25 Teams in 25 Days: East Central Hornets
Stop number 17 on News 25’s 25 Teams in 25 Days are the reigning 4A South State champions, the East Central Hornets. Other than Stone, East Central is the only school on the Gulf Coast that didn’t play on week 1.
That means the hype has never been bigger for tomorrow’s season opener at Biloxi as well as the program’s 2018 encore.
“It seemed like a month went by before this week came by.”
Head Coach Seth Smith said, “Obviously, I’m the one that created the schedule. But looking back, I think we’d have rather played last week. It feels like we’ve been practicing for a year now. So we’re just excited to get back out on the field and see what 2018 will have entail for us.”
If it’s anything like 2017, kicking off the season in week two will have been worth the wait coming off last year’s run to the 4A state title game. “To do that last year, again, just validates everything we’ve tried to reach the past five years. So now you have an expectation, you’ve got to work harder to try to meet that expectation.”
Whether or not the Hornets can maintain their dominance and live up to that expectation is the burning question around Hurley. Middle Linebacker Avery White said, “We’ll show them that we can, I mean I feel like we can for sure. Because I mean we have a lot of starters coming back and we’ve got a lot of people coming up that work just as hard as the people last year.”
“We get that a lot, and that’s mainly what we hear around town or wherever we go. But just I want people to know to watch out for us cause we have lost a lot of starters, but we’re going to keep rolling.”
The Hornets actually bring back 13 starters, eight on defense, five on offense, but it’s the ones who aren’t returning that made East Central so rare. Star tight end Brad Cumbest signed with Mississippi State to play football and baseball and then there’s South Alabama running back Tony Brown, who scored 50 touchdowns in 2017 and was later named Gatorade Player of the Year for Mississippi. “Obviously, Tony was excellent. Brad was excellent. The quarterback, Rylee, those guys did a great job, Seward. But we’ve got guys behind them that have been working equally as hard for their opportunity, and now they get their opportunity so it’s up to them to make the most of it.”
Quarterback Will Young said, “Really, ever since as a kid I wanted to be on this field playing. And now that I get my chance I just want to live up to the expectations and just do the best that I can for my team. Try to get wins.”
The next generation of Hornets have a pretty big sting to live up to in the wake of last year’s undefeated regular season and beyond. But life after the best signing day in school history is still plenty good enough for a program just buzzing with optimism. “We’re just ready to get back out here with our brothers and play together like we did last year and just have another great season.”
“The biggest thing is to have fun. Last year was a blast, but obviously, that was last year. But I don’t want them to put so much pressure on themselves going into this year because of last year, I want them to have fun. So if these kids have fun and they play hard, hopefully good things will happen.”
The Hornets will get the ball rolling on their 2018 campaign with tomorrow’s 7 p.m. road game at Biloxi.