Here is an inside look at the 2020 St. Martin Yellowjackets football team.
Eddie Wayne Whitehead (10th season, 54-50 overall)
(Photo by Keith Warren)
QB Makia Hebert
WR Marquez Glispy
LB Javon James
7-4 (3-4 in Region 4), missed playoffs
St. Martin was nearly an afterthought on the coast when Eddie Wayne Whitehead took over as head coach nearly a decade ago in 2011. The Jackets went 0-11 the year before he got there, and went 1-10 in his first season.
Oh, how the times have changed.
Whitehead has built St. Martin into a respectable program that has averaged seven wins a season since 2015. Now, he’s looking to raise those expectations again.
On the surface, replacing key pieces like starting quarterback Patrick Greer and 1,200-yard tailback Jay McGee looks like a huge task. But Whitehead thinks he’s got plenty of talent coming back to do just that.
Senior Makia Hebert has waited patiently for his opportunity to start at quarterback, and he’ll get it in 2020. At 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, Hebert’s not scaring anyone getting off the bus, but Whitehead said he’s going to surprise opponents with his arm strength and is a true home-run threat with his legs.
“He’s very athletic,” Whitehead said. “He’s started in the slot for us the past two years and has about 1,000 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns, so you know he’s got strong hands and can run.”
Whitehead has a few weapons around Hebert, too. St. Martin graduated three of its four top rushers, including it’s bell-cow back McGee, but returns a trio of junior running backs – Aden Burney, Malik Toliver and Evan Smith – who will likely share the load in the backfield.
The question mark is at receiver, where Marquez Glispy is the only returning player who recorded a catch last season. He’s a good one, though – the senior is coming off a junior season in which he caught 24 passes for 314 yards and a couple of touchdowns from the slot position.
The strength of the offense could end up being the offensive line, where St. Martin returns two senior starters and picked up another in the form of Starkville transfer Will Baggett. Terick Bryant and Juan Arlano are the returning starters, and junior Skyler Stringer, sophomore Lane Hewett and senior Byron Swetman are competing for the other two starting spots.
“We just need to develop a little bit of depth on the line,” Whitehead said. “But we’re excited about that unit and how they’ve gotten better every day. It has us excited about where our offense is right now and how good it can ultimately be.”
The Yellowjackets return a couple of key pieces on defense as well.
That starts at linebacker with Javon James, the team’s lead returning tackler who was credited with 81 stops in 11 games a year ago. At 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds with a high motor, James has the ability to shed blocks and led the team with six quarterback sacks a year ago.
One of those trio of junior tailbacks, Evan Smith, doubles as a solid option at outside linebacker. Senior Keshaun Smith is back after contributing 4.3 stops a game last year and junior Kaden Robinson is ready for a bigger role after recording 11 tackles in 11 games as a sophomore backup.
Don’t sleep on junior Christian Carnley, either. He could start at middle linebacker for a lot of teams right now and will be a major contributor this season.
Up front, Whitehead is hoping senior Devin Martin can step into the leadership role left by graduated senior Alvin Cooks, and there’s reason to think he can. At 5-foot-11, Martin doesn’t have overwhelming size, but he’s thick at 235 pounds and strong as an ox.
Past Martin, the Jacket defense will benefit big time if juniors D’Marea Price and Robert Hurd can quickly adjust to bigger roles on the line.
In the secondary, senior Tyrek Hendee has emerged as a leader of a talented group that includes junior Aden Burney and seniors D.J. Carney and Jerryn Sandifer.
“It’s going to be an exciting season down here on the coast,” Whitehead said. “Biloxi probably has the most talent and D’Iberville is always a tough out, but after that, it’s pretty wide open and we should be right in the mix.
“But there’s going to be a couple of good teams in this region that don’t make the playoffs, so it’s going to be a battle.”