Hinds starts anew

Published 11:39 am Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Two Mississippi community college teams coming off winning seasons last year hope to use Thursday’s opener as a quick start to the 2011 season.

Itawamba CC comes to Renfroe Stadium to battle the Hinds Eagles. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m.

Both teams went 5-4 last season, but missed the playoffs. For the Eagles, the winning record marked a turnaround after three straight losing seasons. Gene Murphy, who begins his third year in his second stint at Hinds, is anxious about the opener.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

“We’re fielding a young team and we’re anxious to see how they will respond,” Murphy said.

In 19 seasons at Hinds, Murphy is 141-51-5. He’s hoping a veteran offensive line keyed by two Warren Central products will lift the Eagles.

“We don’t have a lot of sophomores, but the two we have on our offensive line, John Gustavis and Steven Jordan, are both leaders,” Murphy said. Gustavis will open at guard while Jordan will be at tackle.

Deon Anthony, who was used as a wide receiver in 2010, will start at

quarterback. The Eagles will hope return man Jeremy Palmer can fill the void left by tailback Matthew Willis. Willis was one of the MACJC rushing leaders last season with 1,035 yards and 13 touchdowns. Palmer finished second in the state in kickoff returns with 616 yards on 29 attempts.

Defensively, Hinds will be led by two starting safeties, J’Vontez Blackmon and Godfrey Thompson. Blackmon had a big freshman season with 69 tackles, including five for loss. Thompson had 49 tackles, two sacks and nine tackles for loss. They will be joined at corner by former Vicksburg High standout Malcolm Butler, who played at Hinds in 2009.

ICC coach Jon Williams said in a preseason web interview that his team needs a good start.

“You want to taste success early,” Williams said. “You don’t want to dig a big hole early in the season. That’s why we want to start fast and not get in a hole.”

Murphy added that Hinds had a relatively healthy pre-season with one notable exception, St. Aloysius signee Matt Wooten is done for the season.

“Matt had a knee injury. He tore some meniscus,” Murphy said. “It didn’t require surgery, but we decided to shut him down for the season.”