No. 9: Laurel Golden Tornadoes
Head Coach: Ryan Earnest
2021 Record: 8-5 (Class 5A Semifinalist)
Starters Returning: Offense: 7 Defense: 7
Players to Watch: QB Javonta Caldwell; RB Caden Arrington; OL Malik Ellis; OL Malachi Breland; DL Jaden McCree; DL Terrion McCullum; LB Jeremy Porter; ATH Quandarius Keys.
Coach Speak: “Last year is over. Had that game gone differently our motivation would still be the same. Every team's goal is to win a championship and ours is no different. Our motivation is simply the opportunity to play to the best of our abilities on a weekly basis. Offensively our goal is to control the line of scrimmage. We are very excited about our offensive line. They are an experienced unit. Malik Ellis and Malachi Breland are the leaders. We will go as far as our offensive line takes us. It's likely that you will see multiple quarterbacks take snaps this year. Javonta Caldwell is our returning starter but his unique skill set will allow us to use him in other ways as well. Kobe Pierce has earned the right to take snaps in this offense and we are confident in his ability to direct our offense when called upon. We graduated a lot of production at both the running back and receiver position. However, we are excited about both units. Caden Arrington and Braden Jordan are both explosive athletes when the ball is in their hands. Our wide receiver core is young but they are excited about the opportunity to contribute to our offense. Defensively we will continue to be an aggressive, attacking defense. We return a lot of production from last year. Our front seven and their ability to get to the quarterback and disrupt the line of scrimmage is a strength. We are young in the secondary but very athletic. Our region is one of the toughest regions in the state. Every year we know that there is going to be a really good football team from our region that won't make the playoffs. That is a credit to the great players and great coaches that we have in this region from top to bottom. In most regions the playoffs start in November; in Region 3-5A the playoffs begin the third week in September,” Earnest said.
Outlook: The Golden Tornadoes were two minutes away from playing for the Class 5A State Championship back in December, however Picayune scored with a minute left to win the game and that game is still fresh on Laurel’s mind. Laurel returns seven starters on offense, led by a strong rushing attack. The Golden Tornadoes will play two quarterbacks in Javonta Caldwell and Kobe Pierce. Last season Caldwell tossed for 1,348 yards, rushed for 476 yards, and scored 15 total touchdowns. Running back Caden Arrington (444 yards rushing, 8 touchdowns in 2021) returns to lead the ground game along with a veteran offensive line led by Mississippi State commit Malik Ellis and Malachi Breland. Defensively it’ll be a typical fast and aggressive Laurel defense. The front seven will be the strength led by defensive tackles Jaden McCree (77 tackles, 19 sacks last season) and Terrion McCullum (51 tackles, 14 sacks in 2021). Linebacker Jeremy Porter (79 tackles, 3 sacks, 4 fumble recoveries last season) is a bigtime player. Quandarius Keys returns to lead the secondary.
Season Opener: Aug. 27 vs. Meridian.