By Danny C. Davis
The Clinton Christian Academy Warriors are hoping to rebound in 2021 after a tough season in the strange COVID-19 year of 2020.
CCA opens the season on the road at Hillcrest on August 13 and plays at Central Holmes on August 20 before returning to Northside Drive for the home opener August 27 against Amite School Center.
New head coach Zach Rogel, hired in January, is very optimistic about the Warriors’ upcoming season.
Rogel, 34, a native of Natchez, played and coached at Trinity Episcopal in Natchez before playing and coaching at Mississippi College and coaching at some other stops along the way.
“We’ve had a very good spring and summer and some very good scrimmages,” said Rogel. “We’re excited. Our guys have responded well and accepted the challenges.”
“We have 30 to 32 guys out and some very talented players,” said Rogel.
Leading the team on offense is junior quarterback Ryan Gaines.
“Ryan is a smart guy and good leader on the field. He has worked very hard this summer to get ready. He gives us a dual threat at quarterback.”
The Warriors have a triple threat in the back field, with three good running backs. Sophomore Jakevion Jones, a sophomore transfer from Jackson Wingfield, will get a lot of carries, as will junior Gunner Neblett and sophomore Carter Wilson.
“We feel very good about our running game with those three in the backfield. We feel our running game is going to be productive this year,” said Rogel.
At wide receiver this season will be a couple of seniors, Laney Walters and Joe Thomas. Also in the slots at receiver will be senior Jay Whitehead and junior John Michael Crosby. At tight end will be Sachem Stamps, a sophomore transfer from Clinton High School.
“We are going to run the spread offense and try to throw the ball a lot this year, but we want to be able to establish the run, also.”
On the offensive line at tackle will be senior Dave White, a starter since the eighth grade, and Josh Johnston, a 6’ 6”, 300-pound sophomore.
The guards will be sophomore Cooper Ormon and senior Tessai Carson. The offensive center will be a transfer from Florence, sophomore Timmy Thoman.
“Our front guys on the line have worked very hard, and we feel good about the front.”
Defensively, the Warriors will run a 4-3 or 3-4 alignment, whichever works better to stop the run. Sophomore Josh Coakley is expected to be a leader on defense on the defensive end position, along with sophomore Jordan Armstrong.
The defensive tackles will be Tessai Carson and junior Brad Hunter.
At linebacker will be Jones, Gaines, Neblett and White, with freshman Austin Pitts expected to be in the mix.
The defensive secondary will be corner backs Jay Whitehead and Joe Thomas. Safeties will be John Michael Crosby, Carter Wilson, Laney Walters and Nick Watson.
“We have a lot of guys going both ways, but we feel like our defense is going to be in good shape.”
Crosby will be the kicker and punter.
CCA will once again compete in a tough MAIS district along with Tri-County, Riverside, Adams Christian, and Vicksburg St. Aloysius, with Tri County and Adams Christian picked to finish first and second.
Said Rogel, “Our goal is just to go out and compete every week. Depth is an issue, so we have to stay healthy. We are going to have success this year. We are expecting our senior class to step up early and get us moving in the right direction.”