By Curtis Rockwell, Sports Editor
The Picayune Item
JACKSON, Miss. —
Pearl River County native Lance Mancuso can make history today.
Mancuso and his unbeaten Bassfield team looks to complete a perfect season with a win in the Class 2A state championship game when the Yellow Jackets take on Eupora at 3 p.m., here at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
A win would vault Mancuso into the history books in Mississippi prep football circles in several areas.
Bassfield would become just the second team in state history to finish a season at 16-0. Also, it would be Mancuso's third state championship in the past decade, something only three other coaches in the state have ever accomplished.
The 1989 graduate of Pearl River Central High school is already one of just three coaches in state history to win two state titles with two different schools, after capturing the crowns in 2003 at Seminary and in 2009 with the Yellow Jackets.
“It’s truly one of the magical moments in high school sports,” Mancuso said, of is team making it to the big game. “It’s probably one of the most special things you can be a part of as a high school football coach.”
“It gets more special each time,” he said. “It’s just the pinnacle. It’s where you want to be.”
For Mancuso, this has become familiar territory. This will be the third team he’s taken to Jackson in a 15-year career as a head coach.
In 2003, he took a fearsome Seminary squad to the 2A finals, where the Bulldogs savaged Booneville 45-14 to complete a 15-0 season.
In 2009, in his second season at Bassfield, the Yellowjackets played a brilliant second half to defeat Ackerman 27-13 for the school’s fourth 2A championship.
For his career, Mancuso is 129-70, with seven seasons in which his teams have won at least 11 games.
Eupora head coach Junior Graham said he expects a challenge today against Bassfield.
“We understand we’ve got a daunting task,” Graham, whose team is 14-1, said. “They are one of the best teams I have ever seen. There are so many things that stand out about them. The beauty of their team is they execute so well on both sides of the football. It’s just you don’t see a weakness in them. You’ve always got to be on edge, because they can score on offense at any time and they’re defensive backs break on the ball so quick. It looks like you’ve got something, and then you don’t.”
For the Eagles, the key will be slowing down a potent rushing attack that features two 1,000-yard running backs in Jerome Keys (1,515 yards, 23 touchdowns) and Rod Williams (1,260 yards, 17 touchdowns).
Mancuso was quick to point out anything can happen. “If anybody thinks this will be anything but a good football game they are crazy,” he said. “They have play-makers,” Mancuso said of Eupora. “That’s the thing you have to have to get here, so they’re here for a reason. They’re here to win, so it’s going to take a great effort by our football team to put four quarters together and win.”
Bassfield dominated the competition this year on its way to a perfect mark. The Yellow Jackets averaged 40.3 points per game, 278.3 rushing yards per game, and beat their 15 opponents by an average margin of 32.6 points per game.
“These guys understand the true meaning of team,” Mancuso said. “They play so well together, and so hard together. They don’t let distractions or adversity affect them. I think that’s what made this team great.”
An that team, along with their head coach, can make a great season an even greater one with a win today.