Silliman Institute’s sixth-year coach T.J. Davis is excited about the upcoming football season with 15 seniors expected to provide key leadership on the team.

“We’re a pretty veteran-savvy team,” said Davis, whose squad finished 9-3 a year ago. “Most of the seniors have played with each other since the third or fourth grade, so they know each other well. They know what to expect from each other.”

Also helping the Wildcats will be seven returning starters on each side of the football. The fact many of them have been part of the team for three or four years gives the Silliman players a high level of familiarity and understanding of the systems.

Davis’ squad runs a spread offense, and he said it’s set up to accommodate the specific personnel.

“We have smaller guys who are very fast,” Davis said.

The defense runs a 3-4 base.

Leading the way is returning senior quarterback Zach Kelly, a three-time all-district standout.

Davis also expects solid leadership from Tyler LeJeune, a cornerback/receiver; Jacob Hodges, a senior right tackle/defensive end; Brian Siebert, who plays outside linebacker and fullback; Michael Beauchamp, a defensive end/running back; and J.D. Cook, a free safety and wide receiver.

“We’re ready to play,” Davis said.

Davis said that, as usual, defending state champion Centreville Academy is the team to beat in District 5-3A of the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools, which includes Central Private, Ben’s Ford and Bowling Green.

Davis expects Bowling Green to be vastly improved, and Ben’s Ford should be in the mix.

“Our district is real competitive,” Davis said. “ If you don’t bring your A-game, anyone can win on any given night.”

The Wildcats played their jamboree at Parklane, and will open the season at Trinity Episcopal on Friday before the home opener against Oak Forest the following week.

“I’m looking forward to enjoying this season with a big group of seniors,” Davis said of the season’s expectations. “This will be the end of most of their journeys. I want us to have a lot of fun, have a memorable season and enjoy all the trials and tribulations that come with it.”