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Sumter County Wildcats

Classification: 3A, Region 3

2004 record: 2-8

Outlook: Sure, basketball is still king at Sumter County. And sure, last year’s 2-8 mark doesn’t look so great. But Sumter County coach Stacey Watters says that as he enters his second year at the helm of the Wildcat program, there are plenty of signs of life for those who look.

For starters, the Wildcats return nine offensive and nine defensive starters, giving Watters a base of experience he feels he can build from.

“We feel pretty good about it,” he says. “We’re more experienced, so we should make a few less mistakes this year.”

Fortunately for Watters’s offense, one of his most experienced players will line up under center. Although Watters says the Wildcat offense will be “heavy on the run side,” that doesn’t mean senior quarterback and team leader Cordarrin Wilson won’t have plenty of opportunities to make plays, either on the ground or through the air. If there’s a drawback to Watters’s commitment to the run, it’s that the Wildcats might underuse a solid corps of receivers that begins with All-State basketball phenom Larry Foster (who Watters says is being courted by DI college programs as a receiver) and also includes the athletic Cordero Law and Tarrod Sturdivant.

Watters says Sturdivant will be the Wildcat’s resident jack-of-all-trades, lining up at tailback as well to make sure he gets a sufficient number of touches in the Wildcat offense. The running duties will be shared by Jeremy Brown, a hard-running junior.

If there’s a hiccup in the Sumter offense, it’s in the line, where Watters is confident but admits that he’ll be lining up “the best five we got.”

The defense, however, is “looking pretty good” to the coach after struggling to find its strid a year ago. Leading the way are the pair Watters labels Sumter’s “most improved” players, linebackers JaMorris Hawkins and Elvin Steele. Steele is a freshman, and Watters is excited about “finally getting the test drive,” he says with a laugh.

“Our defense should play a lot better,” he says, “with those two linebackers.”

It might be tempting for Wildcat fans to look ahead to regional play or Sumter County’s annual rivalry clash with Livingston, but Watters says that he’s just looking forward to the Wildcats’ opening game, a home date against Demopolis.

“That’s what you want, to measure yourself against a good team,” he says. “We’re just looking to win one game at a time.”