A new era in East Central Community College football gets under way Thursday, Aug. 29, when the Warriors battle Itawamba Community College in a non-division matchup set for 7 p.m. on the Fulton campus.
Ken Karcher, a veteran coach and former National Football League quarterback, will get his first “taste” of JUCO football when the first-year head mentor leads his squad against the Indians, who are ranked 16th in the NJCAA pre-season poll.
Karcher, who previously served as offensive coordinator at Eastern Michigan University and is a former head coach at Liberty University, said he looks forward to the challenge even though his Warrior squad is mostly composed of freshmen.
“We are very excited to start our first season this week against Itawamba,” said Karcher. “We are a very young team in most positions but have shown continuous improvement during camp. I am excited about the opportunity to coach in a league that has a great tradition and experienced coaches.”
The Warriors will try to rebound from last year’s 35-15 season-opening loss to the Indians, who are led by Jon Williams, a former Warrior assistant coach.
Itawamba finished 6-3 last season and returns seven starters.
The Warriors return six starters from last season’s 3-6 squad, led by former head coach Brian Anderson.
Expected to battle for the quarterback spot are freshmen Jacori Taylor (6-2, 210), a product of Early County High School in Blakely, Ga., and Donnie Farmer (6’, 207), who hails from Harrison Central High School. Taylor’s brother Emmanuel is a former Warrior standout quarterback who received MACJC All-State honors in 2009 and 2010.
Other top offensive team members include running backs Martin Johnson (6-1, 200), a sophomore from Nanih Waiya and Lamarcus Franks (5-7, 150), a freshman from Greene County; tight ends Kyle Adkins (6-4, 230), a sophomore from Union and Tyler Pace (6-2, 260), a freshman from Newton; H-backs Layton Holcomb (6-2, 220) of Oak Grove and Wesley Smith (6-2, 215) of Morton, both sophomores; wide receivers James Clark (6’, 192), a sophomore from Laurel and Jimmy Cockrell (5-10, 170), a freshman from Columbus; freshman offensive tackles Charles Robinson (6-2, 280) of Neshoba Central, Branden Thomas (6-3, 285) of Gulfport, Edward DeLee (6-5, 290) of Centreville (La.) Academy and Ronald Dixon (6-1, 210) of Northwest Rankin; freshman offensive guards Quincy Cole (6’, 266) of Ackerman, Johnathan Chambers (5-10, 275) of West Oktibbeha, Andy Morris (6-1, 260) of Amite School Center and Kendrick Maxwell (6’, 220) of Houston. Chambers will also compete at center with freshman Kyron Samuels (6-2, 315), of Fairhope (Ala.) High School.
Sophomore Austin Franklin (6’, 180) of Petal returns as kicker/punter. Tyler Pace is also listed as a kicker and Andy Morris is expected to compete at punter.
On the defensive side, top players include sophomore tackle Jeremy Pyles (6-5, 220) of Oxford (Ala.) High School and freshman tackles Romario Cobb (6’, 260) of Ocean Springs, Xavier Woodard (6’, 350) of Jackson Jim Hill and Xavier Telfort (6-1, 280) Northwest Rankin; freshman defensive ends K. D. Monroe (6-1, 230) of Neshoba Central, Anthony McGee (6-2, 240) of Quitman, Isaiah Williams (6-3, 202) of Jackson Jim Hill and Darryl Rogers (6-3, 215) of Laurel; freshman linebackers Fredrick Rich (6-4, 190) of Tanner (Ala.) High School, Matthew Moore (6-1, 222) of Laurel, Christian Wraggs (5-11, 210) of Louisville, Thomas McCool (5-11, 220) of Neshoba Central and Grant Landrum (5-11, 190) of Sumrall, and sophomore linebacker Zac Thigpen (5-9, 200) of Laurel; freshman defensive backs Anthony Triplett (5-8, 150) of Philadelphia, Caleb Autrey (5-9, 168) of Foley (Ala.) High School, Shepard Jones (5-8, 168) of Jackson Lanier, JaDerrick Farrow (5-11, 195) of Bleckley County (Ga.) High School, Blake Gordon (5-11, 196) of Northwest Rankin, Darrion Burnside (6-4, 185) of Neshoba Central and Phakzian Walker (6-2, 194) of Quitman, and sophomore defensive back Chris Apperwhite (6’, 170) of Laurel.
Members of Coach Karcher’s staff and their respective areas of responsibility include Mickey Mays, offensive coordinator/offensive line; Scott Brock, defensive coordinator/linebackers; Todd Bates, defensive line/strength coach; Charles Jones, safeties; Eric Gray, corners/assistant strength coach; and Cody Wilson, tight ends/running backs. Gary Risher is a recent addition to the staff.
All Warrior football games can be heard on KICK 98 (98.3FM) featuring veteran broadcaster Melvin Wooten and game analyst Gilbert Barham.
For more information, visit the College Web site, www.eccc.edu.