Choctaws continue to improve under Joseph

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 7, 2008

CLINTON — Mississippi College has progressed each year under Vicksburg native Norman Joseph.

Last year the Choctaws had their best season in 10 years with an 8-2 campaign. It also marked the first winning season for Joseph since he came to MC in 2005 after an outstanding career as an offensive guru at the Division I-level.

“We’ve made improvement every year. We won two my first year, five my second and then last year we won eight,” Joseph said. “We’ve raised that bar and now we expect to be good. At 8-2, we were able to get votes in the last Top 25 poll.”

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With a strong offense coming back, the Choctaws were a preseason Top 25 pick by Returning starting quarterback Adam Shaffer is back to lead an offense that finished second in the nation in passing yardage at 315 yards per game and third in total offense.

“We have Adam back and he’s an MVP candidate in our league,” Joseph said of his 3,100-yard passer out of Jackson Academy. Shaffer missed almost all of 2006 after injuring his knee in the season opener at Millsaps. The Choctaws will open their season again at Millsaps on Sept. 6 in Jackson.

“Always look forward to playing coach (Mike) Dubose’s team. It’ll be a great opener for us,” Joseph said.

While other schools have complained about August’s rainy weather, Joseph is not one of them.

“I actually think it’s been good. At the end of July it was just brutally hot and this rain broke it. We’ve got an all-weather field, and I’m thankful for that because had it been the old field, it would be in a terrible mess right now,” Joseph said.

When fall camp began, 154 players reported. Joseph said the number now stands at 147. He expects to take 70 players to the opener at Millsaps. One of those will be former Vicksburg High Gator Quartez Ashmore (6-1, 225).

Ashmore, a junior, who transferred in from Southwest Community College where he started last year at linebacker for the Bears.

“He was a really good pickup. He’ll start at middle linebacker for us. He did well at Southwest and got some looks by other schools but he decided to come with us,” Joseph said.

The Choctaws are expected to contend for the American Southwest Conference and if they can improve to nine wins, a bid to the NCAA Division III playoffs could be in the offering.