News 25’s 25 Teams in 25 Days: Harrison Central Red Rebels
As News 25’s 25 Teams in 25 Days continues with stop number 15, Harrison Central continues to ride the wave of big and small senior classes.
This year falls into the latter category, but the Red Rebels bring back some key players at some key positions, making them just as dangerous as ever.
Head Coach Casey Cain said, “The younger guys have got to step up. They’ve got to mature quick and that’s kind of what we do. I mean the four guys we’ve got coming back are really good ball players, but there’s 18 more guys that have got to fit in there.”
After fielding a nine-member senior class of 2020, Harrison Central had a monster 27-member class of 2021 only to bring back about a dozen players for the class of 2022.
Then there’s the matter of returning just three starters on offense and one on defense. Wide Receiver Isaiah Atkins said, “We’re young and I want to prove that we got it, like we can keep up with the bigger people.”
Linebacker/ Running Back Raymond Collins said, “I’ve just been young around here, since ninth grade I’ve been starting so I was the young guy. And now this year I’m the head guy, I’m the oldest one on the team so everybody looks up to me. The coaches think I should act a different way, that I’ve got to come a different way, so I’ve been trying to be less vocal and more actions around here.”
Senior Linebacker Raymond Collins embodies the next man up mentality the Red Rebels have no choice but to embrace this season, having added the title of running back to his business card. On the outside, Harrison Central is now without Mississippi State signee Jacobi Moore, but in steps the other big play threat in Isaiah Atkins, whose ten trips to the endzone were tied with Moore for the team lead.
Together, they spearhead an explosive offense led by junior quarterback Christian Turner who threw for 27 touchdowns to just three picks while adding another six scores on the ground. “I’ve got to trust my guys up front. They give me three seconds; we’re going to win.”
“Just hope by district time we’re going to get those young guys ready to go and see exactly what they can do, if we’re more of a pocket, more of a scramble, more of a bootleg type team, whatever we can do to get Christian the chance to throw the football cause I’ve been here years where it was third and long and we didn’t have a prayer, or we were down late in the game and we couldn’t throw the football, so it’s good to know that backs against the wall, we do have a chance.”
But it was the Red Rebels that didn’t give many of their opponents a chance in 2020, capping off their 6-0 start with a convincing 20-point win at rival Gulfport. “We came in hot. We came in real hot. I’m not going to lie. Then that Gulfport game, and then we got hit with that Hancock game.”
They took their humble pie at Hancock the following week before watching D’Iberville celebrate the region 4 class 6A title on their home field. “Probably that loss against Hancock was probably the lowest time, but that really humbled us because we didn’t have losses like that, so that really brought us back together, got us back on our A-game.”
All the motivation they needed to win at Ocean Springs in the regular season finale, securing a home playoff game in which the Red Rebels took down Pearl by four touchdowns, good for their first-ever 6A playoff victory, their first post-season win since 1990. “Yeah, we wanted that, so we came out here ready to eat.”
“The atmosphere was just a little bit different. It just felt like playoff weather. The weather was cold. The fans was out. We was hype. Music, everything. The vibe was just totally different out there.”
“They’ve heard from their uncles and parents and all of them that have been to school here it’s kind of never been done, and it was a great moment. Probably wasn’t supposed to with COVID but we hugged and had a great time afterwards.”
Harrison Central went on to fall to eventual undefeated state champion Oak Grove in the second round, but in the process, a new standard was set and now all the Red Rebels want is what the Warriors have. “Oh, I want to go to the State, I want to know what State feels like.”
“We’re trying to get to State, really. That’s the goal.”
“We’re just trying to build a better program around here, just not for the present, but for the future. We’re trying to change that. We won that playoff game last year. We expect – that’s the expectation now, second round, second round or better. The expectation is getting a little bit higher around here.”
Harrison Central was slated to play Oak Grove as a part of the annual Port City Bowl, but due to the Warriors being quarantined that game may just be a scrimmage unless a new opponent is found.