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November 10, 2002

MSD leads pack with 6-0 season

From: Jackson Clarion Ledger, MS
Nov. 10, 2002

# Deaf Digest touts Bulldogs for talent, undefeated year

By Robert Wilson

Mississippi School for the Deaf didn't field a football team in 1999 and 2000 due to low numbers.

But for the past two years under the direction of coach Joseph Thrasher, the Bulldogs not only fielded a team, but they are the best in the country among the 20 deaf schools that play eight-man football.

MSD captured its second straight eight-man deaf national championship after gong undefeated for the first time in school history.

The school also won national deaf titles in 1990, 1993 and 1995.

The Bulldogs finished 6-0 this season and won by an average of 45 points per game. MSD has won 12 straight games since a 12-6 loss to Georgia School for the Deaf to open last season.

Look for the streak to continue. MSD has no seniors, and some of its best players and freshmen.

"We set our goals high and worked hard to achieve them. We were pretty optimistic after last year because we lost only three seniors," said Thrasher, a former Belhaven College fullback. "God has blessed us to go the season without any injuries. We have 15 players, and an injury or two would have hurt us."

Instead, MSD put the hurt on its opponents early and often. It defeated Georgia — which gave MSD its only loss last year — twice by scores of 52-26 and 72-20. The Bulldogs scored 80 points on Eastern North Carolina, a team that cancelled on them just a few days before it was scheduled to play here earlier this season.

After MSD finished as the only unbeaten eight-man deaf team in the country, Barry Strassler of Deaf Digest magazine named the Bulldogs the national champion.

"I never try to run up the score," Thrasher said. "We just have so many great athletes. The second team players are very good and our defense scored a lot of touchdowns, too. We have so much speed."

Freshman running back Ro' Derrick Brown has a fabulous year. The 6-foot-1, 190-pounder gained 1,516 yards, an average of 253 per game, and scored 20 rushing touchdowns. He didn't have a carry in the second half of MSD's final two games, one of which was Eastern North Carolina when Brown gained 381 yards and scored seven TDs. He had 436 return yards and scored two TDs on pass receptions and one each on kickoff, punt and interception returns. Brown, also a linebacker, had 90 tackles and three interceptions.

Junior quarterback/defensive end Brandon Miner had 538 rushing yards and 13 TDs and threw three TD passes and had 62 tackles. Junior running back/linebacker Paul Biggs had five rushing TDs and had a team-high 92 tackles and returned a fumble for a score.

Four freshman, 6-5, 200-pound defensive end C.J. Durham, 5-11, 240-pound offensive/defensive lineman Falon Hall, cornerback Brandon Tubbs and offensive lineman Mason Tubby, were big contributors. Also, sophomore cornerback Jeremi Jones and eighth-grade LB/defensive end Cortland Clay, Brown's uncle, made big plays.

MSD has 48 students in grades 9-12 and plays an independent schedule in the Mississippi High School Activities Association. But because of the success of the program and plans to upgrade the facilities (construction of science lab, dorms and new gym within the next three years), Thrasher is looking to schedule some 11-man deaf and possibly hearing schools in the future.

"There isn't any doubt that we can compete with schools our own size (Class 1A)," said Thrasher, who is assisted by Arness Georgetown, Tyrone Blackmon and Rodney Hayes. "We have some excellent athletes who would love to test their talents and abilities against other teams from Mississippi. We hope to play about 10 games next year."

MSD has had players play college football. Former MSD running back Steve McNeese played for Hofstra in New York in the mid-1980s. Lineman Fabian Dean, who helped MSD to a national title, played at Hinds Community College in the late 1990s. MSD alumnus Zikomo Nichols played running back at Gallaudet University in Washington last year.

Miss. School for Deaf

Mississippi School for the Deaf has won 12 straight games dating back to 2001:

• 2001
Opponent Score
North Carolina 58-12
Kentucky 78-0
Tennessee 54-0
Louisiana 48-6
Georgia 22-14
Arkansas 58-22

• 2002
Opponent Score
Open Door, Ala. 66-18
Georgia 52-26
Louisiana 44-12
Georgia 72-20
Arkansas 60-6
E. North Carolina 80-20

Copyright © 2002, The Clarion-Ledger.