2010 All-Area Football Team Defensive Player of the Year Central Hinds’ Douglas anchors ‘D’

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 24, 2010

RAYMOND — Sidetracked by injury and overshadowed by his teammates, Lee Douglas was almost an afterthought heading into this season. Just another cog in the machine, a piece of the puzzle, a face in the team picture.

And, as it turned out, an oncoming storm.

Douglas, a middle linebacker for Central Hinds Academy, used that anonymity to his advantage. While opponents planned for ways to deal with his more well-known linebacker partners, Douglas wreaked havoc. He totaled 104 tackles — 37 of them for loss. Eleven sacks. Seven takeaways for a team that finished 10-2.

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It was the kind of senior season players dream about, and ends now with The Vicksburg Post’s Defensive Player of the Year award.

“I’ve never gotten anything like this,” said Douglas, who was also selected second-team All-MAIS and played in the MAIS all-star game. “My sophomore year I tore my ACL, plus I was young. Junior year. I just didn’t have a good year. This year I was just determined to get out there and help the boys.”

Douglas joined the starting lineup as a freshman, playing fullback and linebacker late in the season while helping the Cougars to a district championship in 2007. He tore his ACL on a kickoff return against River Oaks midway through the 2008 season, however, and struggled through a mediocre junior year as he worked his way back into shape.

“I was timid. It was one of those things that I didn’t want to have happen again,” Douglas said. “It was about halfway through the (2009) season when everything turned around and I started making tackles.”

As 2009 turned into 2010, Douglas kept making them. He had at least 10 tackles in six of Central Hinds’ 12 games, with a high of 16 against Columbia Academy. More impressively, his nose for the football led to a series of tone-setting hits and game-changing takeaways.

In addition to his tackles and sacks, Douglas had three interceptions and four fumble recoveries. He also played fullback on the offensive side and helped block for a pair of 1,000-yard rushers. On his own stat sheet, he totaled 387 yards and four touchdowns.

“He dropped about 25 pounds, and that made him more agile. He was able to move from side to side a lot better. He had one responsibility, and that was to flow to the football,” Central Hinds coach Todd Montgomery said. “He made some phenomenal interceptions. You don’t see many middle linebackers make plays like he did.”

Douglas credited his teammates for some of his success. Central Hinds had a loaded roster with 11 seniors who had started for at least two years apiece. Besides fellow linebacker Hunter Farrior, who had 100 tackles last season and 79 this year and drew most of the offense’s attention, defensive linemen Austin Sills and Nick Mitchell did a good job of opening lanes for Douglas to find the football.

“We got penetration on most of the plays. It’d take two people to block one of my linemen, so there was a big hole. All I had to do was plug the hole,” Douglas said, adding that having trust in his teammates allowed him to make some plays he otherwise might not have. “We played together for three years, and then I played with them in junior high. I knew I could trust them. If I didn’t make my assignment, I knew they’d be there.”

The MAIS all-star game in early December was likely Douglas’ last competitive football game. He said he’d like to walk on somewhere, but hasn’t had any contact from colleges.

That will leave his high school career like a violent summer thunderstorm — gathering for a while, then striking and moving on while leaving devastation in its wake.

“I don’t know what clicked, but I’m glad it did,” Montgomery said. “As a defensive coordinator and head coach, I couldn’t be more proud of the way he came out and finished his senior year of football.”