News 25’s 25 Teams in 25 Days: East Central Hornets

No days off in Hurley, especially when it comes to ‘Baddest Hornet Week.’

East Central checks in as stop number seven on News 25’s 25 Teams in 25 Days where a relentless attitude meets a relentless effort.

Head Coach Eric Collins said, “The kids, they’re always pointing to that, trying to earn that even from a young age. I’ve had kids that say hey, man, when I’m a senior, I want to be that guy. And so, it really enhances our weight room and what we do, and today’s the day. So, the kids compete, and the kids see what they can do.”

Started by Seth Smith eight years ago, Baddest Hornet Week is exactly what it sounds like. Loud whistles, heavy maxes, and high-octane adrenaline, Monday through Wednesday.

“Everybody wants to get on the wall.”

“You’re one of the leaders and strongest and fastest, and it’s a big-time thing.”

Wide receiver Brady Fant said, “Big time max week. It’s a huge week for us. Ever since Smith got here, and it’s still carried on now.”

Bench press, squats, power clean, dead lift, broad and vertical jump, 20- and 40-yard dash, all for one permanent spot on the wall and the right to be team captain. The results speak for themselves, even to the surprise of second year Head Coach Eric Collins, his first day on the job in December 2019. “Big, just big. I haven’t seen that kind of size in a long time.”

“A lot of what our stuff transfers onto the football field because you’ve got to be tough. We lift weights three days a week. You’ve got to be very tough to run through that all the way through the summer.”

“I think the weight room is everything to – and not just the weight room, but everything we do in the weight room and then how we do it in the weight room – it’s the key to everything that we do. If our weight room was different, we could not win.”

But the Hornets do win, a lot, coming off an 8-3 season in 2020 with all eight of those wins coming in their first nine games. Wide receiver Hollis Porter said, “Our first game, our offense didn’t really click. It’s the first time being out there, new offense and then after the first game, we started rolling and everything was clicking.”

“After the first few games we got it rolling and the blocking got correct and the offense just started clicking and our defense was shutout last year.”

The Hornets only lost three games by a combined 11 points, but they took two of those losses in the final two weeks of the season. Like three other teams in region 4 class 5A, in an unprecedented tie-breaker scenario, East Central finished with a district mark of 5-2, leading up to a first-round playoff exit at the hands of Laurel. “I mean I felt like the Laurel game and the Hattiesburg game, we really should have won both of those games. Not crying over spilled milk, but it’s the way it was.”

Quarterback Deuce Hugger said, “We overcame it by just not looking back and just keep going forward.”

“We don’t want to end like that again. We want to go all the way and see what we can do, so that’s just motivation from being kicked out early in the playoffs.”

Upholding the tradition of East Central’s 2017 South State championship is motivation enough, and a chip on the program’s shoulder, just makes a Hornets team with about 16 seniors and more than half their starters back that much more dangerous. “It’s motivation for us seeing that banner up there in the weight room.”

“When we leave, we want to go all the way. But we’ll see what happens. That’s the dream.”

“Their legacy needs to keep intact what’s been built here, and that’s what we want to do. We want to keep intact the things that have been instilled here, the culture that has been developed here. It’s up to them to keep that going.”

The Hornets kick off their 2021 campaign at Biloxi on August 27th.

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