By Josh Troy
Jeremiah Brassell has been a high school football coach for 15 years, and most of that time has been spent in Coahoma County. Brassell took another step in his career when he was named the Coahoma County High School football coach last week. The Coahoma County School Board unanimously approved his hiring.
Brassell, a Cyber Foundation 2 teacher, spent the past three seasons as the Red Panthers’ defensive coordinator before being promoted to head coach. Former head coach McKinley Scott was promoted to athletic director.
Brassell spent four seasons as the Coahoma Early College High School head football coach. He made the move to Coahoma County after CECHS closed its doors. He also spent several years as a Clarksdale High School assistant football coach, eventually working his way up to defensive coordinator.
As the new Red Panthers head coach, Brassell plans to use the relationships he has built in Coahoma County to build the program.
“For one, I know most of the families here in Clarksdale and the Coahoma County area, and it just helps me overall because of the simple fact that it’s a normal thing for me,” he said. “Being here, I know all the families, and it creates strong ties with the athletes and also the brothers and sisters. Over the years, I’ve been with the older siblings, and now I’m with the younger ones. It’s this thing that they know me, and the familiarity is there.”
Brassell was a linebacker on the 1998 South Panola High School state championship team. He was on the 1996 and 1997 South Panola teams that competed for state championships, and the 1999 team that nearly won the championship.
Brassell earned his AA degree at Northwest Mississippi Community College and was part of a football team that went undefeated and held a national record for points scored. He moved on to play for Belhaven University.
While Brassell did not play football for any of the local football teams, he knew he wanted to build a coaching career at schools in Coahoma County after being an assistant at Clarksdale High School.
“Coahoma County, not just Clarksdale, but in general Coahoma County, is a goldmine,” he said. “It’s a diamond in the rough. We have so many athletes here that I always want to be able to push that out of this area. Because, under the right direction, I believe it gives these kids a great opportunity to go off to college and see the world.”
No matter where Brassell coaches or what role he has on staff, he measures his success by the growth of the program.
“As a coach, one thing I’m very proud of is that most of the time I leave a program, I leave it in a better situation than it was when I got there,” he said.
Brassell spent time as the Durant High School defensive coordinator. The school went to the next three state championships after he left. He was also the Hollandale High School offensive coordinator, and the team won the next three state championships after he left.
Brassell recalled the CECHS program being at a standstill when he arrived, but he took the Tigers to the playoffs in his fourth season as head coach, just prior to the school closing.
Working with the offensive and defensive sides of the ball as an assistant and head coach has helped Brassell do a better job calling plays.
“Offensively, I call plays according to what I dislike going against on defense, and it helps put me in a good situation most of the time,” he said. “Being able to know not only offense and defense, but special teams, it’s a way that I can actually understand the complete game plan and know how to put it all together.”
Brassell is the ninth head coach of the Red Panthers since 2011, but he said during his tenure, he hopes to bring stability to the program. He acknowledged that there are more kids since CECHS closed, and most of the students who would have gone there are now at Coahoma County Jr./Sr. High School.
With more students, the Red Panthers’ MHSAA Classification will be moving up from 2A to 3A at the beginning of the 2023-24 school year.
“Moving up to 3A might be a big challenge, but with the athletes that we have here, I think that we can make a run this year or next or in the near future,” he said.
Scott took the Red Panthers to the playoffs during his three seasons as head coach, and Brassell hopes to take the program to another level.
“Scott kind of laid the foundation for the program,” Brassell said. “He made the playoffs the last three years, but I just want to take it above and beyond making it to the playoffs. I actually want to make a push for the state championship.”
Some of the returning starters for the Red Panthers will be senior slot player and defensive back Ja’shun Handy, senior quarterback and wide receiver Devontae Boyd, wide receiver Amari Jones, senior lineman Henderson Clark, junior lineman Dennis Ingram, sophomore lineman Kejuan Hampton, sophomore lineman Zechariah Smith, and sophomore free safety and wide receiver Caleb Hearn.
Brassell said he expects the sophomore class to play a big role in getting the Red Panthers to a state championship.
“My team is going to be hardworking and disciplined, and that’s one thing I bring to the table,” he said. “The motto for every year is no excuses. I don’t care what’s going on. We’re responsible for what happens on that field. We’re responsible for ourselves. That’s one thing I try to preach to the kids. We’re not putting blame on anybody. If we’re going to be successful, it’s because of us. If we’re not successful, it’s going to be because of us. We’re going to try to keep everything in our own hands.”
Sammie Pruitt is the offensive and defensive line coach, Didriquez Smith is the defensive coordinator, and Latarius O’Neal is the junior high coach and expected to be the offensive coordinator. O’Neal was the assistant coach to Brassell for the junior high program last season.
Brassell said his goal is for the football program to have the same level of participation as the basketball program. He added that he is trying to turn Coahoma County from a basketball to a football school.
Red Panthers basketball coach Derrick Moore has led the team to five state championships in seven seasons.
“I’m just jealous because they win so much,” Brassell said. “I’m so jealous of Coach Moore, but he’s one of the guys that’s going to help me out here and there. Like I always tell him, I just want to get to where you are.”
Brassell said a key to Moore’s success leading the basketball teams is bringing stability to the program.
“Coach Moore has been around, as an assistant and as a head coach,” Brassell said. “He is from this area, which you may as well say I’m from this area since I’ve been coaching here for so long. He built his program on discipline. Like I said, when you have discipline and stability, that right there alone equals championships.”
Brassell said the new Superintendent, Dr. Virginia Young, is doing her part to make athletics more successful.
“Since Dr. Young has come in, she has been supportive of all sports programs and has also been involved in upgrading the facilities and everything,” Brassell said. “Under her guidance and leadership, everything has been going well so far. She’s backing every single sports program, not just one or two. It’s one of those things that’s pushing the school forward.”