When you combine the August heat with the intensity that is the Mississippi Association of Junior College Football conference game, well, that’s a level Dante never even imagined.
The number 12 nationally ranked Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Bulldogs visit the Trojans Thursday night for a 7:00 p.m. matchup.
With last season’s 52-0 Gulf Coast win, the Trojans are eager to show the visitors what this year’s team is made of. Trojan fans can follow the game on MDCC’s Sports Network on YouTube.
The teams first met in 1929 and Gulf Coast leads the series 25-16 and the Bulldogs have won five in a row over Coach Jeff Tatum’s bunch. Their longest streak of six wins in a row over MDCC dates back to 1947-59 when Moorhead was known as Sunflower Junior College. The Trojans did own a six-game win streak over the Bulldogs from 1993-98 though.
The Trojans will look to build on their 3-6 overall record in 2018. There were a number of pivotal victories in the middle of the season and other close games that ended with a loss.
Jeff Tatum will once again be at the forefront of the MDCC football program, as he enters his seventh season at the helm. The former quarterback of the Trojans under the late legendary Coach Wooky Gray also serves as athletic director.
Gulf Coast Head Coach Jack Wright has holes to fill in his second season and after plenty of practice, he’s looking forward to seeing how both teams have filled them.
“We have a lot of kids who deserve to play. They've been here for six weeks," Gulf Coast coach Jack Wright said. "I think that's a better way to look at it. We're going to put a lot of people out there because of the hard work and sacrifice they've put in. They deserve to play football Thursday night."
The opening game of the MACJC season always provides challenges. Last minute roster changes can open doors for plenty of surprises for both teams. The Trojans return leading rusher Patrick Johnson, who ran for 503 yards and six touchdowns. Tackles John Wrister and Byron Clayton are 6-foot-8 and nearly 400 pounds, according to MDCC coach Jeff Tatum.
"I know they're going to have a really big offensive line," Wright said. "I've seen a preview or two on a couple of those guys. Some of the better guys on the offensive line are back. I thought they did a good job running the ball on us at times last year."
Wright wants his offense to create more explosive plays this year, and he wants his defense to create havoc in backfields. On offense, the Bulldogs will rely on sophomore quarterback and one of the nation's leading passers in Chance Lovertich. He ranked first with a 184.1 passing efficiency rating and set Gulf Coast records in completion percentage (70.8) and touchdown passes in a game (6).
"We expect him to lead the offense and handle a lot of the communication," Wright said. "We've put a little more on his plate as far as moving parts and being able to get the ball to the right person at the right time against certain defensive looks we're going to get."
The Trojan defense will look to stop Lovertich’s hot streak with a veteran defense. Trojan Defensive Coordinator Michael Turner will lean heavily on his defensive front.
"We're going to be somewhat seasoned," Coach Turner said. "We've got the four up front and one linebacker coming back."
Defensive linemen Rodney Mason and Rashaun Williams return to help anchor things up front.
"At linebacker we've got Isaiah Karriem coming back and we've got on our 'back end', George Jackson as a safety that's going to be good for us. He's a workhorse now. And we have Kyle Kass and we're expecting great things at corner. He's big time. He's big, he can do it all and now we have to sit back and see if he's put it all together."
Trojan fans will be looking to see if all the Trojans are put together to survive and thrive in Dante’s 2019’s version of junior college football Hades.