If the enthusiasm of Scotlandville High coach Lester Ricard is an indicator, the Hornets are in position to return to their place as a perennial playoff team in Division I after their first losing season in eight years.
In its previous seven seasons, Scotlandville had averaged eight regular-season wins before dipping to 4-6 last season. It was a mark that preceded the resignation of Jules Sullen and then the hiring of Ricard in February.
Ricard, who stepped down as Walker’s head coach one game into the 2018 season, will be looking to provide stability for a Scotlandville program that will feature its fourth different head coach in five seasons.
“Scotlandville is a great place with a lot of recent tradition,” Ricard said. “They have a program that has won a lot of games in the last five years. My job is to come in and get them back where they were with deep playoff runs, and hopefully contending for the state championship.”
Initially named as associate coach/head coach in waiting, Ricard’s title is now head coach after leading the Hornets through spring drills.
Ricard was pleased with what he saw in spring intrasquad scrimmages, and also on May 16, when Scotlandville was part of a three-team scrimmage along with Madison Prep and Amite. The teams participated in goal line sessions as well as timed periods of 12 minutes each.
Senior Jesse Craig, who might have felt like the Hornets’ quarterback-in-waiting while playing behind Levi Lewis and Cameron Armstead as an underclassman, showed his ability to direct the Scotlandville offense.
“We got to the 12-minute series, and there wasn’t a drive we started where we didn’t score,” Ricard said. “Whether we went 40 yards in eight plays or 40 yards in two plays, we moved the ball and scored. We were happy about that.”
Ricard is also happy to have a senior quarterback like Craig, who has patiently waited for his turn to start.
“Jesse is a young man who has waited three years behind two exceptional athletes who were all-state players,” Ricard said. “He’s had a chance to watch those guys push Scotlandville to the highest levels, and now it’s his time.”
Joining Craig in the backfield will be running backs Chance Williams and Marlon Gunn. Senior Jeremiah Harris will be used as a running back and a receiver as the Hornets look for ways to get him the ball in open spaces.
The offensive line will be anchored by three seniors -- Martrell Thomas, Jacorie Joseph and Spence Thomas. Ricard said the Hornets hope to keep everyone healthy as they work to develop quality depth.
Defensively, Madison Prep was able to find the end zone on the Hornets defense during the goal line sets that began on the 10-yard line. The Hornets were stingy in the 10-minute sessions and didn’t allow a score.
The defender who has Ricard most excited is 6-foot-4 senior Jonathan Horton, who has been used at defensive end where he can take advantage of his speed. Horton has been a starter for the Scotlandville basketball team that won state championships the past two years, and hasn’t played football since the eighth grade, according to Ricard.
Horton’s wingspan and speed allowed him to excel in the Hornets’ spring game despite a lack of experience. He finished that scrimmage with four sacks and forced fumbles.
“I know what a 4.4 (40-yard dash) looks like, and (Horton) is a legit 4.4 defensive end coming off the edge,” Ricard said. “I can’t wait to see him this year. He was unbelievable in the springs game and really has our coaching staff excited.”
Senior Darius Williams will head up the linebackers. In the defensive backfield, junior Jah’von Grigsby and senior Chris Daigre will be among the leaders.
All totaled, Ricard feels he has the parts in place to mold Scotlandville into a playoff team. If so, the Hornets will prove last season’s losing record was an aberration instead of the start of a trend.