News 25’s 25 Teams in 25 Days: George County Rebels
The last time Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College played football games on what’s now the band practice field, the Bulldogs won their 1948 national championship.
Seventy-three years later, that’s where we find George County High School, putting in work as a part of its annual team camp. A home away from home at stop number five on News 25’s 25 Teams in 25 Days.
“We’re friends in the locker room and all that, but on the field, you’re my enemy.”
Running back Trent Howell said, “We come out here and get after it for about an hour and a half, hate each other on the field pretty much, and then we go back in the dorms and we’re best friends again, playing X-Box and just joking around.”
George County all smiles on the third and final day of team camp, having taken a work hard, play hard approach to being college kids for the week in Perkinston, aka Lucedale West. Head Coach James Ray said, “You leave your routine, and you leave what’s normal to you, it brings a little excitement about it.”
Linebacker Corie Stinson said, “It’s giving us a better chance and more time to bond with each other because when we’re back home we come in in the morning, get about two hours of practice in and go home. But here, we’re having to eat together, sleep together, it’s just more time to bond.”
Bonding comes in many forms, including a Tuesday night talent show, won by the defensive linemen. The Rebels also hit the practice field five times in a span of 48 hours, something they didn’t get the chance to do last year due to COVID-19 and it showed. “Last season was really a lesson. I don’t think we were together as a team as much as we should’ve been.”
After winning their first game against Brandon four weeks into the season, the Rebels lost on a short week at Northwest Rankin before having to deal with Hurricane Zeta and ultimately a COVID forfeiture at Petal.
With playoffs then out of the question, their last chance at going out on a high note was spoiled by a crushing one-point home loss to Meridian. Wide receiver Marquez Dortch said, “Last year was very tough, through Covid and everything. That kind of threw us off a lot.”
“Last year, we had a bad season and that’s been kind of the people, when they think of George County recently, they think of that.”
“I thought we had a playoff team last year and Covid kind of cut that short. It really slapped everybody in the face, even our younger guys. I think it hit them hard too, and so I think they have been more prepared for this senior year than a normal senior class would.”
An overall record of 1-8 is a lot easier to stomach with two power five talents on the offensive side of the ball as a part of that 23-member senior class. Starring off-season transfer and three-star Illinois commit Ashton Hollings at quarterback and most notably four-star Ole Miss commit Marquez Dortch and his 11 division one offers, better known as MoJo, locking down the wideout and corner spots.
Completing the three-headed monster at running back, Jones College commit Trent Howell, one of 13 returning starters. “We’ve got a lot of talent on the field. Receivers, quarterback, running back, we’ve got everything.”
“He brings a lot. He’s very electric, very explosive. He’s just that dynamic athlete that we need on the team, and he’s not the only one. That’s the thing.”
“I mean he’s so daggum fast, and he hits that gear right now. There’s no five yards down the road you can’t catch him. It’s that first step you can’t catch him. And that’s what separates him and makes him a D1 athlete is that as soon as he touches it and makes his mind up, you blink and he’s gone.”
That makes six D-1 players out of George County since the class of 2017 and five in the last four years. All part of the legacy that the Rebels hope to recreate in 2021 on their mission to bring George County, in their own words, back to a championship level of significance. “We’re all the time talking about getting back to what George County used to be. The last time we – Alonzo Lawrence, our DB coach, his senior year, they went to State, and we’re just trying to get back to that.”
“I mean these kids don’t know. Our guys, most of their lives, have known inconsistency out of George County. So, we have spent a lot of time in the off-season talking about that, showing the history of George County, all the trophies that they used to win, going to the State Championship game, all the district championships they’ve got on the walls. And we brought all those trophies up in the fieldhouse and our guys see that, and I want them to see that. That’s what it used to be. It can be that way again.”
Perhaps the biggest advantage for George County this season, dropping down from region 3 class 6A to region 4 class 5A where the Rebels go from sharing a district with no teams from the six coastal counties to all seven teams from the Coast.
They open up the 2021 season on August 27th with a 2019 playoff match at Gulfport.