Wells back with lofty expectations

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 2, 2008

TALLULAH — Defections and dismissals took a toll on Toriano Wells’ first season at Madison Parish High School.

The Jaguars started preseason work for the 2007 season with 40 players. By the time the 2-8 campaign had ended, the Jaguars limped home with 21 players.

“We finished with 21 guys. Many of them fell off because they saw football wasn’t going to be a joke. With the guys we have back along with the new guys, we hope to improve on that 2-8 season,” said Wells, who for three years was an assistant at Vicksburg High School under coach Alonzo Stevens.

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One of the big reasons for Wells’ optimism is that this will be the final year practicing at the old McCall High School. Next year, the Jaguars will move to their new campus just off I-20.

“It’s going to help a lot. We’re going to have a new football fieldhouse and stadium. It will be state of the art. I really think the kids will come back and be a part of our athletic program,” Wells said.

Right now, the Jaguars have 35 players out.

“We have a pretty good group. We had some freshmen move up and our sophomores got a year of experience. We also had our first spring football in three years,” Wells said.

Last year, the Jaguars used a wide-open spread attack to net two wins in their first five games. This year, defense will be the team’s strength.

“We’ve got seven starters back and we feel we’re going to be a lot better on that side of the ball,” Wells said.

A key will be the return of linebacker Michael Fair. The 6-3, 190-pound senior is the team’s top prospect, having drawn interest from Grambling and Arkansas Baptist.

Junior cornerback Fred Estes had a good sophomore season and led the Jaguars in interceptions. Fair will get some help at linebacker with DeQuincy Bingham returning.

The D-line should be good with nose guard Sebastian Page, senior tackle Tommy Bynum and defensive end Jonathan Manning.

The offense will be built around four returning offensive linemen. Page leads the group at right tackle. Bynum and Andrew Love provide senior leadership while Jordy Ross, a junior, rounds out the returnees. DeArthur Jackson, a sophomore, will join the unit.

“We have a pretty veteran line,” Wells said.

Antonio Harris was the team’s starting quarterback last year but will be moving to receiver. Hollis Meadows, a junior, will take over the quarterback role.

“We’ve had pretty good competition at quarterback but Hollis has become the frontrunner,” Wells said.

Part of the Jaguars’ slide last year after a 2-3 start was the loss of tailback DeMario Wright. He had nearly 600 yards rushing through six games before suffering a season-ending knee injury. Wells said he is not quite back but has high hopes for the position after the surge shown by Brandon Stewart.

“Brandon has moved ahead of everybody else. He ran a 4.5 40-yard dash at LSU and has looked good,” Wells said.