25 Teams in 25 Days: East Central Hornets

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When Eric Collins was introduced as the next head football coach at East Central back in December, he said God willing he would retire a hornet.

More than seven months later, there’s still a lot of football to be played between now and then, exactly a month away from the start of the 2020 season.

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“This is a dream come true. I’m loving it. I’m so excited to be an East Central Hornet, and I can’t tell you how overwhelmed I am and excited I am to be here.”

Throughout his 38 years of coaching experience, Eric Collins has proven he’s not scared to take over struggling programs even if it means inheriting a winless program. The exact opposite of his current reality at East Central. “A lot of times, I’ve taken over – in my life – programs that have been struggling and then I had to install that winning attitude and sometimes it took a while and sometimes it happened quickly. But here it’s a little different, because the way I like to run the program, it’s here. It’s already done. All of the things that we do are already being done. So it’s almost like I stepped into my own program.”

Seth Smith is hardly a forgotten man in Hurley, following his departure for Pearl River Community College, having led the Hornets to a pair of 4A South State championship games and the 2017 state title game. So why fix what isn’t broken?  Left Tackle Matthew Greenough said, “It was a relief. I know the first day he came, he said nothing was going to change. And it hasn’t really changed.”

Defensive Tackle Raidon Williams said, “Well, he said to us that it wasn’t going to change – well, the program wasn’t going to change and it was just going to be little tweaks like that. And from what I’ve seen, it hasn’t really changed a lot.”

Still high energy coaching perhaps a little more old school so the only primary difference is the offensive transition from running the Power I to the Wing T.

After the Hornets dot those Is and cross those Ts, they’ll be ready to break out their new look starting with Vancleave at home on September 4th, fresh off their earliest playoff exit since 2014, but just two years removed from that trip to State. “It gives me excitement and hope because if it’s been done before, it can be done again.”

“When we were little, if East Central won three games it was a good season. But now, if you lose in the playoffs I mean everyone is just like well, they’re no good. I guess it’s just the whole mentality of we’re here, we’re supposed to win. I guess that’s still the mentality I think.”

That standard of excellence has this year’s class of more than 20 seniors hungry to improve upon last year’s overall mark of 7-5, riding the wave of five straight winning seasons and six straight trips to the post-season.

Given the state of the world, the seniors are a lot hungrier than usual. “I’m ready to play. I feel like we’ve been working out for two years. I think all of us are just ready to just strap up and hit.”

“I’ve talked to people and they’re talking about what if I don’t have my senior season? What will happen to me after that? And me thinking that I actually have a senior season, it makes me want to work harder.”

East Central only lost one game against Gulfport as part of what would have been the fourth annual Port City Bowl due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As for the winner of this year’s ‘Baddest Hornet Competition’ it’s senior running back Sam Walls.

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