Elijah Thompson

Elijah Thompson drops back to pass during spring practice as Coach Justin Hollis watches. 

By Gene Phelps

Special to the Gazette

MYRTLE – Myrtle’s goals for spring football practice were clear cut: work on fundamentals and find some playmakers on offense and defense.

Mission accomplished, says head coach Justin Hollis.

Elijah Thompson made the move to full-time starting quarterback during spring work. His ability to run will not allow defenses to key on running back A.I. Nugent, who rushed for 1,851 yards on 165 carries and scored 27 touchdowns last season.

“Elijah’s taken control of the leadership and he’s more focused,” Hollis said. “He’s worked harder. We’ve have some receivers who will help us.”

Jackson Mayer and Charles Hefner are the backups at quarterback. Ethen Hunt will join Nugent in the backfield at running back.

For an outsider, one move during the spring would seem strange. Last season’s center, Luke Gaines, was moved to wide receiver. Actually, it was a move back. Gaines started last fall at receiver, but was moved to center because of his shotgun snapping ability.

“He has the best hands on the team,” Hollis said. “He never complained about being moved to center last season. We moved him back to receiver this spring. It’s where he needs to be so he can help us.”

Conner Coleman, a 6-foot-3, 260-pound, offensive tackle will replace Gaines at center. The offensive line will average 250 pounds this season.

Myrtle complied a 7-1 record last season, its first on the varsity level as an independent. The Hawks will play in MHSAA Division 1-1A this season.

Myrtle kicks off 2019 with an Aug. 23 game against Vardaman. The second week the Hawks play county foe East Union for the first time. The two teams played a preseason scrimmage in 2018.

“Playing (East Union) helped us a lot,” Hollis said. “We competed and did really well against them. I knew we had a chance last season after that.”

Myrtle lost its opener to Tupelo Christian Prep, then marched to seven consecutive victories.

“They surpassed my expectations last year,” Hollis said. “That’s a credit to their hard work. They made gains during the season in the weight room. They wanted to be the best they could be. They made a name for themselves.”

Editors note: Justin Hollis was the head football coach at Myrtle when this story was written by Gene Phelps. Hollis resigned as head football coach and assistant principal at Myrtle after he was approved as high school principal at Nettleton on Tuesday. 

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