Tigers past tough part of district play

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Fayette — The good news for Jefferson County is that it has gotten past the tough part of its Region 7-3A schedule.

The three teams district teams they’ve played ranked in the top 10 in Class 3A — No. 5 South Pike, No. 7 Franklin County and No. 6 Tylertown.

But before the Tigers take on district opponents North Pike and Wilkinson County with a possibility of still making the Class 3A playoffs, they will have go up against one of the best teams in Class 4A in the Lawrence County Cougars at Monticello.

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Jefferson County head coach James Herrington said a win over a good Lawrence County team will give the Tigers a lot of momentum going into those final two regular-season games.

“Coming into this game, we feel like we’ve got a chance to win,” Herrington said.

And both teams are going in opposite directions. Jefferson County is 3-4 overall on a three-game losing streak after having a three-game winning streak. The Tigers were just two plays away from being 5-2 overall and 3-1 in 7-3A instead of 1-3.

Lawrence County, on the other hand, is 6-1 overall, ranked eighth in Class 4A in one statewide poll and has won six straight since a season-opening 27-14 loss at Class 5A Petal.

The Cougars are undefeated in Region 6-4A with a 3-0 record, and during the six-game winning streak, they have scored at least 49 points in each game.

Herrington said the Tigers will be working on fighting Lawrence County’s win offense in practice.

“They’ve consistently put up big numbers against everyone they’ve played with their running game,” he said.

That does not bode well for a Jefferson County team that has struggled offensively in recent weeks.

The Tigers have averaged just under 11 points a game during their losing streak, and in last week’s 35-0 home loss to Tylertown, they turned the ball over four times.

“I think it was a hangover from the two losses (to South Pike and Franklin County,” Herrington said.

One of those turnovers was a 95-yard interception return for a touchdown.

Jefferson County’s special teams gave up an 80-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to start the second half.

Quarterback Jeffery Collins completed 10 of 21 passes but for just 87 yards. The passing game will need to be more assertive for Jefferson County to have any chance of pulling off the upset and getting back in the win column.

“We’re going to continue to run the things that we have been running. Friday night was the first time we’ve been shut out in 27 games,” Herrington said. Being an offensive coordinator, that left a debilitating taste in my mouth. We’re going to mix the run with the pass, keep their offense off the field.”

The Tigers did have some success running the ball against one of the best defenses in Class 3A last Friday night. Jason Davis and Calvin Lewis combined for 92 of the team’s 111 rushing yards.

However, the offense fumbled the ball five times and lost three of them.

The Cougars run a base 4-4 defense.

“They are pretty stout in the middle and have aggressive linebackers,” Herrington said. “Their defensive tackles go both ways, playing offensive line and defensive line.”

The Tigers’ defense held the Chiefs to just over 200 yards of total offense and intercepted two passes.

Lawrence County’s offense is run-oriented. The Cougars scored all eight of their touchdowns on the ground in a 55-12 rout of Mendenhall this past Friday.

Kendrick Hardy had three touchdown runs, while Matthew Wells and Josh Cameron each had two.

“We’ve seen them go double-tight with no split. We’ve seen them going single wing with the I. The single wing with one back,” Herrington said. “Outstanding offensive line blocking from the first level through the second level and even to the safety. It’s going to be quite a test.

As for what his defense will have to do to slow down the Cougars’ running game, Herrington said the No. 1 thing will be to tackle well.

“You can’t afford to give them extra yards,” he said.