Natchez High School’s Sidney Davis drags Forest Hill defenders Trakarius King and E’mon Thompson down the field in last week’s win. The Bulldogs will travel to Petal High School Friday. (Ben Hillyer \ The Natchez Democrat)

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NHS set to travel to top-ranked Petal

Published 12:01am Thursday, October 11, 2012

NATCHEZ — Having already knocked off a No. 1 team, Natchez High School is gunning for another top-ranked school Friday.

The Bulldogs (6-1, 3-0) travel to Petal High School (6-1, 3-0) Friday, and the Panthers are currently ranked No. 1 in MHSAA Class 6A and No. 2 overall in The Associated Press Mississippi prep football poll.

But NHS head coach Lance Reed said he’s not buying into the ranking hype as his team looks to continue a strong start in Region 3-6A.

“Those things mean very little to us,” Reed said. “No coach in the state pays big attention to it. It’s who’s standing at the end of the year that’s the most important.”

It’s not totally unfamiliar territory for NHS, which knocked off Meridian High School Sept. 21. The Wildcats were ranked No. 1 in Class 6A and overall entering into the game.

But NHS defensive lineman Shedrick Green said there are a couple of big differences between the game with Meridian and the upcoming one with Petal.

“Not that we weren’t focused for Meridian, but we’re a lot more focused this time around,” Green said. “We know we’re not going to surprise anyone anymore. We’ll get their best game, and we’re going to have to bring an even better game than we brought to Meridian.”

Though he doesn’t buy into the state rankings, Reed said Petal’s reputation as a top team is justified.

“They execute, and they attack you in your weak areas,” Reed said. “They have excellent players who make plays. They’ve played tough opponents, especially non-district-wise. They’re hitting on all cylinders right now.”

Tightening special teams play and becoming better students of the game are two areas Reed says the Bulldogs are focusing on in practice this week.

“We want to have a better understanding of our opponent and execute on Friday night,” Reed said.

One area the Bulldogs might have an advantage is the size of their offensive line versus the Petal defensive line. But Reed said that also holds true for Petal’s offensive line, which is bigger than the Bulldogs’ defensive line.

“Technique is going to be a big thing,” Reed said. “We coach them up each week. Coach (Jerry) Baldwin does a good job with those guys.”

Green said he and his fellow defensive linemen would have to use their speed and quickness to counter Petal’s size in the trenches.

“We’re going to have to get our pads under them, get low and come off the ball,” Green said.

Getting low in a head-to-head matchup with a bigger lineman helps negate the size advantage, Green said.

“When you’re lower than the other person, you use their weight against them,” Green said. “Their weight and size advantage doesn’t come into play. It gives you leverage.”

Kickoff is at 7 p.m. Friday at Petal.