One of the questions I am asked most frequently is, "What's the best part of working for Scout?"
There are a lot of great things. I always enjoy hearing the excitement in a junior's voice the first time I call him to set up a profile and get that first interview.
For them the process is just beginning and for them to know they have been noticed is a big deal.
Being a part of that is very rewarding, but the best thing about doing what we do is getting out during the season, meeting the fans, families and coaches and watching the players do their thing while the band is playing.
Nothing and let me repeat nothing will ever compare to going to see the players play in person.
This year I got to see teams from three states in person and it was without a doubt the best group of prospects I have seen in one season.
Here is how it all went down in 2009.
The Red Carpet Bowl
This is always the best way to open the season. This year marked my third straight Red Carpet Bowl. It is the only double header of the year and it is a chance to see four 6A teams square off.
The organizers of the event were able to schedule a pair of teams from the Mississippi Gulf coast to take on the hometown teams of Vicksburg and Warren Central.
It was also a chance for me to check in with my friend Ocean Springs Head Caoch Todd Mangum. I am not sure there are any coaches in the country that have been better to me over the years than Coach Mangum.
He makes this job easy for me and it is always a pleasure to cover his program. He and his staff are always helpful and they always produce great players.
Melrose vs. Madison Central
This game was a highly anticipated match-up and I was excited about getting the chance to see this one.
Lawrence Peterson of Melrose had created a little buzz for himself on the summer camp and combine circuit, so I was anxious to see him play against one of Mississippi's top teams, Madison Central.
The Jaguars were loaded this year. A defensive front led by Carlton Martin and Bryon Bennett paired with an offensive attack led by Peyton Johnson and junior standout Tobias Singelton is a pretty lethal combination.
The home team clearly had the better night. When I got in the car driving home, I thought Madison Central had what it took to go all the way. This team was for real.
St. Stanislaus vs. Jackson Prep
This was my first time to visit Prep and the first time I had the chance to see Dylan Favre play in person. Having seen him at a couple of combines, I had a pretty good idea about what he could do.
Prep and Pack Toler came ready to play and a Favre fumble led to the game clinching score. As it turned out this was the only game the Rock-a-Chaws lost all year.
After the state title game Favre told me, "That was the worst game I played all year and I think it ended up being the best thing that happened to us."
Raymond vs. Hinds AHS
If youre ever planning to take in a game at Hinds, understand it is a little off the beaten path. In fact, it's the last thing in Hinds county before you cross back over into Copiah county.
This was my first visit and well worth the trip. It was my first rivalry game of the year and a chance to take in a pair of sleeper prospects, Jeremy Lee and Darrius Newton. Both of those guys have the talent to play college football, but I am not sure a lot of people have seen them play.
There are a lot of talented players tucked away in the small towns of Mississippi. Sometimes these players are under promoted because people think, "He's just good for around here."
Memphis University vs. Olive Branch
The longest trip of the year for me and another marquee match-up. Olive Branch had a veteran offensive line and some youth at the skill positions. They found their stride later in the season, but the Conquistadors were still putting the pieces together on offense at this time.
Defending Tennessee state champ MUS came in with high expectations and one of the south's top quarterbacks Barry Brunetti.
The Owls got the win, but not after a furious comeback attempt by Olive Branch who scored, recovered the onsides and then scored again all in under a minute.
Coach Scott Samsel continues to produce top level college talent and if you get the chance to go see them play, do it.
This was also the first time I had taken my wife on the road with me. After having to call a tow truck to drag us out of the mud after the game, I think she will listen to me next time I say, "I don't think we should park here."
Forest vs. Raleigh
Raleigh is one of the neatest stadiums in the state. The field is in a natural bowl and the stands are built into the side of a hill. It's a pretty cool place to see a ball game.
Neither player disappointed, but Forest QB Lavadius Lyles stole the show. The last time I saw Lyles was in the 2A state title game the year before. He is one of the more underrated players in the state.
Pisgah vs. Pelahatchie
The battle of 43 as in highway 43 that connects the two schools. This was my first trip to Pelahatchie that I can recall.
The game went back and forth before Luckett put the game away late. He is one to keep an eye on. He has the talent and the support of his community. Someone will sign a good football player in Donatello.
Broadmoor (LA) vs. Woodlawn (LA)
I was originally slated to get Stone vs West Jones this week and then that got changed to Baker HS vs Fairhope in Mobile, but in the end I got to stay close to home.
My son, a freshman, got the chance to dress with the varsity due to some injuries and got on the field late.
With football probably falling by the wayside to specialize in baseball, I was glad I got the chance to be there for this one.
Callaway vs. Canton
There aren't many places in the country I get treated better than Canton, Mississippi. Ironically, I was born there, but few people know that. I grew up a couple of hours south in Columbia.
All of that being said, the fan base at Canton is always so gracious and you might even get to meet former Steeler great L.C. Greenwood's sister at the ticket booth should you pay a visit.
The new stadium there is one of the nicest stadiums in the state and probably worth the trip for a team looking for a nice venue for a non-district game.
On this night, Callaway QB Mark Thigpen wore Canton out. Thigpen is a young man I have had the chance to follow for a couple of years and I am surprised he has not been more heavily recruited.
Clarke (LA) vs. Carver (LA)
I talked my son into going with me for this Thursday night affair. We were actually headed to see John Curtis play and we got some bad directions.
New Orleans is not the best place to not know where you are going, so once I saw stadium lights we parked.
Parker might have the best ball skills and leaping ability I saw from a receiver all season. He can play and had things gone as originally planned, I would never have seen him play.
Pascagoula vs. Harrison Central
They didn't disappoint and they went on to finish second to Ocean Springs in the Region after Hancock upset them the following week.
Pascagoula has one of the most exciting juniors in Senquez Golson. Golson had a 95 yard kickoff return in this game and he is clearly one of the coast's best prospects for 2011.
Stone vs. McComb
Stone has had back to back winning seasons for the first time in a long time and they are a fun team to watch.
Darion Arrington or Dee, as everyone calls him, will be one of Mississippi's most sought after players next year.
Dee does it all for Stone and does it with a very humble spirit about himself.
I had about ten people come up to me during the evening, including his 9th grade math teacher, to tell me what a great young man he was and that he richly deserved the chance to play college football.
Loyd Star vs Bassfield
My first trip to Bassfield since I dated their former homecoming queen many years ago. Not a lot has changed since then.
When the Mississippi/Alabama All-Star roster was announced, Justin Penn was a name I wasn't very familiar with. I made some calls and heard some good things, so I packed the car and made the drive.
Loyd Star and Bassfield were both region champs, so I expected a good ball game. This one was over at the half and the Yellow Jackets were very good on defense.
I talked with Coach Lance Mancuso after the game and wished him luck, but I don't think he needed it. I told several people after that game that no one was going to beat Bassfield. They proved me right by winning the 2A state title a few weeks later.
Lamar vs. Brookhaven Academy
This one boiled down to turnovers and big plays. Lamar got behind the eight ball early and Rogers and Brookhaven piled it on.
This was my first MAIS title game and I ran into my old pal Joe Cumberland, the stats guy from Meridian High.
I got the chance to talk with Witt after the game and he was all smiles despite the loss. I have had the chance to get to know Witt and his father this year. I am not sure there are many fathers in the world that are bigger fans of their sons than David Haggard is of his son Witt. It's an awesome thing.
As I left the Haggards, I made my way over to Chandler Rogers. While my time with Witt is coming to an end, my time with Chandler is just beginning. That's how it goes. The cycle just keeps repeating.
MHSAA State title games
These games have been gone over with a fine tooth comb, but there were a lot of interesting story lines.
How about Steve McNair's alma mater, Mount Olive, winning the state title in his honor and his son, Steve Jr., taking the field the next night in the 6A title game?
Or Bassfield, the first school to ever win three in a row, getting back to the top of the heap over twenty years later?
There was redemption for Tylertown and Jameon Lewis who were one play away from winning it all last in 2008.
South Panola, disrespected by many all year and picked behind Madison Central in 6A north, won another title in convicing fashion.
St. Stanislaus is now home to a Golden Football after not winning a playoff game the past few years.
West Point looked about as good as a team can look on that big stage and I am not sure they got the respect they deserved all season.
South Panola and Tylertown were the only teams to make a return trip from last year. Both lost close games in 2008 only to stretch their legs a little in 2009 and win going away.
Maybe next year Durant, Ackerman, Aberdeen, Lafayette County, Wayne County or Oak Grove can come back and take the next step.
If you guys can give me a few weeks to sleep late and catch up on some of this yard work, I will be ready to go again.