When Southeast Lauderdale High School plays host to Choctaw Central Friday night, head coach Charles Black and the Tigers know they will be up against a much different team than last year's 0-10 Warriors.
This year, not only does Choctaw Central boast a 4-3 record this season, it also brings a whole new offense to the table. The Warriors made the switch to a triple-option attack for the 2012 season, and so far it has paid off.
“They look very comfortable in what they do,” Black said. “They run that triple-option on offense, and they are doing it well. They are having a lot of success with that.”
Because the Warriors are the only team to use the triple-option in Class 3A, it will be a challenge for Black and his team to prepare for something they have only seen on tape this season.
“Ultimately we just have to play really disciplined,” Black said. “We have to play assignment football. You got the dive, the quarterback, and the pitch. You just have to play your assignment, or they will burn you.”
Black also said the Tigers are working on cleaning up their pass protection from last game in order to provide quarterback Andrew Black to have more time to find receivers in the pocket.
Although Philadelphia appears to almost a lock to finish atop the Region 5-3A division, Black and his team know these next three games will be vital if the Tigers want to finish in the top two teams of the division and secure a home game in the first round of the playoffs.
“Our approach is to just take it one game at a time,” Black said. “I think all three games are winnable, and we are just going to take them one at a time. I told them our goal is to have a home playoff game.”
— Tony Tsoukalas
Short-handed Cougars continuing to compete
The good news for Calvary Christian is that Beto Medina's ankle has healed enough he is expected to play along tonight when the Cougars travel to Delta Academy.
The bad news is his presence still only gives Calvary 11 players as the Cougars are still dealing with a severe lack of depth. No matter, Calvary coach Kirby Newell said his team will be ready to compete when they arrive in Marks for the 7 p.m. kick.
“We’re going to keep competing man,” Newell said. “There’s no quit in us and we’re going to keep competing. We’re going to go out in practice and try to get better.
“We’ve just got to prepare, keep our heads up and do the best we can. That’s all we can do.”
Calvary, which is 2-6 overall is 1-4 in MAIS 8-Man Division 1, and is hoping an improved defensive performance last week in a 38-8 setback against Kemper Academy, can help to slow down 2-6 Delta, which is 2-3 in the division. Newell said Delta will likely follow the same gameplan that has given the Cougars problems all season: a powerful running attack.
“Delta’s a physical-type team just like Calhoun, they want to run it down your throat,” he said. “There has been better tackling. I saw better tackling Friday night against Kemper that I saw the previous three weeks. There was better tackling and I saw us in better position to make plays but we just didn’t make them.
“So there were certainly brighter spots on defense. They don’t have as much speed as Calhoun or Russell, so I think we have an opportunity to make some plays in the passing game and get (Josh) Carraway loose and Josh Roberts loose and put up some points.”
— Jamie Wachter
Bulldogs aim to rebound after tough loss
Times are tough for head coach Chris Richmond and the Clarkdale High School Bulldogs, as the team is fresh off of a 29-27 loss to rival Enterprise High School last week. The challenge this week will not only be forgetting last weeks heart-breaking loss, but also preparing for an always tough Bay Springs team today.
“We had an upbeat practice today,” Richmond said on Monday. “Our kids understand, it's senior day next week, and our kids understand they need to get after it.”
Although the Bulldogs only have six seniors on their roster, Richmond said his seniors have really stepped up this year, and he could not be any more proud of his team.
“I really appreciate those guys and what they have done this season,” Richmond said. “I proud of them guys, and I hope the team plays real hard for them Friday night.”
Bay Springs will look to use its athleticism against the Clarkdale, as they have been involved in plenty of shootouts this season. One thing Richmond said he will do is to hold the ball and try to control the clock to prevent a track-meet style game against Bay Springs.
“We are going to control the ball,” Richmond said. “It is important for us to control the tempo. If we can control the clock and manage the score, I think we can play with them.”
After losing last week, it appears Clarkdale will need to win its two final district games against Bay Springs and Mize if it wants to secure a fourth and final playoff spot.
“Our focus is worrying about the next one,” Richmond said. “We just want to win one right now, that's our goal. I told our kids to come our and play loose this week, we have nothing to lose.”
— Tony Tsoukalas
Raiders ready to dive into division schedule
Lamar doesn't need any reminders what happened last season when MAIS Division 4-AA play began.
The Raiders are well aware that visiting Wayne Academy dominated play at Gray Cobb Field, handing Lamar a 35-19 defeat. The Raiders now hope to return the favor when they visit Waynesboro at 7 p.m. today.
“We need to really come out strong,” Mac Barnes said. “They came out and overwhelmed us last year. It was a 14-7 game at halftime and they came out and got two quick touchdowns and just took over the ballgame.
“It was a surprise to a lot of people, I think, but they just whipped us that night. Our kids have a lot of respect for them, and hopefully we won’t get caught off guard and play hard from the very first snap.”
The Jaguars, though, aren't the same team they were a year ago. Wayne defeated Heidelberg Academy 20-12 last week for its first win of the season, and the 1-7 Jaguars, who are also 0-1 in the division after getting blanked by perennial power Simpson County Academy earlier in the year, have scored just 85 points all year. Lamar, though, is 6-2 after suffering a 36-29 loss last week to East Rankin Academy. But those records don't matter.
“We’ve played our first eight games and are 6-2 and played well in a lot of spots,” Barnes added. “Now the season begins now with the playoffs. Even though we’re still in the regular season with our last three games being district, we just call those playoffs and now we’re down to it. This is what you work all year for.
“Once you get to a division game, everybody pulls out all the stops, and they had a great gameplan last year and executed well. Now we just need to anticipate what they do and do a better job of executing against it.”
— Jamie Wachter
Trojans try to build off big division win
Head coach Curt Blackburn and Northeast Lauderdale High School could not have asked for a better win last week, as the Trojans beat Newton County 21-17 on the final play of the game last week.
This week, Northeast will travel to Northeast Jones to face a Tiger team directly above them in the Region 5-4A standings.
“If we could win this one, it'd be real big for us as we look to accomplish our goal of making the playoffs,” Blackburn said. “We could even get a home playoff game if we continue to play hard and win our next few games.”
While Northeast will look back at last week’s game to duplicate some of the things that went well, Blackburn said his team will have to move on the this week, as the Tigers will be a tough match up.
“They throw the ball really well,” Blackburn said. “They play real well and have a good passing game. There run game is not too bad either.”
Blackburn said the key to defending Northeast Jones on offense will be to keep the Tigers in front of them and eliminate big plays. If the Trojans are able to make the Tigers put together long drives, Blackburn said it will give his team a better chance of forcing mistakes and limiting the Northeast Jones in the air.
After last week's game, the Trojans have a certain swagger to them, and Blackburn said his team is believing they can do anything they set their mind to. That could be a dangerous combination for opposing teams as Northeast looks to make a push towards the playoffs.
“That win definitely boosted our confidence,” Blackburn said. “The kids know that they can do it and that they can play with anybody.”
— Tony Tsoukalas
Warriors preparing to slow McCleskey, Rams
Russell Christian Academy is one week away from a winner-take-all showdown with Calhoun Academy. That is as long as the Warriors can find a way to defeat host Kemper Academy tonight, a task easier said than done as long as Pete McCleskey is on the Rams' sidelines, according to RCA coach Nate Ballard.
“In my opinion they have one of the best head coaches in 8-Man,” Ballard said. “He’s been around the game for a long time and knows the little in and outs and the tricks and knows when to pull the punches. He’s great at doing that and catching us in awkward situations.
“He did that to us last year, calling those screens and counters and I really think that’s what gives Kemper the edge.”
McCleskey has led KA to a pair of 8-Man state championships in the six years since the MAIS added the classificiation. Now though, he is hoping to lead KA back to the playoffs after missing out a year ago.
Kemper, 5-3 overall, is 3-2 in 8-Man Division 1 and part of a three-team race for the final two playoff berths from the division with Marvell (Ark.) Academy, also 3-2, and Delta Academy, which is currently fifth at 2-3.
While Russell is 8-0 and 5-0 in the division, Ballard and the Warriors are wary about what they will face against the Rams on “The Hill” at 7 p.m.
“We’ve been working a bunch of different scenarios other than what we’ve seen on the films we’ve watched on them,” Ballard said. “Basically being ready for the unexpected I guess. That’s kind of been our motto or theme this week.”
— Jamie Wachter