Robert Wilson spent 23 years at The Clarion-Ledger/Jackson Daily News as a sportswriter with more than half of those years covering high school sports, mostly in the Metro Jackson area. He helped chose the All-Metro teams in various sports for more than a decade. Wilson has rebirthed this team this year with Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard All-Metro Football Team with 50 players and a Coach and Player of the Year. With the help of high school and college coaches, Wilson selected the best players from Hinds, Madison and Rankin Counties.
By Robert Wilson
Madison-Ridgeland Academy football coach Herbert Davis knew in junior high school he wanted to be a coach. Brandon senior quarterback Will Rogers knew in elementary school he wanted to be a quarterback.
This season, the duo exceled at their respective positions and have been named the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Coach and Player of the Year on the first All-Metro football team.
Davis led his MRA Patriots to a 12-2 record and the Mid-South Association of Independent Schools Class 6A state championship. MRA defeated Jackson 48-33 in the championship game, ending Prep’s Mississippi record seven straight state championships. MRA went undefeated vs. MAIS competition, losing only to public school Class 2A semifinalist Philadelphia and Briarcrest, Tenn., a private school in Memphis, which finished ranked fifth in Tennessee among all schools.
Davis, 52, has won four state championships in his 23-year coaching career, Brookhaven Academy in 1993 and 2008 and Pillow in 1997 and this season at MRA. He is the only football coach in Mississippi history to take five different schools (MRA, Brookhaven Academy, Pillow, Heritage and Winston) to state championship games. Davis has a 192-86 career record, including a 60-19 record in six years at MRA.
Rogers – who is expected to sign with Mississippi State during the early signing period later this month — completed247 of 371 passes (66.7 percent) for 3,609 yards and 38touchdowns with only three interceptions and led Brandon to a 9-5 record and to the second round of the Class 6A playoffs. He passed for 9,094 yards and 79 touchdowns in his career.
Davis grew up in Brookhaven and was a manager for the Brookhaven Academy high school football team from his sixth grade to his ninth grade.
“Durwood Graham was the coach when I was in junior high and he was like a grandfather to me,” Davis said. “Then Rodney Coleman was the coach and he was a good technician and made a difference with our defense. I loved the game back then and knew I wanted to be a coach.”
Davis played football and baseball at Brookhaven Academy and at Copiah-Lincoln Community College and baseball at Mississippi College. His first coaching job was part-time at Co-Lin under head football coach Phil Broome. Davis’ first full time job was the head coach at Winston Academy where he won his first 12 games before losing in the Class A championship game. He went to be a graduate assistant for one year at Southern Arkansas before getting a job at Pillow Academy and he’s been winning in Mississippiever since with stops in Heritage, Brookhaven, Lawrence County and MRA. He also met his wife, Darla, while at Pillow and they celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary next year. They have two children, Hayden, who played quarterback for Davis at MRA and is now a student coach at Delta State, and Makenzie, who graduated from Mississippi State this past summer. Also, Davis has one stepdaughter, Chansley Hodge Spencer, who lives in Lexington.
Davis is a football film junkie.
“Some people like to watch movies. I like to watch film of football games,” Davis said. “I have cutouts (game film) of every NFL game for the past five years. I have of the top teams like Alabama, Oklahoma, Clemson and many more from several years back. I love to watch them and see who they play.”
He liked how this year’s MRA team performed. MRA started with five straight lopsided victories, scoring an average of 40 points in the first half. Then the Patriots lost to Philadelphia and Briarcrest.
“We didn’t execute very well in those two games,” Davis said. “The seniors stepped up after those two games and said we weren’t losing again. Our practices were different. They came to work every day to get better. Once we beat Prep during the regular season we had a different attitude then last year. We had a ‘unfinished business’ attitude. We learned a lot from last year (beating Prep 42-14 in the regular season and losing 33-27 in championship game). We wanted to finish what we didn’t last year.”
MRA finished strong as senior quarterback Philip Short passed for a Mississippi record 593 yards in a 49-33 victory over Prep in the state title game. It was the most points scored vs. Prep since 2009. MRA has a 24-3 record over the past two seasons with only one loss (to Prep in the state title game last year) to a MAIS team. It was MRA’s first state title since 2004. It was the first time since 1999 that a football team other than Prep or Jackson Academy had won the highest classification of the MAIS.
Davis’ assistants are Danny White (defensive coordinator and defensive backs), Kenny Williams (offensive line), John Weaver (wide receivers), Will Gatlin (defensive line) and Austin Smith (quarterbacks). Davis is the offensive coordinator.
Rogers, like Davis, got the football bug early. As a little boy, Rogers’ dad Wyatt, was teaching his son about football. Wyatt, Brandon’s offensive coordinator, was the head coach at Winston Academy when Will was 5 and Will would follow him to practice. When Will was in the third grade, he would be in the press box with his dad on game nights.
“I’ve always loved the game,” Will Rogers said. “I started in the fourth grade (playing quarterback on Winston Academy’s peewee team) and loved it every since.”
When Rogers was in the seventh grade at Brandon Middle School, he met former Brandon High quarterback Gardner Minshew, now a quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars in the NFL. They are still good friends.
“Gardner and I have a great relationship,” Rogers said. “We talk every now and then, but we spent most of our summers together because my dad was the coach and I would be the snapper for the seven on seven games when Gardner was the quarterback. Gardner taught me so much and I can’t put into words how thankful I am to have someone like him in front of me.”
Rogers completed 64.8 percent of his passes for 2,476 yards and 18 touchdowns with seven interceptions as a sophomore. He completed 59.9 percent of his passes for 3,009 yards and 23 touchdowns with 12 interceptions as a junior. Rogers got even better this year, completing 66.7 percent of his passes for 3,609 yards and 38 touchdowns with only three interceptions against argruably the toughest schedule in the state. Rogers threw 27 touchdown passes and 199 passes without an interception in the last eight games of the season. He threw six TD passes without an interception in a 49-13 win over Meridian and five each vs. Terry and Northwest Rankin.
“I felt like I was good last year and could make all the throws, but this year I felt like I did a better job recognizing the defense and making more explosive plays thorugh the passing game,” Rogers said.
“Will has been a great leader for us and has an excellent work ethic. His positive attitude is contagious,” Brandon coach Tyler Peterson said. “He was the best player on the team and the hardest worker on the team, something you rarely find. He never showed a lack of effort or a negative attitude. He did things the right way. Will did a great job talking to his teammates too and a lot of times a player will listen to another player more than their coach.
“Will watches film like a coach does. He’s so smart and a great decision maker. He’s like another Gardner Minshew.”
Rogers is graduating early this month and will enroll at Mississippi State in January and participate in spring practice.
“Will has the ability to go a long way in his football career,” Peterson said. “He will do fine in college. He’s a great competitor, throws the ball well and studies the game. I’m looking forward to seeing how well he does at Mississippi State.”
2019 All-Metro Football Team
Player of the Year: Will Rogers, Brandon.
Coach of the Year: Herbert Davis, MRA.
First team offense:
QB: Will Rogers, Brandon, Sr., 6-2, 200
RB: Kenyatta Harrell, Pearl, Sr., 5-10, 185
RB: Ahmad Johnson, Pelahatchie; Sr., 6-1, 210
WR: Ashton Nickelberry, Brandon, Sr., 5-11, 170
WR: Deion Smith, Provine; Jr., 6-4, 180
TE: Liqouri Young, Callaway, Sr., 6-5, 245
OL: Davion Carter, Pearl, Sr., 6-3, 275
OL: Jacob Greenwood, Germantown, Sr., 6-2, 255
OL: Justin Lairy, Madison Central, Sr., 6-4, 260
OL: Ayden McCollough, Northwest Rankin, Sr. 6-3, 281
OL: Jakobie McLaurin, Clinton, Sr., 6-3, 323
All-Purpose: Jimmy Holiday, Madison Central, Sr. 6-1, 195
K: Mason Walker, Brandon, Sr., 6-4, 185.
First team defense:
DL: John Brown, Provine, Sr., 6-2, 260
DL: Jordan Lawson, Brandon, Sr., 6-5, 255
DL: Chris Lloyd, Forest Hill, Sr., 5-11, 215
LB: Hayes Bufkin, Madison Central. Sr., 6-1, 195
LB: Fred Harris, Jr., Brandon, Sr., 5-11, 200
LB: Taylor Hunt, Northwest Rankin, Sr., 6-0, 200
LB: Zihenryon Perry, Brandon. Sr., 6-2, 220
DB: Ian Jackson, Pelahatchie, Sr., 6-3, 195
DB: Richard O’Bryant III, Brandon, Sr., 5-10, 165
DB: Joe Perkins, MRA. Sr., 6-1, 195
DB: Javorrius Selmon, Provine, Sr., 5-10, 175
P: Land Gebhart, Jackson Academy, Sr., 5-11, 155
Second team offense:
QB: Philip Short, MRA, Sr., 6-1, 200
RB: Marcus Harris, Jackson Academy. So., 5-9, 230
RB: Matt Jones, Jackson Prep; Jr., 5-10, 185
WR: Jordan Harvey, Velma Jackson, Jr., 6-3, 205
WR: Tyquan Henderson, Canton. Sr., 6-2, 164
TE: Blake Gunter, Madison Central, So., 6-3, 220
OL: Kaleb Cadiere, Pearl, Sr. 5-10, 260
OL: Peyton Dunn, Jackson Prep, Sr., 6-7, 290
OL: Caleb Graham, Terry, Sr., 6-3, 300
OL: Alex Rushing, Jackson Academy, Sr., 6-5, 280
OL: Dylan Spencer, Madison Central; Sr., 6-5, 304
All-purpose: Zy McDonald, Ridgeland, Jr., 5-11, 175
K: Weston Adcock, Hartfield, So., 5-9, 170
Second team defense:
DL: DeAndrea Cavett, Clinton, Jr., 6-1, 220
DL: Zxavian Harris, Germantown, So., 6-6, 308
DL: J.C. Polk, Jackson Prep, Sr., 6-1, 195
LB: Stone Blanton, MRA, So., 6-2, 210
LB: Sam Brumfield, Pearl, Sr., 5-10, 186
LB: Matthew Day, Pelahatchie, Jr., 6-1, 215
LB: Braedon Mabry, Jackson Prep, Jr., 6-0, 190
DB: Yam Banks, Ridgeland, Sr., 6-2, 200.
DB: Brandon Buckhalter, Hartfield, Jr., 6-3, 200
DB: Creek Robertson, Madison Central, Jr., 5-10, 167
DB: Cade Shepard, Tri-County. Sr., 5-11, 170
P: Riley Maddox, Jackson Prep, Jr., 6-1, 195