WXXV Student Athlete of the Week: Poplarville Football’s Mark Will

After losing the season opener to reigning 5A State Champion Picayune, the Poplarville football team has rattled off eight-straight wins on its way to recapturing the Region 7 Class 4A district title.

At the center of all that winning is senior linebacker Mark Will, who makes his presence felt on the field just as much as he does in the classroom.

Ever since he was a child, Mark Will dreamed about playing football, but his father had some hesitations, afraid he was too small to let him play pee-wee, that setback fueling the fire for the future linebacker, who immediately hit the weight room. “You know I didn’t really understand it. When I was just a little kid you know I was just doing it because I wanted to play football, but now I understand that he built me up to be a man, you know. Put me in the weight room, because that was tough. Then I came out in the seventh grade and have never played football in my life, so that was tough. So, I learned a lot and gained a lot of experience and it helped me grow up a lot. Now that I’m here, I can lead this team as a senior, and it is a great feeling.”

Now that he’s earned his spot on the gridiron, Will leads the Hornets both on and off the field. Head Coach Jay Beech said, “What he brings on the field is great leadership, hard work, dedication, a love for the game, passion that younger kids can look to and say hey this is what it means, this is what it takes to be a high school football player.”

Will currently paces the team with eight tackles for loss and is second on team with nine tackles per game to go along with a fumble recovery and a blocked field goal, but he says he’s less of a numbers guy and more of a team guy. “It’s really the family. I love the family. We’re together as a team, you know. You don’t just see us show up on Friday nights and play. We go hang out on the weekends. We’ll go eat together. It’s just really that fun part because when football ends, you know, you still need to have those guys around you as a brotherhood, you know because we may not be blood, but we really are blood you know since we’ve been playing out here together so it’s really special just having them with me. That’s what makes football the most fun.”

The thing is, one member of the team actually is family and a brother from the same mother. Hornet Quarterback Matt Will is the younger twin and they both love nothing more than sharing the bond of Friday Night Lights. “It’s amazing you know because he did the same thing I did. Started in seventh grade. Been in the weight room forever together, been on the field forever together. We’d come after school in middle school while the high school was at practice, and we’d practice in the back, go do cone drills and all that stuff. So, it’s fun seeing him grow as a player as well and really be just like me. A leader. Hard-hitting player. It’s just great to see him succeed.”

As the regular season comes to a close, the class of 2023 is getting closing to playing its last game at the Hornets Nest, which makes Senior Night this Friday all the more bittersweet. “I’ve been waiting for this day and also dreading this day because you know this is the end, but it’s also the beginning of something new…and I can just look back on all the great memories I’ve had here at Poplarville High School and just know that they’ve been good to me.”

But Will’s season is far from over and the Hornets have a big goal in mind, the same goal they’ve had for the last half dozen years and they’re not trying to take it home just for themselves, but all the teams that came before them. “It would mean absolutely everything you know. Especially for Coach Beech to win one. He’s been putting in hard work, he’s been here since what ’13? That’s a long time you know. I wouldn’t want to win it for any more than him, and for the community you know. Even after all the tough losses, 15-14 my sophomore year, the community has been behind us, so to bring home the gold ball this year, it would mean a lot for this community and this team.”

“We’re having a lot of fun with this team because they love to play football and they want to keep playing. We want this season to continue on as long as we can. We don’t want them to leave here and graduate just yet because we will miss them. We’re trying to continue this thing all the way out through the championship.”

Even after this season, Will isn’t done playing football in Poplarville with plans to play for Pearl River Community College while getting his associates degree to further his education.

Poplarville has played in the 4A South State Championship six years in a row and has won the South State championship four out of the last six years. The Hornets wrap up their regular season slate at home against Sumrall at 7 p.m. Friday.

Categories: WXXV Student Athlete of the Week