By Robert Wilson
If Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College is going to win the national championship game tonight, there’s a good chance that a Metro Jackson area alumnus will help the Bulldogs bring home the title.
Nine Metro Jackson players are scheduled to be in the starting lineup tonight when No. 1 ranked Mississippi Gulf Coast, 11-0, plays No. 2 Lackawanna (Pa.), 10-0, at 5 p.m. in Pittsburg, Kan., televised on CBS Sports Network.Lackawanna has the nation’s longest active winning streak at 22 games. Gulf Coast has the second longest at 15 games. Gulf Coast will be going after its fifth national title after winning in 1948, 1971, 1984 and 2007. A Gulf Coast win would be the seventh national championship for a Mississippi junior college in the past eight years, five by East Mississippi CC and one each by Gulf Coast and Northwest Mississippi.
Jackson Prep alumnus Chance Lovertich, a sophomore quarterback, is the only Metro Jackson area player to make NJCAA All-Region 23 team. Lovertich, who is undefeated in two seasons as a starter at Gulf Coast, ranks nationally in five categories, second in completion percentage (66.3), third in passing yards (2,676), fifth in touchdown passes (24), ninth in passing efficiency (151.3) and 10th in passing yards per game (243.3). Callaway High alumnus MaljonJoor, a sophomore offensive right tackle, was an All-Mississippi JC first-team selection. He graded out at 80 percent and had 54 knockdown blocks. Terry High alumnus Jamie Sheriff, a sophomore defensive end, was an All Mississippi JC second-team selection. He led the state with eight sacks and has 50 tackles, 12 for losses.
“We recruit the best players in Mississippi and the Jackson area is the most populated area in the state and there are a lot of good players there,” Gulf Coast coach JackWright said. “We are fortunate to have many of the best players from that area. There are many good high school football programs in that area.”
Six more Gulf Coast players from the Metro Jackson area are starters, two on offense, three on defense and one on special teams. Murrah High alumnus Jalen Bracey, a sophomore wide receiver, is second on the team with 42 receptions for 447 yards and three touchdowns. Germantown High alum Hayden Shook, a freshman, starts at offensive left guard. Ridgeland High alum Mike Smith, a freshman linebacker, led the team with 97 tackles. Brandon High alum T.J. Ficklin, a sophomore defensive back, has 38tackles, one interception and 14 pass breakups. Clinton High alum Terrance Newell, a sophomore defensive back, has 35 tackles and seven pass breakups. Pearl High alum Caden Davis, a freshman kicker-punter, has made six field goals and 43 extra points and averaged 36.2 yards per punt with 10 punts inside the 20 yard line.
In addition, Clinton High alum Jimmy Bennett, a freshman, is the backup center.
Gulf Coast secondary coach Clarence McDougal was an All-State defensive back at Clinton High in the early 2000s.