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Prep football: Trinity, ACCS look for district lead in emotional rivalry game

LAUREN WOOD / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — The Trinity Episcopal Day School Saints, including seniors Carter Smith, left, and Peyton Young, center left, host the Adams County Christian School Rebels, including seniors Hunter Norris, center right, and Tyler Wheeler, right, during tonight’s game at Trinity.

NATCHEZ — Trinity Episcopal Day School seniors Peyton Young and Carter Smith still have great admiration for the man who they used to call their head football coach.

David King departed Trinity earlier this year to become the headmaster and football coach at Adams County Christian School. But Young and Smith have maintained a relationship with their former coach off the football field.

Young said he continues to keep in touch with King through text messages and says the two remain good friends.

“He’s a great guy,” he said.

But tonight the Saints’ seniors say their focus is not on coaches but on the task they have in front of them.

“Of course it’s different,” Smith said.

“But we just have to block that out,” Young added. “It’s weird, because we’re used to hearing his play calls for the past three years, but we just have to go out and play our game.”

That game has led Trinity to three-consecutive victories after starting the season 0-2, and Young said leadership played a big role in turning things around for the Saints.

“We started off rough, but we told ourselves as seniors we had to step it up, and we can’t lose another game.”

Smith said first-year head coach Josh Loy helped provide leadership as well by providing motivation and encouragement when the times were bad. Smith said Loy encouraged the team to keep their heads up and keep working and that helped lead to the turn around.

On the other sideline will be King’s current team. A team that has already won more games this season than last but is coming off a tough loss last week.

ACCS won three of its first four games this season, and seniors Tyler Wheeler and Hunter Norris said King brought a new attitude with him when he joined the Rebels this summer.

“(This year) feels a lot better than last year,” Norris said. “We’re more confident that we used to be.”

The Rebel seniors said despite the circumstances surrounding their game tonight, they are treating it like just another Friday under the lights.

“It crossed our minds (that coach King was returning to Trinity),” Norris said. “But he’s treated it like every other game, and we like it like that.”

Wheeler said the Rebels have to focus on discipline and assignments, and in his eyes the fact that tonight’s game is the first MAIS District 5-AA game for both teams is more important that the outside distractions.

“This is just a big game for us,” Wheeler said.

Young said tonight’s game will also give the winning team a chance at local bragging rights this offseason.

“It’s always fun to play guys you grew up with,” he said. “We’re all friends, but it’s fun to have town bragging rights.”

Not only will almost all of the players on the field tonight have experience playing under King, a couple of coaches on the Trinity sideline will as well.

Loy and assistant coach Kyle Ketchings both played for King at Trinity. Loy said it would be a special moment for him to see his former coach across the field.

“It will be an emotional night for both of us (King and Loy),” Loy said. “With him returning, and me going up against him, it’s going to bring a ton of people. Our fans are going to black-out the field, and it will be a real good high school football game atmosphere.”

Loy said he and King continue to have a good relationship.

“We talk regularly — several times a week,” he said. “He’s a mentor to me, and obviously somebody I look up to in this profession.”

King said he would be honored to go up against two of his former players.

“I do wish Josh luck,” King said. “He’s very dear to me, and I’m proud of Kyle and Josh. They were two of my favorite players, and I am proud that he has taken my place. I am pleased with what Josh has done.”

Loy said he expects a tough game with both teams still battling for a leg up in the district race, and he knows both coaches want to compete and win.

“It’s going to be fun,” he said. “I’m sure we’ll give each other a hug, but once the game starts it’s going to be intense, and he’ll want to beat me as bad as I want to beat him. But we’re great friends, and I have nothing but respect for him.”

Trinity (3-2) hosts ACCS (3-2) at 7 p.m.