It's a brutal early schedule for the 2013 Quitman Panthers. With early match-ups against Meridian, Wayne County and Taylorsville, you would think head coach Steven Bynum might be distracted, but that's definitely not the case.
"The game on the mind's the very first one," says Bynum. "They've got a bull's eye on us. They're coming over here. We had a big game last year, the year before they knocked us out of the south state. Right now, that's the biggest game for us."
That 2011 loss to Laurel was Quitman's first ever appearance in a 4A south state title game. Senior Tarvarius Moore remembers it well.
"We're still bitter about south state two years ago. Even though we got 'em last year, we still want to get a win."
Moore is a part of a Panther secondary that returns all of its starters. He's held the cornerback position since his sophomore year. He's also confident in his defensive line, which returns ends Eris Spencer and Reggie Hamilton.
"I think we have the best defensive line in the state," say Moore. "Especially in 4A."
But on offense, it's a different story. In 2012, the panthers were notorious for letting quarterback Franklin Jones run keepers behind Lance Lynn, Thomas Tucker and a huge offensive line. Jones and all five of those lineman were senior. Now they have to be replaced.
"Got a brand new offensive line up there this year," says Bynum. "They're starting to gel a little bit. Everyone of them [is] going to be first year starters that's up front.
Junior DeQuan Stanley will take over the quarterback spot. Expect Quitman to make use of his legs as well as his ability to throw on the run.
"I looked up to Franklin," says Stanley of his predecessor. "I really liked that guy, so I'm going to try to do what he did... but way better."