Both of them anchor our offensive line. We look to them for some leadership. They’ve been to battle on many occasions. Having two seniors who have the physical ability to dominate at their position, plus the experience to back it up, that’s just so valuable to us.”

Added Torrey, who is clearly a big fan of his tackles.

“It’s great,” he said. “There’s huge holes every time I get to run behind them.”

New look

With only three returning starters on defense, the Gators will need to rely heavily on 340-pound nose guard Cam Williams, linebacker Dominic Blankenship and Smith, who also starts at linebacker.

“Right now (the defense) is searching for an identity,” Peterson said. “We have some good players on that side of the ball. They’re going to be good — they’re just seeking an identity right now. When they gel, they’re going to be good.”

The leader of the defense will undoubtedly be Blankenship, a 6-foot-1, 215-pound senior.

“He really has the ability to make a lot of tackles and a lot of plays. He’s a smart young man, real good tackler and he’s athletic,” Peterson said. “He plays with a lot of energy. It’s one of those deals where his style of play rubs off and affects other kids. They tend to fly around a little more.”

Gautier kicks off its season at George County on Aug. 19. After traveling to Moss Point and hosting Vancleave and Biloxi over the next three weeks, the Gators will have a bye week before visiting Picayune for the start of their 4-5A schedule.

Patrick Ochs: 228-896-2321, @PatrickOchs

Gautier Schedule

Aug. 19 At George County

Aug. 26 At Moss Point

Sept. 2 VANCLEAVE

Sept. 9 BILOXI

Sept. 16 Open

Sept. 23 At Picayune

Sept. 30 At Pearl River Central

Oct. 7 STONE

Oct. 14 At Long Beach

Oct. 21 HATTIESBURG

Oct. 28 At West Harrison

Nov. 4 PASCAGOULA

At a Glance

2015 Record: 4-6

Region: 4-5A

Head Coach: Chris Peterson

Assistant coaches: Mark High, Richard Crosby, Bailey Cuevas, Paul Purvis, Jackie Williamson, Dennis Thompson, Josh Elkins, Ryan Savell and Hunter Jones

Offense: Multiple

Defense: 3-3 stack/3-4

Gautier roster

2 Tab Burney

3 Kameron Kincaid

4 Jaylen Fairley

5 Shaheim Carroll

6 Micah Kelly

7 Chris Chandler

8 Jordan Henley

9 Dayln McDonald

11 Shamir Carroll

12 Deandre Torrey

13 Christon Thompson

15 Daylan Ray

16 Curtis Kennedy

17 Cameron Gainer

18 York Washington

19 Evan Gager

20 Brenden Watson

21 James Williams

22 Dominic Blankenship

23 T.J. Broadnax

24 Tommie Ashford

25 Chris Hunt

26 Roman Miller

27 Franklin Young

28 D’Markeus Stallworth

29 Jaylen Beavers

30 Sirshamus Smith

33 Odarius Green

34 Ben Green

36 Jamall Sherrod

37 Robert Ferguson

42 Wendell Poole

51 Shone Hallman

52 Arkevion Jordan

57 Kwesi Barial

59 Daylon Slater

60 Mekhi Whigham

66 Josh Hill

68 Mario Love

71 Paul Gainer

72 Justin Scott

73 Jaleel Summers

74 Cortez Gaines

76 Cam Williams

79 David Goodman

80 Jaiden Redding

82 Dequantael Gillett

Dequan Knox

Chad McWilliams

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