Fall sports season is well underway at Magnolia Heights School, which unveiled its football, softball and girls’ soccer teams at a Fall Sports Media Day on the Senatobia campus Monday.
The softball and girls’ soccer squads already have started their season, while the football team starts its year on Friday, Aug. 17 at home against Madison-Ridgeland Academy following a jamboree appearance at North Delta on Aug. 10.
The Chiefs will return seven starters on offense and seven starters on defense for a team looking to improve on last fall’s 3-7 record. Ten seniors anchor the roster of 37 veteran coach Cliff Young will have on this year’s team.
Young, entering his 22nd year as head coach at Magnolia Heights, likes what he has seen from his squad in early fall workouts.
“Great effort, team chemistry is good and we have some depth this year,” Young said about the 2018 group. “Some of the things I see early is that they get along with each other well and the effort’s been really good so far.”
Experience dots the roster this season early on, with returners on offense primarily on the line and in the backfield. There’s also experience coming back on the defensive side, although Young admitted there are some question marks early on at linebacker.
The football program also added some veteran coaching experience this year when former Southaven head coach Ed Rich came to Magnolia Heights and is working as an assistant coach, involved in much of the offensive schemes for the Chiefs this year.
“He (Rich) does a good job with a good mix of pass and run,” Young said. “We’d like to be able to run the football more than we throw the football, but that’ll be dictated by what the defense allows us to do.”
Another veteran coach is softball coach Jim Patterson, who is entering his final year with the school after 36 years of coaching at Magnolia Heights.
Patterson said he wants to see this year’s team “get one game better,” noting the Lady Chiefs have been close to the state MAIS AAAA Division II championship for several years but not able to get that title ring.
“We’re coming off seven of the last eight years being state runner-up in AAAA Division II and look to get one game better this year,” Patterson said.
Last year’s squad finished 31-9 overall but fell to Simpson in the state finals on a late-inning grand slam home run after Magnolia Heights had led the game 6-4.
This year has gotten off to a strong start for the Lady Chiefs after winning its own tournament last weekend and not allowing a run in the three games played.
Several players of the Magnolia Heights roster come from DeSoto County, Patterson said.
“Morgan Jennings from DeSoto County was all-state last year as a ninth-grader as a center fielder,” said Patterson. “Our right fielder Macie Kate Walters is from up in the Hernando area. Molly Harris just recently moved here to Senatobia from Hernando and is our catcher. We’ve got quite a few girls, including some younger girls from the DeSoto County area.”
One thing this year’s Magnolia Heights team does not have is seniors, Patterson said, adding, “We’re young but we are experienced.”
Youth is something girls’ soccer coach Alan Holley does not have and he’s fine with that.
“We’ve waited for a long time to get old and all that kind of stuff and we’re finally old,” Holley said. “We have six seniors and six juniors, so we are experienced.”
Holley, whose squad has also started off strong after a 3-0-1 weekend to open the year, believes the Lady Chiefs are especially good up the middle of the field.
“Defense will be our main strength,” Holley said. “We have two girls returning who have played together for two or three years. We picked up a girl who can play goalkeeper sometimes who’s just a pure athlete and in the middle of the field we have four midfielders who are very talented.”
Holley’s six seniors will lead the team this fall.
“Douglas Howard the past several years has been all-region,” Holley said. “Mollie Cahill is very good and she was second-team last year. Laney Forsythe, Addisyn Hughes, Lela Caldwell our goalkeeper and Alley Ward are our six seniors and they are all very good.”
Holley expects to see his Lady Chiefs back in the playoffs with a good chance of reaching the finals.
“We have gone to the first round of playoffs for the past several years, but we want to play for it all,” Holley said. “I think you have to lose one to win one and this might be a good one to make it down there to finals and experience what it is like to play for a championship. Maybe then we can go back next year and pick it up.”
Bob Bakken is Sports Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.