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April 9, 2004In a temporary locker room, the La Marque, Texas, Cougars round out an off-season practice with a defining chant. "We want - state," the team yells. "We want - state."
Coach Bryan Irwin - who leads his team in the chant - looks to defend the Class 4A state championship in 2004 with the help of blue-chip seniors Korey Mangum, Clarence Ward and Russell Ball.
Ward and Mangum are solid commitments to LSU and Texas A&M respectively, leaving Ball as the lone Division I prospect still available.
Ball (5-8, 165-pounds) has been offered by SMU, BYU, Houston, Missouri and Texas A&M. He is still waiting for his favorites - LSU, Texas and Miami - to fall in line, though.
"Russell has terrific vision and balance and has a knack at making people miss," Irwin said. "He's fun to watch. He's liable to go anywhere in the country. That's one thing about our kids, the will go play anywhere. They just want out of La Marque, and to find a place they can play and get a good education."
Ward, a 6-1, 175-pound cornerback, will be the Cougars' starting quarterback in 2004 until district play, when he will be on both sides of the ball.
"Clarence had a great year and is always around the ball," Irwin said. "He's such an athlete that we have to get him the ball on offense as well. He just turned 17-years-old, so is going to grow some more, and his best football is in front of him."
Mangum (6-2, 190-pounds) has stayed put in the Cougars' system. The big safety will participate with his teammates at the Nike Camp in College Station, and will attend the Aggies' summer camp.
Also receiving interest is offensive lineman Bradley Mason (6-1, 265-pounds).
"He is so tenacious and will fight his opponent from the first snap of the ball," Irwin said. "Bradley is the kind of kid that coaches love on their team."
Linebacker and Division I prospect Dominique Chinn is currently out of the program, while former quarterback Larry Kerlegan will be attending Grambling State University - turning down a sign and place opportunity at Texas A&M.
Soon-to-be-juniors Richard Jones and L.J. Castille will lead the 2006 bumper crop of prospects. Castille (6-3, 210-pounds) is a wiry quarterback with an above-average arm, while Jones (6-3, 265-pounds) has dominating frame as an offensive lineman.