Once a Brave, always a brave.
When O’Bannon High School football coach Lynn Lang takes his team to Hollandale Friday night to face the Simmons Blue Devils, Lang knows full well what his team will be facing.
In many ways, with their hard-nosed approach led by their disciplined leader, Tavares Johnson, the Blue Devils are a mirror image of Lang and his Greenwaves, something which should come as no surprise given the history the two head coaches share with each other.
Both Johnson and Lang were once teammates on the Alcorn State University football team. Back in 1992 — while Steve McNair was throwing the Braves into national prominence — Lang and Johnson were helping to anchor the Alcorn State defense.
Both coaches remember similar things about each other.
“Tavares was a linebacker and he was always talking,” Coach Lang said. “Everyone knew who Tavares was because he was always so outspoken and determined. He was also a very hard worker, and you can see that in his team today.”
After hearing Coach Lang’s recount, Coach Johnson said after a laugh, “No, no, no. Coach Lang was the one who was always talking back then. He was a throw back player, and he was really tough. He was like Jack Lambert. You could not find a tougher player than him. I can remember him always getting everyone riled up because he talked so much trash. He would tell the offensive linemen that, ‘I am Lynn Lang, and I am running through you all night.’”
Friday night’s matchup between the Greenwaves and the Blue Devils will be the first ever matchup between the two coaches. From a distance, both Lang and Johnson have followed each other’s coaching careers. Both coaches have nothing but admiration for each other and how they both lead young men.
“I know that Tavares has a military background (he spent 11 years in the Navy), and you can see that in his team. They are very structured, and they play the right way,” Coach Lang said.
Said Coach Johnson, “In my opinion, the football team takes on the characteristics of their coach. And, O’Bannon is a hard-nosed physical team. Coach Lang and I both came from the same background. It was tough playing in the SWAC back then. Every game was a battle. You could not play if you were not tough”
Both the Greenwaves and the Blue Devils enter Friday night’s matchup with momentum, but each team has played only one game this season because of the pandemic. Simmons opened their season with a 50-0 victory over Leland on Sept. 3. O’Bannon defeated West Bolivar 34-8 last Friday.
Friday night will be homecoming in Hollandale.
The matchup between O’Bannon and Simmons had taken a hiatus since 2017, but the two coaches agreed that the game should be played.”
“Scared money don’t make money,” said Coach Lang. “I have 16 ninth graders on my team so I just want my young boys to go out there and compete. We know we are going to have to stop No. 5 (Vontrez Rush), because he is a great player.”
Said Coach Johnson, “Anytime you play a school in Washington County, it’s big. Our fans and our players are looking forward to it.”