Here is an inside look at the 2020 West Jones Mustangs football team.
Scott Pierson (19th year, 165-56 overall)
QB Alan Follis (pictured above; photo by Keith Warren)
WR Tajrick Randolph
LB Ken Russell
14-1 (7-0 in Region 3), lost to Picayune in South State finals
They say the only two things you can count on in life are death and taxes, but you can go ahead and add West Jones being competitive under coach Scott Pierson to that list.
The Mustangs have notched double digits in wins in nine out of Pierson’s 18 seasons at the helm of the program, including each of the last three. Headed into 2020, West Jones has lost just two Region 3 games in the last three calendar years.
But Pierson and the Mustangs have their sights set a little higher this season, especially after falling just short of reaching the 5A title game for a second straight season a year ago.
And there’s plenty of reason to believe the Mustangs will be right there in the conversation at the end of the season.
West Jones returns 16 out of 22 starters on a team that went 14-1 last year and reached the 5A South State Finals, most notably its star quarterback Alan Follis.
Follis is one of the biggest success stories in Mississippi high school football going into his senior season. In 2018, Follis was a 5-foot-9 and 140-pound sophomore who was forced into action due to injuries ahead of him on the depth chart. All he did was help the Mustangs to the state title game, which they lost to West Point.
As a junior, Follis took on a bigger role and completed 140 of his 246 passes for 1,788 yards and 22 touchdowns.
“He was just doing exactly what we asked of him his sophomore season,” Pierson said. “Getting thrown into the fire like that, we just needed him to take care of the ball and keep us on an even keel. Last season as a junior, he had a better feel for our offense and really steered our ship. This season, he’s in charge of everything.”
When Pierson says “everything,” he means everything. Mississippi has a handful of splendid quarterbacks, but here’s something you don’t see every day: Pierson said Follis, a stellar student who already scored a 29 on his ACT, calls plays on the field as he reads the defense.
West Jones has plenty of weapons around Follis as well. Senior Tajrick Randolph returns as the team’s top receiving threat after catching 49 passes for 695 yards and 14 touchdowns in his junior year. Cedric Bender and Devin Neal are a pair of seniors who combined for 35 receptions, and the development of junior wideout Zyquawn Williams has been one of the biggest surprises to come out of preseason practices.
At tailback, lead rusher Kentrell Pruitt is back for his senior season after rushing for 1,010 yards and 17 touchdowns as a junior. He’ll be running behind a line that returns three starters – junior Carter Kilpatrick and seniors Noah Hosey and Micah Strockstill.
On defense, the Mustangs need to replace two starters on the defensive line and one linebacker, but feature veteran starters everywhere else.
Up front, interior linemen Tyjuan Keyes and Dedric Hicks will provide some stability until the team finds two consistent starters at the end positions.
Senior linebacker Colin Maggard has already received some juco offers, but could raise his profile by building on the 92 total tackles he logged as a junior. Another linebacker, Ken Russell, is going to be on everyone’s radar after being credited with 116 total stops and 12 tackles for a loss as a sophomore a year ago. Senior Maurice Smith will likely start at the other linebacker position.
In the back end, safeties Davion Barnes and Jairus Keyes lead a unit that includes veteran starters Deontae Crosby and Cedric Bender.
“We know we have a lot coming back, but we’ve only been in pads for a week,” Pierson said. “I wouldn’t say we are a ‘good team’ right now, but we could be as the season goes along. We know we’re in decent shape in terms of returning starters, but I think it’s going to be a while before anyone can say they are ‘good.’”