It should come as no surprise that when the Missssippi JC coaches held their meeting to vote on this year's preseason poll, Northwest came out favored to win the North and Jones County topped the South voters. Over the past five years Bobby Franklin's Northwest Rangers have compiled a 42-10 record while winning the title three times and Parker Dykes has guided his Jones Bobcats to a 36-18 mark and three division championships.

What they may be forgetting is the presence of the Holmes Bulldogs, who copped the Mississippi state championship in 2002 beating Pearl River and Jones without giving up a touchdown in the playoffs. On the South side of the ledger Pearl River went 7-3 last year and seem to be loaded with defensive prospects causing college recruiters to drool in anticipation.

Here is how the coaches tabbed their respective divisions with the number of first-place votes in parantheses.

North Division: 1. Northwest (6); 2. Holmes; 3. Miss. Delta; 4. Itawamba (1); 5. East Miss. 6. Northeast; 7. Coahoma.

South Division:  1. Jones (4); 2. Pearl River (3); 3. Hinds; 4. Miss. Gulf Coast; 5. East Central; 6. Southwest; 7. Copiah-Lincoln

NORTHWEST:  Slipped to 5-4 last year but Franklin packs a 23-year record of 186-62-6 and are ranked No. 3 by the NJCAA.  Watch WR John Harris do his thing.  He is a cinch JC Grid-Wire All-American.  Returnee Chris Turner, 6-3, 275 and  Ole Miss transfer Chris Herring, 6-2, 285, head the defense.  New QB Rayburn Morris will have to come through, big time, but experienced running backs are scarce. First game is Thursday, Sept. 4 vs. Hinds.

HOLMES:  Went 9-2 in 2002 and won the state title behind a great defense.  Only one, DE Rubio Phillips returns.  The OL, however, is loaded with vets.  Northeast transfer, Brett Borden, will handle QB chores. PLAYER TO WATCH:  OT Glenn Mason, 6-3, 310.  First game is Thurs., Sept. 4, East Central.

MISSISSIPPI DELTA:  Jay Miller, who spent 9 years compiling a 56-38 record at Itawamba, is in his first year, will have 9 returnees of the defensive side of the ball, including Arkansas State transfer Claude Wroten, 6-3, 300.  Casey Clark returns to guide the offense from his QB spot.  PLAYER TO WATCH:  Wroten.  First game is  Thurs., Sept. 4 vs. Copiah-Lincoln.

ITAWAMBA:  WR Michael Morris and DL Alton Pettway will help the Itawamba Indians as Jeff Terrill enters his second year at the helm.  First Game is Thursday at Gulf Coast.

Players to watch at EAST MISSISSIPPI are LB Renuel Greene, 6-3, 221 and OT Cody Brown, 6-4, 320, but do the Lions have enough to contend?  First Game is Thursday vs. Jones County.

NORTHEAST:  Everyone is raving about Northeast cornerback Mario Stevenson, but the Tigers need much more.  First game is Thursday at Pearl River. 

COAHOMA:  Two wins in 2002 for Coahoma doubled the previous three.  Coach Freeman Horton recruited a batch of Memphis high schoolers.  We'll see.  First game is Thursday at Southwest.

JONES COUNTY:  Dykes has a nifty 75-33-1 mark in 11 years at the Bobcat helm and should add at least eight more victories to the total this season.  NJCAA ranks them 14th overall and that looks about right.  Defense should be especially solid.  LB derrick Duckworth and OL Tommy Keyes are the big guns.  First game is Thurs. at East Miss.

PEARL RIVER:  Could well be the sleeper here.  Tim Hatten went 7-3 last year and won all of the South games.  Wildcats will be looking for a QB, but have really solid defensive returnees and a slick RB.  WATCH: DT Kyle Morgan, 6-4, 275 and TB Curtis Hayes.  First game is Thurs hosting Northeast.

HINDS has a new/old coach in Mike Smith.  First year as head coach, but 26th year on the staff.  QB Terrance Matthews led the state in all stats, except TDs, but had ankle surgery in the Spring.  Eagles will be heavy on the freshmen.  WATCH: Matthews. First game is Thurs. at Northwest.

GULF COAST comes off a 4-5 record and it will be the second season for coach Bill Lee.  DE Elbert Shumake had 9 sacks and will lead a strong defense, but offense is inexperienced.  First Game is Thurs vs. Itawamba.

EAST CENTRAL is making noises like they are headed for the top behind RB Titus Ryan and play at Holmes Thursday.

SOUTHWEST might be a real load with five players who earned all-state honors coming back.  Watch DT Cory Groover.  Bears host Coahoma on  Thursday. 

COPIAH-LINCOLN  is long overdue for a good season, but on paper this doesn't look like it would be the one.  WR Johnathan Walker, who is also a top return guy, is one to watch.  Wolves open at Delta this Thursday.

OUR PICKS:  We like Miss. Delta to knock off Northwest for the number one spot in the North and Pearl River to finally get their due by winning the South in a battle with Jones County.  East Mississippi and Southwest are our darkhorses.



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