NW Mississippi Preview

Ask any football coach about pre-season rankings and they will all say the same thing—it's not where your team starts the season that's important; the finish is what counts. Entering his 22nd year as the head football coach at Northwest Mississippi Community College, Bobby Franklin knows this firsthand.

When the 2002 edition of the Northwest Ranger team takes the field Thursday, Sept. 5, for its season-opener against Hinds in Raymond, they will do so as the No. 2 team in the nation, according to a pre-season poll released by the National Junior College Athletic Association.

"It seems like I say this before every season, but the only reason they rank us high is to put the pressure on us and hope we lose," joked Franklin who owns a record of 181-48-6. "Don't get me wrong, it's an honor that that the pollsters think so highly of us, but we have a lot of question marks on our team this season."

A couple of reasons for Franklin's skepticism is the fact that Northwest received the same lofty status from the NJCAA last fall before the season began, but the Rangers finished with a record of 7-3, including a berth in the state playoffs. The other reason could be the Rangers return only 19 players from that squad, including just seven starters.

Four of those starters are on offense headed up by All-State quarterback Bobby Robison of Fort Walton Beach, Fla. Last season, Robison was the state's second leading passer by completing 162 of 334 attempts for 2,359 yards and 20 touchdowns. Northwest also expects big things from tackle Isaac Harris of Senatobia, who was selected All-State as a freshman.

On defense, the Rangers will rely on a couple of redshirt sophomores including linebacker Reginald Wilson of Charleston and cornerback Jamaal Jackson of Bruce. Wilson led the team with 100 tackles last season and had four interceptions, while Jackson was among the state's leaders in interceptions with eight.

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