No. 1: Brandon Bulldogs
Head Coach: Sam Williams
2021 Record: 11-3 (Class 6A Runner-up)
Starters Returning: Offense: 8 Defense: 5
Players to Watch: RB Jarvis Durr; WR/DB Lester Miller; ATH Quincy Phillips; RB Nate Blount; QB Landon Varnes; DL Jaeden Calendar; LB Dysart Bell; OL Luke Rogers.
Coach Speak: “When you get as close as we did last year, there isn’t much motivation needed. The motivation is to finish the fight this year and raise the gold ball. Same mentality as last year with different expectations going into the season. We have great leadership that always keeps the team hungry and focused on the goal. Super excited about our offense. This is the best personnel top to bottom that I have had the privilege to coach. We have 5-6 guys that can take it 80 yards at any point in time and that combined with another year in the system which will slow our guys down, while speeding them up, will lead to a really solid unit. If we execute at a high level and continue to play at pace we will be tough to stop. Defensively I’m excited about breaking in a new, young group. Lots of talent on that side of the ball, but lots of guys that will have to grow up quickly. I think we have a lot of guys that can give us reps and make plays. We need to see 1-2 guys step up and become difference makers when the Fall comes. Our region is obviously one of the tougher ones in the state. That paired with us opening with 3 top 10, possibly top 5 teams really prepares you for the rest of the season. Obviously Madison Central is king right now coming off the championship, but Oak Grove was last year and we found a way to knock them off twice. We have to keep pushing and getting better,” Williams said.
Outlook: The Bulldogs are coming off the 2021 season where they finished 11-3 and saw them finish runner-up to rival Madison Central in the Class 6A State Championship game in Sam Williams first season as head coach and with a very experienced offense returning, they are very eager to make another state title run in 2022 and are the slight favorites in 6A in a top-heavy field. Brandon has eight starters back on offense that averaged 32.6 points per game last season. Quarterback Landon Varnes (2,547 yards passing, 19 touchdowns in 2021) returns to anchor the offense along with a very potent backfield in running backs Nate Blount (1,442 yards rushing, 17 touchdowns last season) and Jarvis Durr (1,100 yards rushing, 16 touchdowns). MRA transfer Quincy Phillips will also help in the run game, while receivers Lester Miller (898 yards receiving, 8 touchdowns) and Devin Thigpen (845 yards receiving, 9 touchdowns) are back to lead on the outside. Defensively the Bulldogs only return five starters back. Llinebacker Dysart Bell (122 tackles, 19 tackles for loss in 2021) and defensive tackle Jaeden Calendar return to lead the front seven, while Manny Didia (three interceptions in 2021) and Miller will lead the secondary.
Season Opener: Aug. 26 vs. Oxford.