For nine years Cory Reynolds walked the sidelines at Petal, learning under the likes of Steve Buckley and Marcus Boyles. Four years ago, Reynolds took that knowledge and applied it to his first head coaching opportunity at South Jones, a program at rock bottom.
That was a big difference between the two stops. Petal had in fact just finished a 10-3 season as the Panthers made it to the second round of the Class 6A playoffs. South Jones, on the other hand, ended 2013 with eight straight losses on the way to a 1-10 season.
Still, Reynolds was able to recognize at least one similarity between the two programs. It was the community that made Reynolds’ four years in Elliville feel like deja vu. He was just trying to bridge the gap.
“They bleed the blue and red up there, and they’ve been hungry for that,” Reynolds said. “I just came in, and the things I learned here, I just tried to put them in place there. I got the community involved and the parents and players to believe in it.”
The results steadily showed. In Reynolds’ first year in 2014, the Braves replicated another 1-10 season. The year after that, they went 7-5 and narrowly missed out on the playoffs. In 2016, they went 8-4 and again came oh-so close to qualifying for the postseason. Finally, last year, Reynolds’ Braves broke through with the program’s first playoff berth in nearly a decade.
“Everybody got on board, and it made Friday nights fun again.”
Reynolds says he had every intention of retiring a South Jones Brave one day. Eventually though another door opened. It was the opportunity to go back and coach again at Petal as the team’s offensive coordinator. It was a chance he was not prepared to pass up.
“The Good Lord opened the door to come back here,” Reynolds said. “I’m glad for this chapter in my life and am excited to get back working with the kids. Just ready to get this thing rolling.”
As a result of his departure, another door opened at South Jones, where one of Reynolds’ mentors, Roger Satcher, got his first head coaching job. Satcher coached Reynolds at Wayne County High School, and he also served as an assistant coach on Reynolds’ staff at South Jones.
“It’s something he [Satcher] has dreamed for. He’s going to be a great one because he knows from top to bottom how to run a program,” Reynolds said. “ The kids love him and react to him.”
Petal’s new-look offense
With Reynolds running the offensive meeting rooms, Petal is currently going through their summer workout program. Absent are offensive weapons and recent Petal graduates such as the Watts twins and Marquise Bridges. Also, there’s a vacancy at quarterback now with Jordan Wilson gone.
Junior DeCarlos Nicholson and sophomore Jeremiah Robinson appear to be leading candidates for the latter. Nicholson is listed at 6-foot-3 and may have the advantage when it comes to arm strength, while Robinson is listed at an even six-feet and described as the more accurate passer.
“One can do certain things better than the other and vice versa. But they’re both competitors,” Reynolds said. “They’re each others biggest fan and work hard to make each better. They’ll both play other positions when they’re not at quarterback, because they know they’re going to do what’s best for the team. They got great attitudes about it.
“I was worried about if there would be any kind of friction between them. But it goes back to this community and the belief of what’s best for the red and white. It ain’t about me, it’s about the team. That’s what makes it fun and what I learned here.”
Reynolds says the offense will change a little bit, but that the plays will essentially stay the same.
“We still have the same expectations of scoring and doing what we’re supposed to do and being the best we can, whether it’s winning 17-13 and we’re pounding it or a 45-10 and we’re throwing it all over the place. We’re going to take what the defense gives us.”