By Robert Wilson
Sean Harrison guided Columbus Heritage Academy to its second MAIS state championship in the past three years this past fall. Harrison, now the head of school at Heritage, has found a national championship coach to continue what he has built.
Lance Pogue, who won a national championship and five state titles at South Panola High, has been named the head football coach at Heritage, replacing Harrison.
Pogue resigned on April 11 after five years at Jackson Academy, the first three years as defensive coordinator and last two as head coach. It didn’t take long for someone to grab one of the most successful coaches in Mississippi history.
“I’m really excited to have Coach Pogue,” Harrison said. “I wanted to hire a high-quality full-time head coach but was unsure if I could get one this late in the game. I owed it to our kids to find the best possible coach I could get them.”
“I took a look and see approach after l left JA,” Pogue said. “I really didn’t know if I was going to coach this next year. But Sean contacted me a couple of weeks ago and one thing led to another and I took the job. I’m excited. Sean did a great job with the program and I’m here to continue it. The future is wide open here. The Golden Triangle area (Starkville, Columbus and West Point) is a growing area.”
In his first year as head coach at JA two years ago, Pogue led the Raiders to a 10-4 record and a MAIS Class 6A runner-up finish to Madison-Ridgeland Academy. It was the first time JA had been in the state championship game since 2013. JA defeated Jackson Prep 28-21 in the state semifinals to end Prep’s 12-game consecutive win streak over JA. It was Ricky Black’s final game at Prep’s head football coach. Black, the second winningest football coach in Mississippi history, resigned the next February. Pogue led JA to an 8-4 record and the 6A state semifinals last season. He has won 228 games in 24 seasons, including 126 wins, one national championship and five state titles in 10 seasons at South Panola.
Harrison led Heritage to 65 wins and two state titles in six seasons, one of the winningest programs in the MAIS during that time span.
“I’m not going to make a lot of changes,” Pogue said. “Sean has things going in the right direction and we’ve got a solid foundation.”
One change Pogue will be making is finding a quarterback. Rising senior quarterback and Utah commitment Mack Howard -rated as the No. 23rd best quarterback in the country by 247 Sports – has transferred to Oxford High. Howard passed for 3,475 yards and 47 touchdowns last season, including 334 yards and six TDs in three quarters in Heritage’s 51-21 victory over Copiah in the Class 5A state championship game.
Heritage also lost to graduation defensive back Wesley Miller and wide receiver Mitchell Woodward, who will be playing at Mississippi State and Northeast Mississippi Community College next season.
The Patriots welcome back 14 starters, seven each on offense and defense, from last year’s state championship team. The top returnees are wide receiver-outside linebacker Trey Naugher and inside linebacker Luke Fisher. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Naugher caught 63 passes for 1,081 yards and 18 TDs and had 54 tackles, 6 sacks, 3 interceptions and 2 fumble recoveries last season. Naugher also plays basketball and runs track and field and won the 400 meters at the 5A state meet Saturday. The 6-2, 210-pound Fisher, who has offers from Division I schools Air Force and Central Arkansas, had 119 tackles, 19 for loss, 4 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries, and 1 interception for a TD last season. Also a running back, Fisher gained 492 yards and scored 12 TDs.
“We are going to get started Monday with spring practice,” Pogue said. “We are going to hit the ground running and get in some practices heading into the summer.”
Heritage opens next season against Lamar School at home.