Defense key for public school teams

Published 12:12 am Monday, October 20, 2008

NATCHEZ — Defense was the name of the game for two Natchez area MHSAA teams this week.

Jefferson County allowed 33 points to Lawrence County in their loss, but coach James Herrington said he feels his defensive players still gave a strong effort.

“Our defense played outstanding last night against a team known for their rushing attack and their high scoring,” he said. “They did an outstanding job of holding (Lawrence County’s) key player. We caused several turnovers, one for a return for a touchdown.”

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The Tigers scored 30 of their own points and had a chance to win it at the end.

Herrington said the outcome came down to who had the last possession.

“We got an opportunity to hold them and get the ball back,” he said. “We had an opportunity to stop them on the line of scrimmage on fourth down and three that would’ve gave us the ball with about 50 seconds left somewhere around midfield. But they were able to convert that.”

Despite the loss, Herrington said Jefferson County needed the good game after a flat 35-0 loss to Tylertown last week.

The Region 7-3A Tigers have to win their next two games, against North Pike and Wilkinson County, to advance to the playoffs.

“With it not being a conference game, a lot of teams would’ve laid back and tried to get ready for next week,” Herrington said. “But our guys played that game like it was a playoff game, which is good because that’s essentially what our next two games are going to be. We can’t lose anymore.”

Franklin County’s defense was also stout in a 42-6 win against previously undefeated South Pike.

The Bulldogs’ special teams play was impressive, too, blocking a punt and running the opening kickoff to South Pike’s 14-yard line.

“We got a defensive score, which always makes things a little easier when your defense gets in,” said coach Trent Hammond. “We came out of the game and had a lot of guys that contributed.”

South Pike’s plan was to take quarterback Jamie Collin’s out of the game, and that worked. Collins had nine carries, mostly quarterback sneaks for short yardage.

“We had to have other guys step up and carry the load for us,” Hammond said. “We were able to just change gears and go in it with other guys in other ways.”

Hammond said he expected a tough ball game, but things went the Bulldogs’ way early.

South Pike had only given up 20 total points to previous opponents.

The Bulldogs were up 14-0 after three plays and went into the half up 28-0.

“I think we gave up 150 total yards, and that counts a 60-yard pass play and a 40-yard running play,” Hammond said. “That shows our defense played exceptionally well. We didn’t gain a whole lot of yards, but we played with a short field all night. Our defense forced them into a lot of fourth-and-longs.”

Natchez High played a close one against Jim Hill, winning 18-14.

Coach Lance Reed said he knew the matchup wouldn’t be like last seasons 63-0 blowout.

“They were ready to play and they started off a little more intense than we were, which in turn made it a tough ballgame throughout,” he said.

The Bulldogs went ahead 6-0 early but then gave up two touchdowns. On their next score Natchez attempted a two-point conversion and failed.

But unlike previous games, Natchez managed to keep its composure when playing from behind.

“At the end of the third we finally scored again. We struggled throughout, but we persevered through the tough times of the game,” Reed said. “I’m not saying that it’s a transformation to what we really want, but all in all I’m proud that we did win.”

The Bulldogs play Terry High next Friday.

Although Terry has only won one game this season, Reed said the team is better than the record shows.

Cathedral’s 3-5 record is starting to look dismal, and so was Friday’s score.

The Green Wave fell to Puckett to the tune of 57-14, despite scoring two quick touchdowns and leading after the first quarter.

“One small mistake can lead to seven points for these teams, and it hurt us,” coach Craig Beesley said. “They had so much power up front, we knew going in that we had to have a mistake-free game. That team last night was very physical and it showed.”

Puckett forced a fumble and blocked a punt in the game, but Beesley said some of the mistakes, including the third turnover, were mental.

The Green Wave had to rely on quarterback Preston Edwards’ throwing arm. He threw two touchdowns on 9-of-25 for 122 yards and also threw one interception.

“We knew from the scouting report … that their front seven was tough and nobody in the district has been able to run against them all year,” Beesley said. (Passing) worked well — the first two times we had the ball we had two long touchdown passes. Then they kind of dropped back and played more pass coverage. And even if we did complete passes, they would make the tackle real quick.”

Cathedral hosts Pisgah on Friday.

Vidalia fell to Marksville 41-12 Friday, a week after upsetting a strong Bunkie team. Now they face Avoyelles.

Ferriday lost to Sterlington, 25-6. They will play Beau Chene on Saturday.

Wilkinson County High lost to North Pike, 20-12.