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NHS football players get work in with backyard-style games

Natchez High School wide receiver Sidney Davis runs past defensive back Cedarius Bailey after catching a pass during a game of pickup football Thursday afternoon on the field next to the Steckler Multipurpose Building. A handful of Bulldogs have taken it upon themselves to improve their game in anticipation of this upcoming season. (Michael Kerekes \ The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — Since there’s no offensive line, Jacorey Carter simply lines up with the rest of the receivers and goes out for a pass.

It may seem odd to watch a lineman attempt to make a play in the open field, but Carter, a rising junior, isn’t afraid to go against — or talk smack to —a group of his fellow athletes on the Natchez High School football team.

“I’m working on my trash talking so that when I get in the game, if you get in their heads, you’ve got them the rest of the game,” Carter said. “I get out here and get in these boys’ heads, and then get in the game and get in those boys’ heads.”

For some Bulldog players like Carter, it’s not enough simply to lift weights during seventh period. A handful of Bulldogs have taken it upon themselves to improve their game in anticipation of this upcoming season by playing a friendly game of backyard football.

As often as they can, the group of approximately 10 players takes to the open field next to the Steckler Multipurpose Building for a game of pickup. Each team has four downs to get a first down by crossing midfield and another four to score a touchdown. The first team to score 35 wins, and there’s no rushing the quarterback unless he takes off.

Though the NHS coaches cannot mandate the players do anything outside of strength and conditioning right now, head coach Lance Reed said he supports his players that want to put in extra work after school.

“It’s kind of a thing that’s stuck with our program for several years now,” Reed said. “We preach hard work, and those guys go out and take the initiative to get better. We really do see signs of them getting better just by going out there and working on their own.”

Carter said the running around doesn’t help with his particular skill set as a lineman, but it does help him lose weight and improve his stamina.

“(The coaches) help us grind in there (during weightlifting), and we come out here and grind,” Carter said. “We can’t do anything but get better.”

Sidney Davis, a rising junior at wide receiver, said playing pickup football helps tremendously with his particular skill set.

“It helps with covering man-to-man and just working on your routes and your hand-eye coordination,” Davis said.

Defensive back Cedarius Bailey, who will also be a junior this fall, said he can tell his coverage skills have improved since the group began playing regularly following Christmas break.

“It helps me get better at my man coverage skills,” Bailey said. “I’m just doing it for the team, trying to get better.”

Rising junior John Ferguson, who will see time at defensive back and running back this fall, said he enjoys playing with a group that has a good attitude and is motivated to put in extra work.

“We just want to get better so we can get ready for the season,” Ferguson said.

And the group’s dedication isn’t limited to just the weight room or the practice field, Reed said.

“We try to emphasize using that same kind of effort in the classroom,” Reed said. “If they can work that hard every day and do that with their skills, they’ll do the same in the classroom and succeed.”

In fact, the players are so dedicated that Reed said it’s hard to get them to stop after a productive day.

“We have to make them go home. They’ll go out there and stay and play all day,” Reed said.