Smoke to clear in Region 7-3A as Tigers visit Port Gibson, WC on road

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 31, 2004

FAYETTE &045; There are always bragging rights on the line when Jefferson County meets up with Port Gibson to end the season.

But there’s much more than that this season.

The annual rumble of neighboring schools will come with a reward for the winner: a guaranteed playoff berth. The loser may still get in if Wilkinson County loses to Franklin County, provided all the scenarios come into play with Amite County facing North Pike as well.

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Regardless, both the Tigers (2-3, 4-5) and Blue Waves (2-3, 3-6) want to win Friday as MHSAA schools in the Miss-Lou enter Week 10.

&uot;We’re not going to worry about it right now &045; if we win, we’re in; if we lose, we’re out,&uot; JC head coach Jeffrey Harness said. &uot;It’s been a tough year, but our guys have stuck through it. It’ll be another tough year. There’s a lot of parity in the district. Every game you have comes down to the wire. Port Gibson will be up for us. It’s all about who comes to the field ready to play.&uot;

The winner will get the No. 3 seed in 7-3A and avoid entering the postseason as the No. 4 seed and having the luck of the draw in visiting Tylertown in the first round of the playoffs. The Tigers need a win to get in for the second straight season but may still get in if they lose, Wilkinson County (2-3, 6-3) loses and North Pike (1-4, 1-8) beats Amite (1-4, 1-7) on head-to-head.

Wilkinson can get in with a loss if Jefferson County loses and Amite wins based on point spread, and Port Gibson can get in if it loses, Wilkinson loses and Amite wins.

At least the Tigers have a little momentum on their side. Despite losing their best player earlier this season and switching quarterbacks recently, they put up a competitive game last week against Hazlehurst before took a 14-6 win to clinch the region championship.

&uot;We did a good job last week,&uot; Harness said. &uot;It was a defensive ball game. They had an interception returned for a touchdown. I knew they had a very good defense coming in, and we moved the ball in spurts but were never able to score.

&uot;They’re a very good team. They’re probably the best team we’ve played this year &045; between them and Franklin County.&uot;

Jimmy Shorter ran for over 100 yards against the Indians, and if the replacement for Ernest Havard can do that against the Blue Waves Friday, it’ll put his team in good shape. Port Gibson has given up a number of points this season, a region-worst 297 points.

But the Blue Waves can put up the points as well, and that’s what concerns the Tigers.

&uot;They have a veteran ball club and a new coaching staff,&uot; Harness said. &uot;They’re doing real well. They’ve got a good passing game, and they throw the ball very well. They’ve got several good receivers and a good quarterback. That’s the reason they’ve won the ball games they’ve won.

Wilkinson at Franklin

WOODVILLE &045; There is still a chance at redemption for the Wildcats. A team that was picked to compete with Franklin County and Hazlehurst in Region 7-3A has been eaten up with injuries at the skill positions in recent weeks.

A season of promise got derailed, but hope remains in Friday’s season finale at Franklin County.

&uot;If we win, we’re in &045; it’s as simple as that,&uot; WC head coach John Moore said. &uot;If we don’t, that’s it. There are no other (scenarios). We’ve been having (injuries) throughout pretty good. Our backs got hurt, and our receivers have knee injuries. It hasn’t been season-ending injuries. It’s been nagging injuries.&uot;

The Wildcats (2-3, 6-3) sit tied for third place with Jefferson County and Port Gibson, who play each other Friday and sport 2-3 marks in region. If Wilkinson County loses Friday, the loss will bump it from the playoffs since it has no head-to-head edge on either team.

The Wildcats hope to have players back healthy for Friday. Backs Alvin Fosselman (knee) and LaKendrick Russ (ankle) are limping, as is guard LaKendrick McDonald (shoulder) and receiver Cameron Russ (knee).

Franklin County has the playoff spot locked up as the No. 2 seed and will likely host Columbia in the first round of the playoffs next week.

&uot;We thought we could be right in there with them,&uot; Moore said. &uot;But we’ve had a couple of tough losses, and (injuries) had a lot to do with it, too. This is a must-win. They’re 8-1, and that ought to speak for itself.&uot;

Oak Grove at Natchez

NATCHEZ &045; Next year may have officially begun with the Bulldogs as the first season of Lance Reed’s tenure comes to a close.

The Bulldogs (0-5, 1-8) host Oak Grove in their final home game Friday night as they try to finish on a positive note. The team has given up more points this season than anyone in 5A but had their moments on offense with the passing game.

Now the coaching staff will turn to younger players to begin building for the 2005 season.

&uot;Our young kids have stuck through this thing,&uot; Reed said. &uot;They’re a big part of the positive future we’re expecting. They’ve practiced with the varsity all year and have played on Friday nights. We have high expectations for some of those kids. For them to get in there and see what it takes on Friday, it puts them ahead of where a regular sophomore would be next year.&uot;

A win would give the Bulldogs as many this season as the previous three seasons combined, but areas of concern still exist. The team went to work this week on correcting problems on special teams, but punter Riley Trask will return this week.

Defensive end C.J. Wright may still be out with a knee injury. The defense struggled at times last week stopping the run against Northwest Rankin, while Wright was suited up but did not play.

Trask will also return at quarterback and rotate with sophomore Jason Bruce.

&uot;We’re taking him pretty slow coming back from that injury,&uot; Reed said. &uot;We’re kind of watching how he’s practicing this week to determine if we put him in on Friday. He’s ready and wanting to go, but we’re going to be really patient with him.

&uot;Riley will be back. They’ll know by game time who will start it off, but it’ll definitely be a rotation. (Bruce) is an example of the young kids we’ve got. We’re asking a lot out of them.&uot;