By Danny C. Davis
Last year, the Clinton Arrow defense had a good year, giving up only 19 points a game, including two shutouts. CHS defensive coordinator Hammer Morgan says he feels his unit is capable of stopping opponents again this year, with seven starters back and also a couple part-time starters back.
“We got a lot of starters back and had a really good spring and summer,” said Morgan.
Morgan feels the strength of the team is the front seven (defensive lineman and linebackers). Senior Karmarious Gibson and Jacquavyian Carter, both two-year starters, lead the linebacker corp. Also starting at linebacker will be junior Tyler Railey. Add junior Donovan Coleman, who played a lot of reps last year, to the mix. Coleman will be a hybrid linebacker who also will at times play safety.
“I think we will be a lot better on defense this year,” said Gibson. “We have experience up front, and new guys in the secondary at the corners and safety that are really good this year.”
The defensive line is big and experienced, once again led by juniors, defensive nose guard T J Spann, 6’4” and 330 pounds, and defensive lineman Johnathan Flowers, 6’2” and 275 pounds. Starting at defensive end will be senior Jalen Hollins and junior Benny Jenkins. Newcomer sophomore Lazavian Tinner is expected to be in the mix, also.
CHS has experience returning in the defensive secondary, also. The most experienced will be senior Quinton Whitehead, a two-year starter at safety. Junior starters DeAries Kelly and Veshone Malone return at corner back. In the mix will be seniors Josh Hicks at cornerback and Cameron Warner, who will see action at corner back safety.
“We face six quarterbacks that are very good this year, and we look forward to the challenge,” said Whitehead. “We’ve got new guys in the secondary that are capable of making some big plays. We had leads late in the game last year, but gave up big plays. We’ve worked on that in the secondary to not give up those big plays this season.”
Surpassing last year’s defensive effort will not be easy this year. The Arrows face #1 Brandon, #2 Madison Central, and top ten-ranked Ocean Springs and Starkville. All four have preseason top picks at quarterback, as well as Tupelo and Oxford.
“Just about all of those quarterbacks are dual threats and can throw it and run it, which puts a lot of pressure on the defense,” said Morgan. “But I know our kids will play hard, like they did last year, and give a great effort.”
“There will be no quit on the field by our team this year,” said Whitehead. “We were so close to winning four of the five games we lost year and could have been 10-1 and advanced in the playoffs. We are going to show people how good we are this season.”
Morgan also coaches special teams for the Arrows. Junior Hayden Wolfe will handle all the kicking duties: field goals, kickoffs and extra points. Wolfe will also be the punter.
Junior Joseph Peabody returns as deep snapper and long snapper for punts and extra points.
“Hayden and Joseph have both really worked hard this summer. Hayden is kicking and punting the ball really well, and Joseph is getting the ball back to him really good right now,” said Morgan.
Junior Creston Garlington will be the holder for extra points and field goals.