Rainy August plagues Hinds’ preparations

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 7, 2008

RAYMOND — Lingering rain from Tropical Storm Fay has made preparations difficult for tonight’s season opener for the Hinds Community College Eagles.

It got so bad Monday morning, Hinds coach J. Mike Smith was left searching for a field for practice. He found one at Jackson Academy.

“The weather has been a mess with all this rain in August. It’s affected our kicking game,” Smith said.

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The Eagles were given two days off after a scrimmage last Thursday night, but they got little done Sunday because of the rain. A good practice at JA could get the Eagles back on track as they look to build on last year’s 5-4 record.

The Eagles return two key cogs to their success in Provine running back Anton Taylor and Terry safety Antwon Dixon.

“Those are our two main guys. Anton can flat out run, one of the best in country both in the 100 meters and the indoor 60 meters,” Smith said.

Dixon, whose older brother starts at Mississippi State and whose younger brother was the top baseball prospect in the state, is expected to anchor the secondary. He will, however, not be in the lineup tonight when the Eagles host Northeast.

“Broke a team rule, so he’s out this week,” Smith said.

The Eagles defense will have to rely on the sophomore leadership of former Vicksburg Post Defensive Player of the Year and Vicksburg High Gator Dekores Branch.

“We’re looking heavily at Dekores to have a good year for us. We’ve thrown him out there to the senior colleges as one of our best players. He has the size to play at least on the I-AA level,” Smith said.

Branch says he looks for a big year, and with it, a spot at solid football program next fall.

“First off, I have to make my grades. If I can do that, I’ll be able to take care of business on the field,” Branch said.

Branch said he’s received interest from Mississippi State and Southern Miss along with a host of othe programs in lower divisions.

“Our defense should be real good this year. We’ve got some good freshmen stepping up and if we all play together, it’ll be good,” Branch said.

Taking over at one of the cornerback spots after two-year starter and former Warren Central Viking Otis Stamps departed, will be another Gator in freshman Cordell Watkins.

“He’s going to be one of our main guys back there,” Smith said.

Running the offense will be a Vicksburg Post All-Area player in former Clinton High quarterback Wesley Mounger.

“Mounger seems to be our guy at quarterback over Chad DeWitt, who was one of our out of state recruits. He’s been cool and collective under center.”

The top target for the offense will be returning starter Vernon Wolfe of Vicksburg. The former Gator was the team’s No. 2 receiver last year.

“Vernon had several great catches during the preseason and had a phenomenal one in the scrimmage,” Smith said. “We’ve got two good out-of-state kids from Louisiana in Treyvias Alexander and Jamal Nixon. We’ve also got Quinton Truly out of Warren Central.

“(Truly) has had a kidney infection and that’s slowed him from learning our offense.”

The Eagles’ offensive line got a boost when former Vicksburg High lineman Mark Cabatay transferred to Hinds after helping Jones Community College reach last year’s state title game.

“He played well at Jones and started in the state championship game for them. He’ll start at left guard for us. He and John Gilmore (Hinds AHS) give us a pretty comparable line to what we’ve had in the past. John’s got great feet,” Smith said.