Tigers pumped to play Simpson

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 14, 2004

JACKSON &045; This isn’t David vs. Goliath.

That’s what Centreville would like you to know. Simpson Academy is a heavy favorite in the MPSA Division AA championship game against the Tigers tonight, but Centreville doesn’t want to be counted out before the game even starts. The Tigers say a Centreville win wouldn’t be a big surprise.

&uot;We have to come out and play as hard as we can. We’re underdogs,&uot; Centreville quarterback Jennings Field said. &uot;You just have to set all that aside and play our game.&uot;

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Simpson hasn’t lost a game in more than two years and beat Madison-Ridgeland Academy, a Class AAA finalist, 28-6 in the regular season. Some have said the Cougars might be the best team in the MPSA regardless of class.

&uot;There’s just no weaknesses on them,&uot; Centreville head coach Bill Hurst said.

But Centreville is no slouch either. The Tigers’ only loss of the year came by one point at the hands of Parklane Academy. What Centreville lacks in size and speed it makes up for in execution and toughness. The Tigers also have senior leadership in the form of 16 seniors, including Field, running back Blake Devall and linebacker A.J. Dooley who have all been crucial to the success of the team.

Devall is a major reason the Tigers have a chance tonight. The senior running back for Centreville has carried the bulk of the offensive load this season as the primary ball-carrier.

&uot;I think the key for both teams is to run the ball and stop the run on defense,&uot; Simpson head coach Billy Hankins said. &uot;We have to stop Devall. At this point, they’ve seen every defense there is. We’ll just play the way we play and do the best we can.&uot;

The game will feature two teams that look remarkably similar. Both teams like to run the ball and play tough, physical defense. The team that can do both of those successfully will almost certainly win.

Look for Centreville to use the pass more than most people expect. The Tigers have had more success throwing the ball in the past few weeks than earlier in the season. Furthermore, with a tough Simpson defensive line, it may be easier to throw over them than run through or around them.

&uot;I feel better about the pass right now than the run,&uot; Devall said. &uot;We have good wide receivers.&uot;

On the other side of the ball, the Centreville defense will have its hands full with a mammoth Cougar offensive line and two large, talented running backs in Dan Napier and Preston Harris.

&uot;(Stopping Napier and Harris is) going to be a full-time task,&uot; Hurst said. &uot;They have speed and size in the backfield and have an outstanding offensive line.&uot;

The Tigers have allowed a total of 12 points in their last four games and shut out Adams Christian and Oak Forest in the first two rounds of the playoffs. The improved defense is in large part due to changes the team made during the season.

The Tigers are employing a five-man front on defense, putting more pressure up front to stop the run and relying on their secondary to take care of the pass.

&uot;We changed some things and really picked it up,&uot; Hurst said. &uot;We moved back to a five-man front. Right now, they’re playing better than the offense.&uot;