Senior-laden Central Hinds eyes big year

Published 10:30 am Monday, August 18, 2014

Like a lot of coaches, Lance Teasley is quick, and eager, to talk up his senior class as he evaluates this year’s team. He catches himself and laughs about the cliché, apologizes, then goes back to it — with good reason.

Teasley’s Central Hinds team will be a senior-laden group this year, with eight on a 30-man roster. Most are entering their third year as starters and as eager to put last season’s disappointing finish behind them as Teasley is to talk up their 2014 prospects.

“The leadership this senior class has shown has built on where we fell short last year,” Teasley said. “This class knows how to lead. They’re buying into the weight program. I know every coach says that, but they understand how important it is.”

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Where Central Hinds fell short last season was in the back half of the schedule. The Cougars averaged 42.5 points per game during a 4-0 start, then fell apart. They lost six of their last seven games, culminating in a 28-7 first-round playoff defeat to Adams County Christian.

Teasley, who was an assistant last season and is now heading into his first year as CHA’s head coach, said the losses built on themselves.

Central Hinds had 17 players on the varsity roster in 2013. As the losses mounted, the feeling of being an invincible underdog gave way to the helplessness of being overmatched against a tough MAIS Class AA schedule, Teasley said.

“We dressed 13 10th- through 12th-graders against Simpson” in the regular-season finale, Teasley said. “When things were going good, it was easy to get past the idea that there were 47 of them and 13 of us. As the year progressed, that depth that (opponents) had showed more and more. It allowed them to extend their season and we went the opposite direction.”

Centaral Hinds, though, isn’t about to let one bad season become two. Despite the large senior class and a half-dozen returning starters on either side of the ball, plenty of change has swept across the program.

At the top, Teasley, an assistant last year, is entering his first season as head coach. He replaces Mitch Mitchell, who left to become the headmaster and football coach at Amite School Center in Liberty.

The numbers on the roster have swelled from 17 to 30, although Teasley said most of the new players are underclassmen who will play supporting roles. The upperclassmen, though, will have to learn some new ones.

Teasley has changed the Cougars’ offensive philosophy from a Wing-T to a one-back base set. That means more passing opportunities for senior quarterback Skyler Price — a three-year starter who threw just two touchdown passes in 2013 — and plenty of touches for running back Brian King.

King has rushed for nearly 3,000 yards and 39 touchdowns in his first two varsity seasons. He had 1,490 yards and 21 TDs last season, and is being recruited by several Division I programs.

The switch in offensive styles was intended primarily to get King even more opportunities, Teasley said.

“Brian is a feature back. We want it to run through him, instead of what the Wing-T does,” Teasley said. “He’s the hardest working guy on the field.”

The Cougars still have some holes, Teasley said. He’ll be breaking in a few new players on the offensive line, and the depth beyond the seniors is cause for concern.

Still, he feels there’s enough leadership and talent to turn things around and make a playoff run.

“Depth is the biggest concern, and always will be. If we can figure out our offensive line, our skill guys are solid,” he said. “Our depth is limited. If we can keep our 12 or 13 (starters) healthy, we’ll be OK.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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