Nettleton linebacker Marcus Thomas works through drills during practice on Wednesday afternoon.

With experience returning all over the field, Nettleton coach Ken Topps is excited not just about the talent of his team but also about the leadership he has seen out of a large senior class.

“All of our seniors have been leaders, and this has probably been one of the best senior groups on leadership, as far as getting guys here and holding them accountable when they are here,” Topps said. “That’s the kind of stuff you really want to see. You want to see them lead by example, and once you get the young guys to follow their example, it becomes a consistent thing. That’s really what they have been doing.”

Topps said the biggest part of the leadership he’s seen so far is that it’s been positive.

“They have done some great things with motivating kids. You can come in some mornings for 7 a.m. workouts and have seniors standing at the door greeting the young players and pumping them up, even all the way down to seventh-graders that were coming to summer workouts,” Topps said. “That right there has been great for me as far as not having to go fuss about things because that senior leadership has stepped up and taken that role.”

That leadership will be key as Nettleton moves into a whole new division. The Tigers will be part of Division 1-3A, which also includes Amory, Booneville, Kossuth, Alcorn Central and Belmont.

“This is Mississippi football and there’s no such thing as an easy division. That’s why you play the game because you know you’re going to get the best from every team every time you hit the field,” Topps said. “You don’t look down on anybody, and you take it one game at a time. I’m going to give you my best, and you’re going to give me your best and hope that we come out the victor.”

Nettleton played both Booneville and Amory in its non-division schedule last season and has also played Kossuth in recent years.

“We’re very familiar with some of these teams. The only teams we haven’t played are Alcorn Central and Belmont,” Topps said. “It’s going to be some new stuff that we haven’t seen before, but some of the regular season games we have scheduled will give us a good look at how we will perform.”

The last two seasons Nettleton has been just on the outside looking in when it comes to making the playoffs.

“To be in a tie the last two years, it does suck, but at the same time, we’ve been talking and preaching one game at a time. We’re still focused on reaching the playoffs as one of the goals of our team,” Topps said. “It’s just about getting over that hump. We have come out hot the last two years, and it’s almost like we get complacent and fall into that mode. We lose one game, and you’re fighting to get back uphill. We just have to find ways to stay consistent and play our football and not let somebody get us out of our game.”

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