For the second year in a row, George County is home to the top high school football recruit from the six coastal counties.
George County is also home to stop number five on News 25’s 25 Teams in 25 Days where the Rebels passed one baton from McKinnley Jackson to M.J. Daniels and the other from former Head Coach Matt Caldwell to his successor James Ray.
“I was a head coach prior to coming here, took those four years off and it was fun for four years to say that’s a Coach Caldwell question. And now I’m finding out that I’ve got to answer those questions.” Twenty-six years of coaching experience and finally James Ray’s first head coaching job at the 6A level where most of those questions do have answers in the form of four-star recruits. “Well, I’ve never been in a program that had back-to-back Dandy Dozens, back-to-back SEC guys in McKinnley last year and M.J. this year. He can dominate a game and that’s good as a head coach to know that not every call you’ve got to be perfect on, that this guy can make plays even if something bad happens.”
QB/ DB M.J. Daniels said, “I mean being back there at quarterback with all the skill guys we have, we have a lot of speed on the outside, a lot of speed in the backfield. I mean if I don’t get it, somebody is going to get it. We’re going to put it in the end zone.”
Division I confidence to go along with a boat load of Division I offers which M.J. Daniels just narrowed down to a top 6 less than a month ago.
Despite decommiting from Ole Miss on June 1st, the Rebels still make the list as well as Georgia, Texas A&M, Tennessee, Indiana, and Minnesota. “I’m getting less and less calls every day so hey, that’s a blessing for me.”
Daniels says he was getting up to 20 calls per day prior to his first cut, mostly from scouts, but also from an old friend. “We talk just about every night. He’s just always telling me don’t get the big head and like I say, you’ve got to take care of business here before you go and do your future.”
Now a true freshman at Texas A&M, McKinnley Jackson would know a little something about being the man of the hour at George County and yet still putting the team first, coming just one point away from winning a playoff game in 2019 which hasn’t happened in Lucedale since the program’s run to the 5A state championship game all the way back in 2007. “McKinnley is gone. But George County is still here, and we aren’t going anywhere.”
Inside linebacker Blaine Morris said, “I think people think since we lost McKinnley Jackson that’s going to be like oh, our defense is not going to be good. But we just have to show them.”
“I want to be a part of that team, that team that says that. And we can’t replace McKinnley. He’s a generational type player. It’ll take three guys to do what he’s done. But our guys don’t back down from it.”
Overall, the Rebels return 21 seniors for a 2020 season starting September 4th at Pascagoula. Their big thing this year is E+R=O which applies to anything from adversity on the field to a global pandemic and everything in between. “E+R=O which is event plus response equals outcome. We’re down at halftime. What are you going to do? Are you going to quit? Or are you going to go harder?”
“Can’t control the event. Can’t control that we lost our first two ball games because of COVID. Can’t control if it rains that day or if the field is not in great shape. We can’t control any of those things. I can’t control if a player comes in here and his girlfriend broke up with him. But I can control my response to that and those players can control their response to that. And that response should get you the outcome that you’re looking for.”
As part of the region 3 field that’s produced six out of the last nine 6A state champions, the Rebels lose two big home games to start the season against West Jones on August 21st and Greene County which is now a scrimmage on August 28th.
George County has since picked up D’Iberville at home to fill some of that void on September 18th.