COLUMN: Saturday is the annual homecoming football game at Northwest Mississippi Community College. The No. 11 Rangers have already garnered a spot in the MACJC playoffs as the No. 2 seed and posted yet another successful campaign under coach Ricky Woods regardless of what happens against No. 19 Jones, Saturday’s opponent, and another opponent from the South Division in the first round.
NWCC fans should be proud of what the team has accomplished, both this year and the past five seasons under Woods, who continues to show why he has long been regarded as one of the best coaches in the state. The Rangers, compared to before Woods took over in Senatobia, are a much better team that has a chance each and every week to win a game against the likes of East Mississippi or Gulf Coast, the likely champion from the South.
Unfortunately for Woods, his staff, the players he coaches and the fans that support them, competing on the field only goes so far. For a school that has as much tradition as NWCC, it’s hard to figure out why the program is so far behind EMCC and Jones and Pearl River and some others when it comes to facilities.
There is no way to compare what NWCC has in terms of facilities to what EMCC is able to tout in Scooba. The No. 3 Lions, who beat the Rangers 56-49 to win the North title eight days ago, play in a palace compared to the Rangers. The Lions’ dressing room looks just like Ole Miss’ at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The setup is the model of efficiency, while the field, right down to the rubber pellets that fly up during a game, is Ole Miss-esque. Sullivan-Windham Field doesn’t quite have the same size video board of VHS, but Ole Miss doesn’t shoot off fireworks before and after a game either so EMCC has the pyrotechnic value in its favor as well.
Woods called the two-year-old football facility, that can seat 5,000 in comfort, the nicest of its kind in the state. I’m thinking EMCC may have the nicest facility in the country, but at this point of the discussion, does it really matter? The line has been drawn with EMCC on the positive side of things.
It’s easy to see why the Lions have as much talent as they do and why they are the favorites to win another national title this year. Players and coaches win games, but facilities, state-of-the-art facilities, help attract great players which always makes it easier for good coaches to win.
Woods can compete with any coach in the state on the field but he can’t compete with what Buddy Stephens has in regard to facilities. Recruiting talented players has never been more competitive in the state with districts completely open and no protected list to aid coaches with local kids.
Free to choose
Players are free to choose where they want to go and EMCC, with its recent winning ways and top-notch facilities, will be able to get the best players from any part of the state, including our local area or the old NWCC region.
Nick Brassell, who starred for Woods’ old South Panola team, has re-invented himself in Scooba, while offensive tackle Avery Gennesy, a former teammate of NWCC quarterback Domonique Harris at Southaven, is now protecting for a signal caller who just won the most recent MACJC Offensive Player of the Week award thanks to the Lions’ win over the Rangers.
The Rangers have a good team, a very good team, one that really challenged the Lions last week, but they don’t have a great team, a team with the kind of talent on the roster that EMCC is now accustomed to landing, thanks in large part to their superior facilities.
Look to the future
So, as former Rangers come back to Senatobia to reminisce about great times, they should look at the future as well. NWCC administrators need to help Woods make improvements in order for him to remain in the hunt for titles like the Lions and Bulldogs and Bobcats are doing each year. College athletics is a competitive business and so is recruiting and without a true safety net in the form of a protected list to help, upgrading facilities is really one of the only ways to gain an edge any more.
EMCC has an edge, a big edge, in that department and it’s shown on the field against the Rangers the last few years. How much longer it remains that way all depends on how the fans view success for the team and how dedicated the administration and board of trustees are to further cultivating a program that used to be in the position EMCC is right now. (October 26, 2012, Page 7A)