Last season, the Southwest Community College Bears finished with as MAJC Region 23 South Division runner-up and state runner-up with a 9-3 overall record. It was the best record in school history for the SMCC football team.
This year, the Bears are expected to be in the hunt again for the state championship and national honors as well.
"The coaches over the past few seasons have done an excellent job of building a program here at Southwest," said first-year head coach Dom Green. "It is my responsibility to see that we continue to keep moving forward."
Green takes over for Kenny Eddenfield, who resigned after last season to take an assistant coaching position at the University of Tulsa.
So how did a program that averaged three wins over the mid 1980's and early 1990's improve to become one of the best in the nation? One of the reasons is Tangipahoa Parish, where 29 players on this year's SMCC roster call home.
Hammond's Marvin Jones, Amite's C.J. Batiste and Brandon Wagner, Kentwood's Eugene Thompson, Ponchatoula's Daveon Walker and Daniel Giles and last year's Mr. Football in Louisiana, Byron Robertson, are some of the big names that are hoping to move on to a top 25 program after a brief stint at SMCC.
Green also credits his recruits from outside Mississippi and Louisiana for the quick turn around.
"We have been blessed with some of the best players in JUCO football over the last three years," he said. "We have definitely had our share of some of the top players from around the nation come here and play."
In 1999, Southwest had the best rated defense in the MAJC Region 23 area and the second best in the nation. Their front four defensive players consisted of Alton Moore (Auburn), Kennard Ellis (Florida), Eric Powell (Florida State) and Howard Green (LSU). Green expects this year's front four to be just as good - if not better than - the 1999 group.
"Our front four on defense is the key. If those guys continue to make plays for us, than we have a chance to be good."
Each member of that 1999 group was placed in the MAJC top 10 defensive players, including the No. 1 overall player in Powell. This year's front four consists of Chad Moscoe, Roy Williams, Kelvin Morris, and Demarcus Johnson.
"Every school in the country is after those guys," Green said. "We think we can be even better than we were in 1999."
Williams is a defensive tackle that inked with the University of Florida out of high school. Because of grades, he transferred to Southwest.
Johnson may be the best JUCO defensive player in the country. This 6-foot-4, 285-pound defensive lineman has been getting the attention of schools like Florida State, Mississippi State, Alabama, Florida, Miami and LSU.
Ask any coach in the Southeastern Conference, says Green, and they will quickly tell you that Moscoe and Morris are two of the best players in the country as well.
So as you can see, the out-of-state players along with the talented group from Tangipahoa Parish have the Bears considered one of the best JUCO's in the nation.
Batiste transferred from Southern back in January and will be starting in the SMCC backfield after having a terrific senior season in which he was named the Class 3A offensive MVP in 1999.
Giles and Walker come to SMCC after signing with Purdue. Giles is expected to play a major role in the Bears' defensive game plan, and Walker was going to be a top offensive weapon before going down with a broken arm.
Independence's Jarvis Dunn has had solid preseason camp and has earned a starting role on offense. The Bears' quarterback position will be handled by two former area stars. Springfield's Steven Erdy and Amite's Wagner will split time with Erdy getting the nod to start.
Former Hammond linebacker and LSU signee, Marvin Jones will start at linebacker for the Bears.
Southwest is expected to compete for the MAJC South Division Title along with Hinds Community College. Just a few short weeks ago, the MAJC Board of Supervisors ruled that each area that has a designated out-of-state recruiting area will be limited to recruiting only 10 players from that area. Several years ago, Tangipahoa Parish was considered part of Southwest's recruiting district, meaning that all players who decided to play junior college football in the state of Mississippi that were from Tangipahoa Parish were forced to play at Southwest.
Starting in January, 2002, those players may be recruited by any other junior college in Mississippi. So this means that other schools like Pearl River, Hinds, Jones and Northwest will be able to come in a and recruit players from Tangipahoa Parish.
"It does limit us a bit, be we can still have 20 players on our roster each year from Tangipahoa Parish," Green said.