By HARRIET PROTHRO PENROD, Journal Sports
“Sometimes, you’ve gotta believe that ignorance is bliss.”
Toriano Williams is taking that approach as he readies his young players for the start of the 2022 high school football season. He might just be on to something.
When Williams and his coaches were walking through the halls of Magnolia School of Excellence last spring in an attempt to recruit boys for the team, they may not have been very successful if they had explained the history of the Mariners’ football program.
After just three years in existence, Magnolia has a 2-26 overall record – going 0-10 in 2019, 1-6 in 2022, and 1-10 in 2021. Yes, the Mariners went to the District 1A playoffs last year, but that was as a 1-9 team – yes, the playoffs with one victory.
Try telling them that the Mariners were outscored by their opponents 596-106 last season and the young men probably wouldn’t be chomping at the bit to join the team.
Then add the fact that the 2022 schedule includes three non-district opponents that won eight or more regular-season games and two of them won state championships last season. Oh, and when you get to district play, you’ll be facing defending state Class A champion Homer, state semifinalist Haynesville, Glenbrook, Plain Dealing, and Arcadia.
But that is not the approach Williams is taking. Instead of talking about the difficulties the Mariners are facing, the second-year head coach is concentrating on building a team with young men who are eager to learn the game and represent Magnolia.
“We’re young,” says Williams. “We have three seniors, and just one of them has played football more than two years. The rest are 8th-, 9th-, 10th– and 11th-graders.”
The Magnolia coaches were able to recruit some new guys to join the one veteran senior and underclassmen, and they are pleased with the effort they have seen so far.
“This summer took care of itself,” says Williams. “That’s where the hope comes from. They’re giving us everything we’re asking for. These guys are excited – regardless of how the season turns out.”
Williams is quick to point out that the excitement is not just coming from the players.
“We have a great staff,” he says, naming Husher Calhoun (former Woodlawn, Fair Park, and Northwood coach) and Anthony Brown (Bossier) as additions to the Mariners’ staff. “We can build the team up now because we’re more consistent with our staff. We’re more experienced.”
When the Mariners returned from their first-round playoff loss last season (52-12 at Basile), that’s when the coaches began recruiting the hallways at Magnolia.
“We got in the playoffs with a 1-9 record, and we were fortunate to get in,” says Williams. “But we didn’t earn it. When we came back from the playoff game, we said, ‘This will not happen to us again.’ We’re going to be stronger, bigger, faster – and our knowledge of the game will be better.”
Leading the way for the Mariners this season will be senior wide receiver/linebacker Deandre Johnson (6-1, 205), junior quarterback Mark Mccray (5-11, 225), senior tight end/defensive end/linebacker Terrell Williams (6-3, 205), and freshman center Zindreck Simpson (6-3, 270).
“Deandre moves really well,” says Williams. “Mark is in his third year in the program and his second year as a starter. He has grown leaps and bounds.”
And while Simpson is just a freshman, he has started for the Mariners since the eighth grade.
“We tell the guys, ‘We’re not asking you to be perfect. Just give us the perfect effort that you can give us,’” says Williams, who knows that success cannot always be measured in the “win” column.
Contact Harriet at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo by HARRIET PROTHRO PENROD