Preseason practices for high football teams are finally in full swing and it's always fun to see the difference a year can make. Take Pearl, for example. The Pirates go from "underdog" to "top-dog" in 2017.
On offense, Pearl will be led by an assuming, but dynamic quarterback. Jake Smithhart doesn't have stacks of Division-1 offers to flaunt, and to some he might not even pass the eye test for a 6A quarterback.
"If you saw him at Walmart you probably wouldn't take a second glimpse at him, but he's just a special kid." head coach John Perry said. "Great athlete, he's one of the best athletes in the school.
"The thing about Jake Smithhart is he's a winner." offensive coordinator Justin Hunter added. "If I had one word to describe him, and people ask me all the time, he's just a winner."
As a junior, Smithhart threw for 2,508 yards and 32 touchdowns. Like many of Pearl's top players, he's not receiving much college attention. But for a senior-loaded team that returns nearly all of its top offensive playmakers, that's just fine.
"I'm really just trying to do my job." Smithhart said. "Get the players the ball we need like J-Red, and Tylan and Dylan."
Much more will certainly be expected of the Pirates after last season's 6A State Championship appearance. And for this group of seniors, just getting there wasn't enough.
"I think the whole team is excited you know because we got to feel what it felt like to go to a state championship and we all want to experience it again," Smithhart said. "Especially for the younger group to experience that too."
"We don't worry too much what the outsiders are saying because they're not out here in the 100 degree weather putting in work with us, so they wouldn't know." senior running back and defensive back Tylan Knight explained.
The Pirates open the season August 18th at Brookhaven. To view the full story, click the video above.
Copyright 2017 MSNewsNow. All rights reserved.
Story idea or news tip? Email us at News@WLBT.COM or call 601-960-4426.
715 South Jefferson Street
Jackson, MS 39201