Greenville Chrisitan coach Jon Reed McLendon talks about his team’s amazing story and the Cleveland boys discuss the prospects of the state’s college football teams.

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Tyler: Hello, and welcome to the crooked letter sports podcast. I’m one half of your coast and crew Tyler Cleveland here with my old man, Rick bad. How was your weekend? 

Rick: We came was. Kind of wit 

Tyler: it was wet. Uh, obviously, uh, we were safe here in Jackson. Uh, mostly spared from the effects of hurricane Ida, although our friends and some of our friends and neighbors in Louisiana in south Mississippi, didn’t come out as unscathed.

And our thoughts go out to them. If you’re looking for ways. Go to red cross.org, or you can call 800 red cross the American red cross providing shelter, food, clothing to, uh, those, you know, hit hardest by the storm. And, and our thoughts are with them. Our thoughts are also own college football, uh, because that’s kicking in this week, we were kind of worried of how we were going to shake out with the storm.

And now that it’s passed, it’s a full boogie tilt in the football season. Dad, how are you feeling? 

Rick: Excited about it. A lot of questions are gonna be answered and, uh, starting. Saturday. 

Tyler: Yeah. Well, let’s start with it. And I mean, I just want to jump right in here. Uh, let’s go look at, these are three major programs, Ole miss Mississippi state and Southern miss.

We’ll also talk about Jackson state, but I’m going to give you the Vegas odds on the over-under on the winds. You’re going to tell me over. You game. 

Rick: Yeah, but I want your opinion 

Tyler: too. Okay. You can have it. It won’t be as worth as much, but oh, let’s start with Ole miss here. We got almost a set. The Vegas odds have Ole miss set at seven and a half wins this season.

What say you? 

Rick: Well, I think they’re going to beat that. I think they’re going to win eight or nine. I think they’re going to score enough points to win. You’re nine games, maybe 10, but to get to double figures, they’re going to have to play a whole lot better defense than they’ve played in the past. I think the key to any college football team starts at quarterback.

And I think Ole miss has a guy who’s one of the best in the county. 

Tyler: Yeah, you basically stole the words right out of my mouth. I was going to say, you have to have a quarterback to win that many games at Ole miss or Mississippi state and Ole miss definitely has that guy. The defense is not good enough to win eight games, but the offense is if that makes sense for me, unless they are, unless they’re much improved from last year.

Rick: They believe they are. I mean, I’ve talked to people in the program who think that they’ve added a lot of speed and, um, muscle to the defense and they really believe they’re going to be better. And they, you know, they need to be, or they’re going to have to win games 42 to 

Tyler: 35. Okay. The schedule just also just doesn’t lend itself to double digit wins year in and year out.

So it does need to be a really special team. 

Rick: Yeah. When you play in the sec Western division, uh, to me. 10 games. You’ve got to be, uh, you got to be a top 15 team in the country, right? 

Tyler: Another team in that boat, in the Mississippi state bulldogs Vegas, as the over-under on Windset set at six, 

Rick: you know, I wouldn’t bet either way on that.

And I think they have it pretty much where I would put it on Mississippi state six is good, but again, let’s get back to the quarterback position. If state finds the guy in that all fence in Mike religious or offense, that can be the trigger man. And he gets the protection then. You know, they, they could certainly win more traditionally, wherever he’s been the second year is a pretty good year for leach.

So let’s see. I would not touch it if I was a betting, man, I think six is around the right number. 

Tyler: What do you think I’d lay off of it too, but only because I have no idea what to expect. You know, I think the bulldogs were as mercurial as anybody last year, they had some games where you could kind of see the offense.

Coming together last year. I mean, you know, right out of the gate, they set the sec passing record against LSU and you think, oh, here we go. You know, the lead strain is off and running. And then, you know, you go through the rest of the season and you’ve got injuries here and there and the defense. Kind of spotty.

So I, I don’t, I don’t, I don’t know what to expect from, I would leave it alone too. Uh, but if I was, had to pick one way or the other, I would probably say the under, just because, like I said, I don’t know what to expect. And the schedule doesn’t lend itself to teams that don’t know what to do. Yeah. 

Rick: It’s a, it’s a tough schedule.

There’s no doubt about that. 

Tyler: Slipped down in Hattiesburg. Uh, the Vegas odds makers. Made USM. They set it at five and a half wins for the golden Eagles. This year conference USA may be set up to have one of its better seasons, uh, in, uh, in the last couple. What do you think? 

Rick: I would bet the over there, I know they’re coming off a three wins season, but they’re coming off a season where they had three different head coaches.

And had quarterback injuries and had, you know, that just had so many things they had defections they had. And I just think Weil hall has really changed the culture there. And I think, I think they could actually went seven or. I just, I think they’re better than that. We’ll find out. 

Tyler: Yeah. That’s another one though, that I would probably leave alone if I was a gambling, man.

I, you know, I do. I think they could go out and win seven or eight games. Yes, absolutely. But you know, you, you always are going to have residual lingers. Thanks from what happened last year, like you said, they did have defections and you know, and they’ve done some and they’ve done some additions since then.

I mean, he, you know, really brought in a really good class last year. These guys are really young, you know, so it’s going to take a minute, but I do think the upward trajectory is there. I think by. Next season. We’re not going to be talking about an over, under a five and a half wins. Something we’re going to talking about over under eight or 800, 

Rick: I think you’re right.

And I think again, uh, and I, it seems like I go back to this every time, but the quarterback is such an important position for him. Uh wheelhouses that Trey low. The real deal. So if he is then, then they should exceed that five 

Tyler: and a half. Well, we’re going to be looking to all those, uh, the wanting to hit this one for fun.

The odds makers do not put an over under on Jackson. State’s when lost total. Uh, but the tigers are set to open the season. On September 5th against Florida, a and M on ESPN two, they play 11 games this fall. Give me your official. I’m going to set the over. I’m going to set it at six over. You’re going to take, I’m going 

Rick: to take the over, just on the basis that the talent they have in the program that he, that, uh, Deon Sanders is brought into the program.

I mean, I’ve got an awful lot of division, one players, guys who have transferred. N I just think they’re better than that. We’ll see. We’ll see. We’ll see real quick because Florida a and M traditionally is 

Tyler: pretty good. Yeah. And I mean, I’ll put it this way. They better, they better win that many games. You know what I mean?

Uh, because the, uh, the hype has been here for the hype train has been here for a year and I’m ready to see what the product actually looks like. But I, you know, I think, I think that’s, I think that’s all it’s six months was a good number. I don’t know. Maybe though. 

Rick: Again, if I was a gambling man and I had to wager I would wager more.

Tyler: Oh yeah. Let us know what you think about our college football pigs were, uh, uh, I know you will. Anyway. We’re on Twitter at Tyler Cleveland at Rick Cleveland dad. Our guest today, very excited about him is John Reed, McLendon head coach of the Greenville Christian saints, who are cutting a swath through the Mai S ranks.

Dad beat the snot out of MRL. Uh, and week one and then turn around and beat Jackson prep, uh, and week two, just to one of the more exciting stories and Mississippi sports, right. 

Rick: It’s a great story. And when we started out talking about college football, and now we’re talking about a high school team, that’s got a lot of future college players on it.

Uh, this, this is a very, very talented, uh, Greenville Christian team, probably five or six divisions. Recruits on the team, including a dynamic quarterback, a dynamic wide receiver, but it’s more than that. It’s just the story here. We are. 50 years after integration spawn, the private school league would, you know, so much white flight from the public school system to, to create the private school league that is now the dominant football team in, in that league.

It’s all African-American 

Tyler: you heard it from the gov, not your dad’s Greenville, Christian science team. Uh, these days, uh, let’s see, without further ado, let’s get into it. Uh, help us welcome, uh, coach John Reed, McLendon from Greenville Christian. Our guest today is John Reed McLennan head coach of the Greenville Christian school football team, coach.

Thanks for being with us. Uh, and we always appreciate your time. I know you’re. 

Jon: Absolutely. 

Tyler: So coach, obviously your season off to a great start, uh, three and O big wins over MRA and Jackson prep. Just to the quick rundown you guys came down here, beaten MRA 64 32, and then turn around and beat Jackson prep 48, 13, uh, pretty incredible start for any school, almost unthinkable, you know, just two years ago.

Uh, but could you just kinda tell me what the ride has been like so far? 

Jon: Sure. Uh, man, it’s, it’s been, uh, like unthinkable is a good word for it. It’s been pretty incredible. Um, you know, to start the season this way, uh, we knew we were going to have a good group coming back for last year and we were excited to see what we could do.

And, uh, there’ve been some moments throughout gains so far that I’ve had that just breaks in the action that you have to look up at. And there was a moment, uh, or planet MRI. And to just take a moment, look up at the scoreboard and see GCs, you know, uh, at the time I think GCs 28, MRA 25. And it was like, you know, reality check a little bit, uh, paint yourself and realize, you know, but man, it’s been a lot of fun 

Tyler: a coach.

What is it about this team? I mean, we, at, at this point we all know about DJ Smith and some of your Playmakers. Well, what is it that makes this team go. 

Jon: Then we have some really special players across the board. And, uh, you look at up-front, we, you know, we’ve been pretty good so far early on, on the offensive defensive lines and that’s, uh, that’s allowed us to compete.

Uh, you know, anytime you start talking about, uh, competing with, with some of the MRA and Jackson grift, and some of those guys, uh, kind of start there and win the battle up front, and we’ve been able to do that, you know, defensively, we’ve got a couple of guys. On that side of the ball who were, you know, division one, guys, uh, eh, you know, linebacker in a corner.

Uh, we’ve got some other kids that are, uh, you know, just a really special group. Um, you know, DJs obviously is that when this kind of out front, because of the position that he plays. Right. But that we’ve got a lot of other kids. They’re really polite and they’ve bought in and they play well together. And so I think that, you know, just the product of having some really quality kids who body and, uh, to the program and the system and showed up to work every day and have wanted to, you know, uh, be the best that they can.

Rick: Uh, John read this, Rick, we, um, I had a short conversation this morning with Herbert Davis and he paid you and your team a high, high compliment. And he talked about how well coached you are. But the thing he, he really stressed is he got 21 seniors. That, that makes a huge difference. Doesn’t it? Sure 

Jon: it absolutely does.

So, you know, very, uh, senior. Okay. And, you know, experience and, uh, you know, just, it, it makes a ton of difference when you have older kids that have been there and done the thing before and been through the battles. I mean, it’s, uh, you know, I think that that’s allowed us to go into, uh, you know, so far I go into a couple of these schools that you think, well, you know where those are our guys going to be intimidated, walking into those environments, play in schools.

That maybe are like twice our size, you know, when you look across at the other sidelines, playing those kinds of things, uh, having older kids has allowed us, I mean, they’re confident they’ve been there before. Right? They’ve, they’ve, they’ve kinda, uh, you know, and then they feel like, uh, you know, we, so it’s allowed us to walk into those places and be confident.

And, uh, and so their leadership has been invaluable. 

Rick: Really? Let’s talk about what you’re walking into Friday night. Sure. Yeah. Going to, uh, play the number one class seven 18 in Georgia, that 

Jon: the parent is really 

Rick: loaded. Yeah. Tough task. Uh, how do you approach it? 

Jon: Absolutely. You know, it is, it’s going to be a different deal than even what we’ve done.

Uh, you know, uh, really at first, over the course of the first few weeks, uh, you know, but I think that, you know, for us, it’s been, you know, this is an opportunity for us to go and. Man, we want to go enjoy it. First of all, this is a chance that it’s an opportunity we don’t get. Um, I mean, this is kind of a once in a lifetime deal where, you know, we’ve got a group that is good enough to go over there and, uh, you know, get to play in, in a, in an environment like that, uh, against the number one school in Georgia.

Top 10 school in the nation from, you know, there’s a lot of publications have them ranked that highly. Um, and so, you know, we want to enjoy it. First of all, let’s, let’s, let’s enjoy, you know, we put in the work, uh, let’s enjoy the opportunity that you know, that we get. And then as far as the game goes, I think that you just have to, uh, you know, you know, that they’re talented, we’re going to have to do, you know, we’ve gotta have a good week of practice.

We’ve got to make sure that. No, a lot of it’s going to be focusing on that. So I think you do, we need to do what we do. Well, we need to go in and be able to play our game and, uh, and, and do what we’re able to do. Right. You go in and you roll it out there and do your best. And you kind of live with the result.

It’s it’s an impressed to see, right? How do we stack up against one of the best in the nation? 

Tyler: And when you took this job, did you think that, you know, and I know you’ve been there, what, I think it’s eight years now. I mean, when you took, when you took this job, did you ever dream that you might one day have a team that might be considered one of the one or two best teams in the state at any level?

Uh, 

Jon: you know, I don’t, I don’t know. I think that. Part has maybe exceeded dreams and expectations. You certainly, I think, uh, I mean, this is home for me, right? I graduated from here in 2009. You know, and this is, this is home. So I think you dream of being able to elevate a program to that level. I don’t, I don’t think that, uh, you ever really expect that.

Uh it’s, it’s just one of those things that you think about and you think, how, how cool would that be? And then, uh, you know, so for it to, you know, come to fruition has been. It’s been pretty special to see, you know? Um, and I think man, you know, even after last year and we had a really good group coming off the state championship, I think.

Even being right, it’s still, uh, it’s still kind of hard to believe like you still, I didn’t necessarily see this coming even, uh, you know, once we ended the season last year with, uh, with a state championship, it’s still kind of hard to believe that, uh, it’s definitely, it’s incredible to be able to be here for this and see it all kind of, you know, all the hard work and long hours and, uh, you know, pay off this.

You know, in this big way, 

Rick: just talk just a little bit from a historical perspective. I’m an old, I’m an old Mississippian. I graduated from high school in 1970, which was the time of integration of, of our high schools here. And that’s when a lot of these, uh, private schools were created. And now here we are.

Half a century later and you’re coaching pretty much an all African-American team in the Mississippi private school league and just beating the socks off of all of them. It’s just a pretty amazing story. If you look at it from a historical perspective, w w do you think about that part of it much? 

Jon: Yeah, we do.

I think just because it’s so obvious, right? I think that it’s just something that you can’t really. Uh, sometimes. So you think about it, you know, we’ve been in a pretty, uh, unique situation here just with, you know, the number of schools we have in Greenville and the fact that they’re not a lot of new families moving in.

Right. And so, um, I think there came a point a number of years ago when, uh, even when I was in school, uh, towards the end of my high school career, when. You know, you just realized, um, we live in a, in a mostly African-American city, you know, here, they’ll say it. And it’s just one of those things where it just, it doesn’t make sense to try to have a school, uh, you know, for whatever you think about, right.

The reason that most of the private schools start, uh, we’re just at a point. I think that that ideology needs to go, right. You just have to, it it’s you have to move on to understand, right. There’s uh, that’s no longer, it may have been. While the school started, but it can’t continue to be the mission anymore.

Right. You know, it’s long, long past time, you know, for schools like us to, uh, you know, to make sure that we are totally inclusive and opening the doors to anybody who wants to be here and be a part. And so a number of years ago, I think that there’s a mindset shift and the people here decided, you know, we’re going to reach out and make an impact in this community.

We’re going to impact families that maybe are looking for something differently, uh, you know, that are, that are, that want a different environment or a better environment for the children. And, uh, you know, let’s make it a goal to go and reach and impact these families and, uh, band it. Yeah. I feel like that, uh, you know, it’s been really good.

And I think over the years, you’ve seen that shift right. More and more from, from other schools. It’s not just us anymore. Um, I think maybe we’re one of the few in the independent school association. That’s, that’s a majority African-American in the schools are maybe one of the few of those, but, um, You know, I think that it’s been, uh, it’s been really neat to see that shift and all the relationships that have been formed and, and to see the atmosphere and maybe a mindset change, like the, see, all of that happened, uh, to see people that, uh, that maybe wouldn’t normally spend a lot of time together, get to spend a lot of time together at ball games at school events.

Like that’s been really cool to see. Right. I mean, you’ve seen it. You’ve seen a major change. And, uh, and it’s been good for everybody. It’s been good for me and the relationships we’ve been able to afford with these kids, uh, that are going to last a lifetime. I think that, uh, I think this has been pretty incredible from that standpoint, you know, to see us do things differently than maybe a lot of other places are.

And, uh, and it’s been really fruitful. It’s been really good. 

Rick: Well, coach, I think there’s going to be a whole lot of Mississippians, uh, pulling for you guys Friday night. And, uh, look forward to seeing what happens. It’s why you play the games, right? That’s right. 

Jon: Well, I appreciate that. And we certainly, we’re looking forward to it as well.

And, uh, uh, we’re gonna be honored this week to sorta put the steak on our back and want to bring everybody along with us. And, uh, and hopefully go, you know, just represent the state will, you know, get written up and represent with a character in class and, uh, and do our best to go. Surprise everybody and put on a good performance on the field as well.

Good 

Tyler: luck to you, coach. We’ll be pulling for you. So I appreciate you 

Jon: guys. 

Tyler: Special. Thanks to coach John Reed, McLendon from Greenville, Christian for joining us today. And good luck to all of you. They’re traveling to watch high school, college and pro football this weekend. Um, Tyler Cleveland with Scorebook Live Mississippi.

You can follow me online at Tyler Cleveland on. He’s Rick Cleveland, Mississippi today, where you can keep up with all the latest and what’s going on in Mississippi news and sports. He’s on Twitter at Rick Cleveland. This show is always produced by the good people at blue sky podcasting and Jackson who do excellent work.

Thanks again to everybody and go be safe out there. Have a good .

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Rick Cleveland, a native of Hattiesburg and resident of Jackson, has been Mississippi Today’s sports columnist since 2016. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with a bachelor’s in journalism, Rick has worked for the Monroe (La.) News Star World, Jackson Daily News and Clarion Ledger. He was sports editor of Hattiesburg American, executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. His work as a syndicated columnist and celebrated sports writer has appeared in numerous magazines, periodicals and newspapers.
Rick has been recognized 13 times as Mississippi Sports Writer of the Year, and is recipient of multiple awards and honors for his reporting and writing.

Tyler Cleveland

Tyler Cleveland is a senior reporter for Scorebook Live and the co-host of Mississippi Today's Crooked Letter Sports Podcast.