STEENS — Columbus Christian Academy senior Beau Kemp admits having three head football coaches in three years isn’t ideal.
Kemp played under Jason Williams in 2020 in Steens. Last season, Rusty Mason took over; now, it’s Jeremy Brock in charge.
“At times, you just can’t stay in the same rhythm that you always are because you’re always shifting with a whole bunch of new coaches,” Kemp said.
Then he pointed out Brock, who stood off to the side as the Rams went through a July workout at their home field.
“But he’s a lot better than the other ones,” Kemp said.
With Brock in charge and a serious roster bump, there’s optimism in Steens for a strong 2022 — even after a disappointing 2021.
“This team right here has all the capabilities to bring home a championship,” Brock said.
It would be the first for the Rams, who have never won a state title and currently play eight-man football in MAIS Class 2A. Columbus Christian has never won more than one playoff game in a season and went just 2-7 last season.
With minimal depth on the 2021 team, Rams players tired quickly, and opponents cashed in.
“Last year, a lot of us were playing both ways, and by the third quarter, everybody’s pretty much tired,” senior McCory Humphres said. “We lost a few games because we would do good in the first half, and in the second half we were just gassed.”
That should no longer be the case. Senior Luke Phillips said past CCA teams with “not that many people who wanted to play and wanted to win that bad” have given way to a sizable roster this fall.
Brock said the Rams will field roughly 25 players, giving the team a considerable bench to work with.
“The numbers are what really get me excited,” Brock said. “For an eight-man team to have this many kids plus missing several, that gives you a lot of hope for what we can do.”
That depth is in part thanks to transfers, including former South Lamar (Alabama) quarterback Garrett Weathers.
Weathers and his sister Emma — who plays softball and basketball and will run track at Columbus Christian — both transferred across the state line for the fall, ready to help the Rams. A starter as a freshman and as a sophomore, Weathers can “really sling it,” according to Brock.
“We came here, and we just loved it right off the start,” Weathers said. “We just loved how the atmosphere is around here. The first day I came to practice, all these guys just took me in like I was their own. That made me feel great. I was like, ‘Wow, these people really are great.’”
Brock himself was another factor in Weathers’ decision. The Rams’ new head coach was previously an assistant at South Lamar, and it’s no coincidence Weathers and former Stallions teammate Corey Davis both chose to transfer to CCA.
Columbus Christian returns eight seniors in 2022 despite losing star defender Lahndon Townley to graduation.
“He was the biggest guy we had and hardest hitter we had, and everybody was scared of him,” senior Drake Shaw said. “He was definitely a big help, and it will be tough losing him. We’re just going to try to use what we have here and use the leadership that we have this year and go forward from that instead of having to worry about what was in the past.”
Still, it took a while for all those players to gell in Steens. Spring workouts got off to a slow start.
“When we first came here, we were like, ‘Ah, whatever,’” Kemp said. “About a week or two in, we started getting the momentum and actually going a lot harder than we were before — practicing a lot harder, running drills a lot faster. We’re just getting better all in all.”
Brock got a good taste of the Rams’ efforts when a few players called him up about running routes on a voluntary basis the next day. They asked him to come to the field at 5:15 a.m., well before practice began, to get extra work in.
Weathers said he’d already seen plenty of improvement in his new teammates.
“From the first day to now, everybody’s just gotten a whole lot better, and there’s still many more days to come,” he said.
The Rams hope those days will translate into wins, perhaps en route to their first district title since 2019. On CCA’s schedule, Kemp highlighted games against Calhoun Academy, Humphreys Academy, Marvell Academy (Arkansas) and North Sunflower Academy.
“They were the ones that would trash-talk us,” Kemp said. “This year, we can go back and whoop the crap out of them this time and trash-talk on them.”
It’s a bold prediction, but maybe Kemp and the Rams can back it up.
“We’re just ready to get after it,” Brock said.
Theo DeRosa reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.
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