News 25’s 25 Teams in 25 Days: Gautier Gators
Heading into last season, there was a lot of talk around Gautier High School about what the football program could accomplish for the first time in a long time.
Now heading into this season, the Gators have already accomplished a lot of those things, leaving them even hungrier for the rest at stop number 14 on News 25’s 25 Teams in 25 Days.
“Mostly just hitting the weight room. That’s what everybody beat us at last year. But we’re coming back harder this year.”
Linebacker Monyeh Boykin said, “Cameras on, cameras off, we’re in the weight room. We’re getting the work in. In the weight room, outside of the weight room, getting faster, getting stronger, getting bigger. Trying to do whatever we can to be some of the top dogs in the state.”
The Gators getting it in however they can on the first day of official MHSAA practice, refusing to let Mother Nature rain on their parade of being the first Gautier team to make the playoffs in seven years and win seven or more games in 12 years.
Cornerback Shamarie Carroll said, “It means a lot, for real. My Momma, and my brothers, they played here, recently, too, and they were just telling me how they thought they could do it, too. But they fell short and it was just a blessing and proud to see us doing it, something they couldn’t do.”
Last season, the Gators posted an overall record of 7-4 and a Region 4 Class 5A mark of 4-3, good enough for their first trip to the playoffs under Head Coach Marcus High, but unable to hold onto a fourth-quarter lead in a three-point first-round loss at West Jones. “It left us starving, famished. We’re ready to go back and eat. We’re ready to go back and get our plate and go back for seconds.”
Head Coach Marcus High said, “Like any game, you can sit back and look back at a couple of different things that didn’t go your way or a couple of things that did go your way and things that you did not take advantage of, and we tell our kids, in the playoffs, every play matters. So, to get them to understand that and all and now they see it. Now they’ve been there and now they know it.”
“We’ve all got that chip on our shoulder. Last year, fell off first round. We all were heartbroken, crying. A whole lot of blood, sweat and tears we put into it, so we just feel like this year is going to be our year.”
Gautier’s pass-happy appetite for success starts under center with senior Quarterback and Ole Miss baseball commit Kaden Irving, who led the state in passing yards per game in 2020 before averaging the second most in 2021 with more than 3,600 yards and 48 total touchdowns. “Every practice, it doesn’t matter if he’s having a bad day, a good day or an okay day, he’s putting it in the spot, no matter where it’s supposed to be.”
“He is the ultimate competitor. I watched him in there playing cornhole, and he can’t stand to lose in that. He’s just – if he’s doing something, he wants to compete. And then when he’s out there on the field, when he feels a tense situation, he’s really good at getting everybody to kind of calm down or he might crack a joke, might start singing and he can’t sing. That’s one thing he can’t do.”
“(Coach said that sometimes he’ll try to keep things calm in the huddle, try to sing or something, but he said he can’t really sing.) Hahaha! Oh nah, Kaden. Nah, nah, Kaden crazy on the field. Kaden crazy. Kaden crazy,” said Wide Receiver A.J. Phillips.
Quarterback Kaden Irving said, “Just coming in every day, just being a motivator, really. And being somebody that my teammates can depend on and also them knowing that nobody is higher than the other. We’re all together, so that’s how we’re coming into it.”
Irving, the former News 25 Student Athlete of the Week, says the defense is the heartbeat of the team, but the offense continues to draw all the hype with the Gators returning their top air raid target A.J. Phillips, whose more than 1,200 yards in 2021 rank fifth in the state to go along with 12 touchdowns. “Well, I said something the other day about we were going to go to a little two tight, wishbone and nobody believed me so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what’s going to happen, you know? ”
“Just staying humble, knowing that every day we’re coming in to handle business as a team. So, we let everybody else talk. We’re just going to come out there and play the way we always do.”
“We just focus on everything inside the facility. We don’t live up to the hype. Coach says, let the hype just die down. Somebody has got to do the talking. As coach says, we’ll come out there and play.”
This season, the Gators reload with 15 returning starters and 24 seniors as they take aim at the program’s first consecutive playoff appearance in 13 years.
GATE remains the motto, standing for ‘grades, attitude, toughness, effort,’ but a new wrinkle for 2022 and that’s ‘all in.’ “We enjoyed going to the playoffs last year, but that’s not what we were looking for. We were looking for state.”
“All these guys, we’ve been playing together our whole lives, so we know what everybody is bringing, so I think we’ve all got one goal this year.”
“Buy in or buy out, and we’re putting the money on the table.”
“Anything we’ve got, we’re putting it all in. Everything we did in the weight room, everything we did on the field, we’re putting it all in and showing everybody what we’ve got.”
“We talk about that all the time; we ask them how do you want to be remembered? And that hit some of them pretty hard. How are you going to be remembered? This is it. And they’ll talk about Coach, I remember coming in here as a freshman, now I’m already a senior. You’re right. Now how are you going to be remembered?”
The Gators kick off their 2022 campaign on the road on August 26th at Provine.
Getting to know Head Coach Marc High, favorite Gautier meal, he’s going Burrito Zone. All-time favorite player to watch growing up, Brian Bosworth. Favorite two championship moments for the price of one, his Stone Tomcats winning South State two years in a row in 1991 and 1992.