Mangham running back JT Smith takes the handoff in the backfield last season. (Photo by Monica Huff)

2018 record: 3-7 

Quote of the summer: “We changed everything we’re doing, and the kids are excited about that.”  — Mangham head coach Scott Wilcher

Overview: It’s a new era at Mangham High School. 

Tommy Tharp and his consecutive runs to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome have officially become a thing of the past. Scott Wilcher and his staff are now the present and future, so don’t be alarmed to see a spread formation on offense and a 4-2-5 defense. Also don’t be surprised to see a few hiccups in the beginning. 

“Our offense is probably 50 to 60 percent in,” said Wilcher in July. “Our defense, we weren’t able to start getting that in until a few weeks ago, but the kids have really picked up on it fast. We have the base defense in, and we’ll build from there.” 

And don’t mistake that for any excuses. Wilcher knows time is of the essence, and he expects to be competitive no matter the situation. 

“The motto this year is to flip it,” Wilcher said. “We were 3-7 last year and didn’t make the playoffs. That was like the first time in 20-something years. And the reality is we were 15-17 in the last three seasons. 2013, ’14 and ’15 were great. That was a great run, but if you look at the last three years, that’s where we’re at.” 

Despite installing a new offense and defense this offense, Wilcher wants to win immediately. One thing that aids his quest is his familiarity with this Mangham team. Serving as an assistant for the last several years helps with the transition process, and Mangham’s schedule isn’t daunting. If you combine the 2018 win/loss record of the Dragons first six opponents, it comes out to 39-32. 

Still, most teams on the schedule have more continuity returning, as the Dragons will rely on a multitude of juniors and sophomores in 2019…

Offense: Whoever emerges as the starting quarterback for the Dragons will be a junior signal-caller with the other finding residence on defense. 

Kaleb Pleasant and Josh Uchtmann are battling it out to start. Uchtmann will most certainly contribute to the secondary on defense, which makes Pleasant the most likely option to start at quarterback. 

Cam Wilmore will tote the rock in the backfield. 

“Cam is a big junior that’s probably about 215 pounds,” Wilcher said. “He’s worked really hard in the weight room this offseason.” 

The Dragons will have some length on the outside with three of the four starting receivers standing at 6’1” or taller. 

JT Smith and Brandon Haynes are among the standouts at receiver. 

Up front the Dragons will have a couple of returning starters, including Caden Monnin (6’6”, 245 pounds), Chase Underwood (6’3”, 265 pounds) and senior center Payton Stovall. Kobe Spencer and Brady McKay are expected to start alongside those returners. 

“We’re pretty big up front and have the luxury of not having to go both ways,” Wilcher said. 

Defense: The Dragons will roll out a plethora of sophomores on the defensive line, which is great for the future of the program. But one has to wonder if the unit will experience growing pains along the way. 

Senior Coby Holland will play nose and junior Donte Straughter will lead sophomores Clay Mills, Terry Smith, Antonio Bell and Aragon Meadows. Senior Cory Kennedy should get in the rotation, as well. 

“With all those sophomores up front, we should be able to do some things,” Wilcher said. 

At linebacker, Zach Williamson will return as a starter, while Chandler Carnicle will look to avoid injuries during his senior season. 

Wilcher is excited about having Adam Eley back in the secondary. 

“He was a ball boy during our state championship game runs,” Wilcher said. “He’ll be running the defense at free safety.” 

Senior corners Dee Clark and Tae Gayden will also get some playing time in the defensive backfield, while Uchtmann will be expected to start at strong safety. 

District outlook: The Dragons were just 1-5 in District 2-1A a season ago. And with Ferriday, Vidalia and Rayville holding a combined 15-3 record last season, the Dragons have their work cut out for them in district play yet again this season. 

All three return an array of talent, while General Trass slowly continues to make strides in district play. 

With new coaches in place and young players being asked to contribute, Mangham will either lay a foundation for future seasons or shock many with immediate results. 

Award-winning sports writer for columns and features since joining the field in 2013. As the first-ever featured columnist of the month at Bleacher Report, Martin cut his teeth with online media before joining the newspaper business in 2014.

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