Gene Phelps | Special to the Gazette
MYRTLE – Myrtle could enter its third varsity football season in 2020 with an on-campus field/stadium. Construction work is under way.
The Hawks have played their previous home games at BNA Park in New Albany.
“It’s always nice to see progress being made,” head coach Jeremy Smithey said of his program. “You’ve got a lot of guys volunteering to do a lot of the (construction) work. The weather will be a factor, but they’ve gotten started. There’s been a lot of work going on behind the scenes.”
Smithey has felt nothing but positive vibes surrounding the stadium project.
“It builds excitement with the kids and in the community when you’re seeing it. It’s something we can call ours,” he said.
The Hawks finished their first season as an MHSAA division member (1-1A) with a 6-6 record, a third-place division finish and a berth in the postseason.
Myrtle defeated Vardaman in its season opener, then rolled through a five-game winning streak in the second half of its schedule to qualify for the state playoffs.
“It was the first time our kids had been in that situation, the first time they’d played football this long,” Smithey said. “Getting in the playoffs was huge for the program. You get excited. You want to taste a little bit more.
“I was really proud of the players. I’m proud of what we’ve done so far.”
Myrtle played an independent schedule in 2018 and finished 7-1.
Next season, the Hawks welcome back running back A.I. Nugent, who rushed for 1,897 yards and scored 29 touchdowns as a junior. He was the 1-1A Player of the Year.
Quarterbacks – rising senior Eli Thompson and rising junior Jackson Mayer – return, too. Thompson rushed for 311 yards and passed for 136. Mayer passed for 583 yards and seven touchdowns.
Also, another rising senior running back returning is Ethen Hunt. He rushed for 488 yards and scored four TDs.
“We’ve got a big core of juniors coming back that will be seniors next year. We will rely on them,” Smithey said. “We’ve got a lot of freshmen moving into big roles as sophomores.”