Natchez High School senior wide receiver Lee Jackson carries the ball downfield against South Jones High School Friday night at Tom F. Williams Memorial Stadium. (Justin Sellers \ The Natchez Democrat)
Natchez High School senior wide receiver Lee Jackson carries the ball downfield against South Jones High School Friday night at Tom F. Williams Memorial Stadium. (Justin Sellers \ The Natchez Democrat)

Archived Story

NHS without Davis again as it faces undefeated Laurel

Published 12:03am Tuesday, October 15, 2013

NATCHEZ — Filling Sidney Davis’ shoes was no small feat, but Natchez High School’s Malik Byrd rose to the occasion in Friday’s blowout win versus South Jones.

Byrd, a sophomore, pulled in a pair of receptions for 111 yards and two touchdowns in NHS’s 67-7 victory on passes of 55 and 56 yards, respectively. With Davis, the Bulldogs’ regular big-play man, out recovering from a concussion, Byrd said it was important for the Bulldogs to keep making plays.

“I felt like I had to step up, and I think I did pretty good,” Byrd said. “I think (losing Davis) makes everyone have to pull their weight more, so everyone has to step up.”

Originally expected to return this week, Davis will now sit out once more as NHS (3-4, 1-2) faces the daunting task of trying to pull of an upset against Laurel High School (7-0, 3-0) on the road Friday.

“It requires someone else to take up his offensive production,” head coach Lance Reed said of missing Davis. “He’s a huge part of our offense, but someone else has to take the load and step up, and we’re looking to see who that guy will be.”

So far, Reed said Byrd managed to put himself on the coaches’ radar with his performance Friday.

“He had a great night,” Reed said. “He’s fast and dangerous with the ball, and he’s a kid we look to, to make plays for us.”

Known more for being a kick-return specialist, Byrd has now put himself in position to be a go-to receiver for the Bulldogs. But with the recognition comes increased attention, and Byrd said it will take more than him to get the job done Friday.

“I feel like my teammates will make plays and take the focus off me,” Byrd said. “I expect them to step up and make big plays.”

Making plays was one of the things Reed said his squad did well last week, and he also complimented the team’s defense for only giving up a late touchdown.

“We lined up in our base defense and held them a little bit,” Reed said. “We were just happy to get the win.”

It was the first win for the Bulldogs since a Sept. 6 victory against Ferriday High School, but Reed said his team still had a lot of improving to do — particularly with penalties. The Bulldogs were flagged 10 times for minus 100 yards last week.

“It was a long night with penalties,” Reed said. “It’s something we can’t put our finger on how to fix, but we’re working on it and trying to get them a little more focused. I think focus is a huge part of it. You just have to get creative in gathering their attention so we can pay more attention to detail.”

Quarterback Anthony Robinson had a big night for the Bulldogs Friday, going 11 for 12 in passing for 124 yards and three touchdowns. He also had six carries for 130 yards.

“I think he needed a little more time to get used to things,” Byrd said of Robinson, who missed the first several weeks of the season because of a suspension. “Once he did get used to it, I knew he’d take off.”

Reed said Laurel is undefeated for a reason, and it’s difficult to spot any weaknesses in the Golden Tornadoes.

“They’re really athletic and play hard, and they’re a balanced team that can throw and run well,” Reed said. “They play good defense, and they’re well-coached. We’re going to have our hands full, and we’re excited about it.”

Byrd said the Bulldogs would have to come out with the same intensity with which they came out last week against South Jones in order to pull off the upset.

“We just have to come out, play hard and get the win,” Byrd said. “We needed the win, and it put us in the right direction.”

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