Goff may replace Merrill in Tide’s backfield

Published 7:05 pm Monday, March 28, 2011

After almost three years, Picayune was certain to have a new starting tailback this coming season.

It just may not turn out to be whom many Maroon Tide fans expected it to be.

Jamal Hall had been the main threat in veteran Picayune head coach Dodd Lee’s vaunted tailback oriented rushing attack for most of the past three seasons. With Hall’s eligibility over, most observers expected his running mate of much of the past two seasons, Scottie Merrill, to become the heir apparent as the main ball carrier.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

But Merrill, who was listed as a junior this past season, is at this point ineligible to play next season because he also has exhausted his four years of eligibility as far as the Mississippi High School Activities Association is concerned.

Merrill entered the ninth grade at the same time as the current senior class at Picayune did in 2007, but moved to Indiana for parts of two seasons. When he returned to Picayune at the beginning of the 2009 school season, he was placed in the sophomore class because of a lack of credits, according to Merrill.

Both Lee and Merrill indicated this past week, that as of now, Merrill is ineligible. The school can appeal to the MHSAA, and Lee said that they would if asked. But as of now, no appeal has been officially been registered.

MHSAA guidelines state that a player has four years to compete in athletics once you enter the ninth grade. Sources close to the MHSAA as well as several around the state have indicated that it is unlikely that Merrill’s appeal would be approved.

Merrill burst onto the scene at the end of his sophomore season at Picayune when he ran for over 270 yards and four touchdowns in his first start, in an opening round playoff win over D’Iberville. He said he hopes to become eligible again, and that he and his father have been working on appeal procedures and they hope to meet with MHSAA officials in a few weeks.

If Merrill is not eligible, Lee may already have a more than adequate replacement on hand.

Former Hancock High starter Detrick Goff recently enrolled at Picayune and has been working out with the Maroon Tide in anticipation of spring training.

Goff, the son of former Hancock standout Terrance Goff, started for the Hawks as a sophomore and ran for almost 800 yards and five scores.

After an impressive performance against Picayune in last year’s spring game, he moved to Michigan with his father and played his junior season at Grand Blanc High, sharing time in the backfield with Notre Dame commitment Justice Hayes. It is also the same prep school that University of Alabama Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram attended.

The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder ran for almost 1,300 yards and 12 scores last season, before returning to South Mississippi for what will be his senior season.

Goff’s father, a running back at Hancock two decades ago, is still the only two-time Dandy Dozen selection by the Clarion-Ledger.

Merrill’s absence would also affect the Maroon Tide basketball team, as he was the starting point guard for most of this past season.