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Mancuso bounces back

By CURTIS ROCKWELL

Item Sports Editor

BASSFIELD — It didn’t take Lance Mancuso long to once again become a dominant coaching force in Class 2A.

The Carriere native and former Poplarville head coach guided Bassfield High to an impressive 11-3 record and the Region 8-2A title in his first year at the helm of the Yellow Jackets. Bassfield’s season came to an end Friday when it lost to undefeated Forest 25-18 in the final seconds of the Class 2A South State championship game.

Mancuso returned to the Class 2A ranks, in which he coached Seminary to a state title in 2003, after three seasons at Poplarville.

Bassfield was 5-6 last season, before Mancuso arrived.

“We had a good nucleus of kids coming back, but I don’t think many people thought we’d be as good as we were,” Mancuso, whose departure from Poplarville was marred a bit by some personal issues, said. “You could say that we overachieved a little, but that credit goes to the players and the assistant coaches.”

His off the field issues didn’t make Mancuso question his ability to lead student-athletes on the field.

“I still had confidence in my ability professionally,” Mancuso added. “I just got back to my roots, so to speak, getting back to 2A ball where I started. This school has been as much a blessing to me as I have to them. It’s been a healing process after what happened.”

Mancuso said that a game against perennial 2A state power Taylorsville early in the year let him and his kids know how good they could really be.

“Taylorsville beat us just 15-6, and that let us know we had a shot to be more than just competitive this year,” he added. “From there everything just kind of evolved throughout the year. Our confidence grew and we just kept getting better as a team.”

The Yellow Jackets went 6-0 in region play, and then won three straight games in the playoffs before falling to Forest.

In fact, Bassfield tied the game up last week at 18-18 with less than a minute to play, only to see Forest score thanks to a long pass in the final seconds and take a stunning win.

“They just made a big play at the end,” Mancuso said. “It was a really tough way to lose the game and end the season.”

Mancuso, whose parents live in Picayune, said while he expects to return to Bassfield next season, he will keep his options open if something closer to home opens up.

“My parents have been so instrumental in my life and my success, and I’d like to be able to be closer to them again one day,” Mancuso said. “But we only lose six seniors and we will have quite a good group of kids coming back here next year, so right now I don’t see why I wouldn’t be back. I am extremely happy where I am.”

Bassfield should stay in Class 2A after reclassification is announced later this week by the MHSAA.