By Josh Troy
Lee Academy junior Owen Dixon focused on basketball during the 2022-23 school year, but he is once again playing football for the Colts and looking forward to the upcoming season.
Dixon, a left tackle, and his father, Shannon, provided their outlook on what to expect from the Colts football program in 2023 during the Clarksdale Exchange Club meeting at Hibachi on Wednesday.
The Colts are looking to repeat as the MAIS 4A-1 champions. Rick Johnston is going into his seventh season as the Colts’ head coach. In an effort to beat the heat, the team has been lifting weights and conditioning at 6:30 a.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. The junior high Colts, under coach Chad Foster, begin practice at 8 a.m.
The Colts finished 7-4 en route to a district championship in 2022 but fell at home to Tri-County Academy out of Flora in the first round of the playoffs. They won just one game in 2021 but had only two seniors on the roster. Having more seniors, including running back Sam Stonestreet, who will be playing football for Delta State University in the upcoming season, helped Lee bounce back in 2022.
“We lost a lot of good players,” Owen Dixon said. Shannon Dixon agreed but felt the core group of upperclassmen could help the Colts win the district again. “They’ve got some good kids coming up,” he said.
Senior William Walker will be a third-year starter at quarterback in 2023. Junior Darren Williams, also a running back and free safety, is another quarterback on the roster.
Other seniors listed on the 2023 roster for the Colts include running back and outside linebacker Montavian Artis, wide receiver and free safety Tanner Fava, guard Warner Lively, guard Graham Lott, tackle and defensive tackle Ethan Peyton, tackle and defensive tackle Bradley Jennings, tackle Parker Mazelin, and running back and nose guard Carlos Diaz.
Owen Dixon said the experience Lee is bringing back, along with the versatility on the roster, will be assets to the team. “I think we’ll have an all-around team,” he said. “We can do it all. We can run, pass, go in the middle. We can do everything.”
Shannon Dixon said Owen played basketball during the 2022-23 school year because it would have been tougher to see action on the football field. “He didn’t play last year,” Shannon Dixon said. “He focused on basketball. Being in 10th grade, he didn’t have any playing time.”
However, Shannon Dixon said there was also a lack of depth on the basketball team. “They’ve got a good basketball team, but the kids don’t have anybody to relieve them,” he said. “Their starting players have got to stay out there the whole time.”
The Colts are preparing to handle the lack of depth on the football field. “They’ll (athletes) play multiple positions because they don’t have a lot of kids. Some of the kids never come off the field,” Shannon Dixon said.
Owen Dixon said the Colts have been doing some heavy conditioning. “We run a lot and we push sleds,” he said. “We do fun stuff. We would go on the track, run a lap, warm up, do some other warming up, and run sprints. We run other laps. We put some weight on the sleds, push the sleds a distance, and stuff.”
Owen Dixon said he also attended a lineman camp at Lee Academy.
Owen Dixon also said the Colts will be hosting a jamboree prior to the season to prepare. He added two new conference opponents are Washington School out of Greenville and Delta Streets Academy out of Greenwood.
“I think it’ll be difficult,” said Owen Dixon about playing new conference opponents. “We’ve never played them. We don’t know if they’re good or not.”
Kirk Academy out of Grenada and North Delta School out of Batesville will no longer be in the same conference as Lee.