Mancuso aims for another ring
Published 8:24 am Thursday, December 3, 2009
By CURTIS ROCKWELL
Item Sports Editor
JACKSON — Lance Mancuso will be in search of some more flashy jewelry Friday afternoon, and his quest has nothing to do with Christmas shopping.
Mancuso, the former head coach at Poplarville High and a 1989 graduate of Pearl River Central High, will lead his Bassfield High team into the Class 2A State championship game against unbeaten Ackerman at 3 p.m., here at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
It’s is Mancuso’s second trip to the Class 2A state championship game in seven seasons, after leading Seminary High to the state crown in 2003.
Mancuso has the Yellow Jackets playing for a championship ring in just his second season at the helm.
“I had no idea what kind of situation I was getting into when I got here, so it is kind of surprising that we are here this quickly” Mancuso, who is attempting to become one of just a few head coaches to win a pair of state titles at two different schools, said. “I knew of the past tradition at Bassfield, and knew we had a chance to get back to that type of success. I’m just greatful for this chance and for what we have been able to accomplish so far.”
Bassfield is 13-2 on the season, while Ackerman is 15-0. The Yellow Jackets are in the state finals for the first time since winning their third straight title in 1986, and at that time becoming the first team ever in the state to win three straight crowns.
“A lot of our players are either sons or family members of players from those teams that won state championships,” Mancuso added. “So that’s kind of being a rallying point for our kids as the season went on.”
Mancuso is in his 11th season as a head coach, three of those at Poplarville. He landed at Bassfield after leaving Poplarville under controversial circumstances, that included being arrested at the school along with his wife after a domestic dispute.
“Everybody makes mistakes including me,” Mancuso said. “But I also feel like everybody deserves a second chance. After what I went through, I had to just keep believing in myself and what I could do professionally and hope for another chance and thankfully the administration here at Bassfield gave me that opportunity.”
Ackerman has won two state titles in the past 12 years, and the Indians are hoping to make it 16-0 with their first crown since 2001 on Friday.
“They are 15-0 for a reason,” Mancuso said. “I’ve told our kids they won’t beat themselves, we are going to have to go out and beat them.”
And beating opponents is something his Yellow Jackets have done quite often this year against some tough opposition. Bassfield’s only two losses were against Oak Grove, which will play South Panola for the Class 6A state championship Friday night, and Forrest County AHS which made it to the third round of the Class 4A playoffs before losing to St. Stanislaus, which is playing for the state title as well Saturday afternoon.
“Our first six games were all against bigger schools who had a tradition of winning, so we were worried about getting banged up,” Mancuso said. “But not only did we come out of it in good shape, I think we might have surprised ourselves by winning a few. I think that stretch gave us a lot of confidence and helped us mature and grow as a team.”
Mancuso broke out his state title ring from six years ago earlier this week for the annual MHSAA pre-championship game press conference just to give his players a glimpse of what is on the line Friday night.
He says that this trip to the big stadium in the Capital City has been a little more satisfying than the last one, though.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t say this wasn’t a little more gratifying personally after what I went through,” Mancuso added. “I wanted to wear the ring to show the kids what we’re playing for, maybe give them a little motivation.”
And Mancuso hopes to add another ring to his collection on Friday.