Only in the year 2020 could a team win just five games and then play for both a state and national championship all in one fell swoop.
Granted, Mississippi Gulf Coast hasn’t lost any games either, now on the verge of capping off perhaps the most successful run in program history.
If attempting to bring a running chainsaw onto the field before the final game of the regular season is any indication, MGCCC’s national championship swagger is certainly alive and well. “We came in on top. We want to leave on top. Let’s finish doing what we were doing and take it home.”
“Getting ready for this game, it’s a very big game. We’ve got a lot of stakes at hand. Who wants to be the big dog in the South, you feel me?”
Opponents have been feeling the Bulldogs all season long, especially over their last three games in which they’ve won by a combined score of 106-14. That has Gulf Coast rocking the league’s best scoring defense, also known as the regulators, giving up less than 13 points per game. “It’s big. Coach Shufelt, since the first day I got here has been calling us the Regulators, and we’re going to mount up and ride.”
Leading that defensive giddy up is a Mississippi State commit Navonteque Strong, aka Bug, who leads the team in tackles, tackles for loss, sacks, and forced fumbles as the nation’s top ranked inside linebacker according to 24/7Sports. “He’s a great leader for our defense. He’s definitely the bell cow so to speak on that side of the football. When he speaks, everybody listens. So he’s been a great player for us for two years, and I’m really looking forward to see where he winds up next and how well he’s able to perform at the next level.”
The MACCC defensive player of the week two times running, Strong is just one of 22 Gulf Coast players with at least one division I offer. Overall, the Bulldogs return 26 players from last year’s national championship team to go along with 34 newcomers.
One of those freshman is former Picayune star running back Cameron Thomas who, as a senior, was tied for the nation lead with more than 3,500 yards rushing, but fell just one game short of that ever-elusive gold ball. “Oh, it’s very big. It’s something that I don’t have that I would love to get. A state title is very big. I played for one last year and came up short, and it still weighs on me, you feel me? So it’s very big playing for a state title.”
“We’ve got a lot of kids that played at really good high schools that maybe didn’t have the chance to play for a state title or didn’t win one, so this means a lot to the players. It means a real lot to the players, and we owe it to them as coaches to put a great gameplan out there for them to execute, cause they don’t know how many opportunities they’ll get like this.”
Standing in the way of back-to-back state crowns is Coach Wright’s former school, Northwest Mississippi, in a rematch of last year’s championship game.
Since the MACCC is the only league in the country playing football this fall due to COVID-19, one could argue Gulf Coast is not only playing for its 17th state title, but also its sixth national title.
Either way, one more win would tie a 46-year-old school record of 22 straight and would mark the first time Gulf Coast ever posted back-to-back undefeated or untied seasons.
In other words, MGCCC football immortality. “Right now, we’re looking at it like do or die. You feel me? You want to come up big or you want to come up short? I would say that the team has a lot of confidence.”
“It’s a title game, no doubt about it. Whether it’s a state title, a national title or a conference title – however you want to term it – it’s a title game. It’ll be that kind of atmosphere. It’ll be that kind of performance by both teams.”
Saturday’s state title game will kick off at 7 p.m. from A.L. Memorial Stadium in Perkinston.