News 25’s 25 Teams in 25 Days: George County Rebels
Team work makes the dream work at stop number four on News 25’s 25 Teams in 25 Days where the George County Rebels are putting in work at their home away from home.
The annual team camp at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College sets the tone for ‘we over me.’
“It’s hot and you’re going at each other 24/7, you’re going to have a little fuel under fire.”
“We just seem more together, more of a family. Not just a team, but a family.”
Head Coach James Ray Said, “It just kind of kick starts the season for us, ends the summer. Summer is such a grueling, grinding type situation that about Week 4 everybody is tired of it and you’re ready to get out and do some stuff like this.”
Teams that stay together, win together, at least in George County’s experience following a six-win improvement from the year before and now practicing six times in less than 48 hours in hopes of more of the same.
Overnight team camp is perhaps more important than ever heading into the 2022 campaign with just 11 seniors on the roster, down from 23 last season. Defensive Lineman Samuel O’Neal said, “We lost a lot of talent last year. We lost a lot of talent. But what I’ve noticed here lately, especially in the summer, we’re gaining a lot of talent, too.”
In the true spirit of ‘next man up,’ the Rebels return just ten starters, but they have a massive 2025 class of 32 sophomores waiting in the wings.
George County actually opted out of fielding a ninth-grade team last year in exchange for more JV reps for their young studs, now ready to step into their moment. Safety/cornerback Kohl Bradley said, “We’re playing a lot of sophomores this year, and we played in middle school together, so coming up together it’s like we’ve already got that connection and that bond, so it’s like we’re already ready to roll.”
“Things don’t happen by mistake, right? You don’t climb the mountain just because one day you woke up and tried to do it. You’ve got to have failures along the way because it keeps you hungry. It keeps you wanting to build. It keeps that juice going. That was one of the concerns I had about this sophomore bunch that’s never lost a game, is how are they going to deal with a loss? What are they going to do with that? Are they just going to shut down, or are they going to rise up and fight through it? And this team behind me right here, they’ve done nothing but rise up and fought through it, and we’re a lot better team for it.”
With first place in Region 4 Class 5A on the line against Picayune, George County had no choice but to rise up when quarterback Aston Hollins, now a freshman at Illinois, tore his left ACL on the fourth play of the game.
In steps QB2 at the time, freshman phenom, now sophomore sensation Deuce Knight, who already has Division I offers from Ole Miss, Tennessee, and Indiana. “While the trainers were dealing with Ashton on the field, I’m trying to find Deuce on the sidelines. And I can’t find him. I get on the headsets, and I’m trying to get the coaches to locate him, and finally one coach said he’s already on the field. And I look out there, and he’s got the offense huddled up.”
QB Deuce Knight said, “My stomach dropped. I got kind of nervous. I’m not going to lie. But then I had to go out there. I’ve got to come do this for the team. Like up to that point, that was probably the biggest game of the season, so dang. I’ve got to go get this job done. I’m the one they’re relying on.”
“Four plays later, we score. I asked Trent when he came off the field, what did Deuce say when he had y’all huddled up. He said, it’s my turn, guys. I’ve got this. There ain’t going to be no difference. We’re fixing to go down here and score. So that’s the kind of leader – he was 14 years old when he said that.”
The Rebels would go onto drop that late October match-up to the eventual state champs 59-33, serving as their only district loss of the season in which they finished with a mark of 6-1 and an overall record of 7-5. The end result being the program’s first home playoff game since 2016 albeit going one and done in the first round against Laurel. “Teams that actually want to bring it, we just have to bring it more.”
“Those losses, they really fuel you because you think we were hanging in the game with those teams, and we really can beat them.”
“We lost in the first round of the playoffs. That’s nothing really to celebrate about. We’re glad we got there. But we want to go to state, so you’ve just got to be hungry.”
Knight’s biggest offensive weapons this year, two juniors, wide receiver Marlin Odom and bulldozing running back Jacobe Street in place of Marquez Dortch, now at Mississippi State, and Trent Howell, now at Jones College.
On the other side of the ball, Samuel O’Neal anchoring a D-Line that returns every starter from last year. Together, proving that age is just a number. “We don’t have a lot of big guys, but we’ve got a lot of guys with hearts.”
Running back Jacobe Street said, “You’re going to hear a lot about us being on a mission, wanting to focus, wanting to win a lot, coaches getting on us, trying to get us ready for the season.”
“We’re on a mission at George County to be significant, and people have been talking about championships, so I’m ready to get back on the field and prove that again. Everybody thinks that last year was a fluke, and we’re going to be really young this year, and we are, but those guys are accepting that challenge. I’m excited to see that.”
“We want to do something that hasn’t been done in George County. That’s win a state championship game.”
The highlight of the camp is a Tuesday night talent show following a seven-on-seven with D’Iberville High School, who’s actually doing a team camp at MGCCC as well this year, we’ll catch up with them in the coming days.
George County opens up the season at Gulfport as the second game of the Port City Bowl doubleheader at 8:15 p.m. on August 26th.
Some coaches picks from third-year Head Man James Ray, best meal in Lucedale goes to Hickory Hog for some good pre-game barbeque. When asked about his favorite championship moment, he says all of them and that he watches the trophy presentation after every big game. As for coaching influence, it’s about studying the greats, even on 30 for 30s.