Bulldogs not focused on past

Published 12:07 am Friday, November 7, 2008

NATCHEZ — No matter how many times Franklin County has been to the playoffs, it doesn’t matter.

Coach Trent Hammond knows 2008 is a new season, a new opportunity for his team to reach the 3A state championship, or a new chance for the Bulldogs to fail.

Region 7 Franklin County was the state champion in 2006 and reached the final game again this past season, falling to Louisville.

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But Hammond and the Bulldogs say that is in the past.

“Each year’s a different year,” Hammond said. “Last year is over, and no matter how much you want to revel in your successes of the past you’ve got to come back and play this season. You can be the greatest team, you can get all excited and happy and focus on last year, and it gets you nothing.”

Nothing is certainly not what the Bulldogs (9-1, 5-1) are looking for Friday, when they host Southeast Lauderdale.

The Tigers are 4-5 and 3-3 in Region 5 play, with two shutout losses and two more losses by less than 6 points.

Franklin County might hold a better record, but Hammond said that doesn’t matter either.

This, he said, is like a whole new season.

“Winning is contagious. The kids want to win, and they expect to win,” he said. “But it’s a one-week-at-a-time deal. You can’t worry about how many wins they got. It’s like a ladder with five steps on it. You got to play your way to the top.”

To get past the Tigers of Meridian, the Bulldogs will have to be in top form.

Hammond said Southeast Lauderdale runs a slim but effective offensive playbook.

“They have a big running back they like to run,” he said. “They like to get you where you’re tired of tackling him. They have a big, tall wide out — he’s like, 6-foot-4, 200 pounds. Every now and then they try to throw the ball downfield to him and get him in open space there.”

On defense, the Tigers will force Bulldog quarterback Jamie Collins to be on his best game.

The offensive line will also have its work cut out.

“They are a scrappy little defense, and they play a five-man front,” Hammond said. “We’ve got to concentrate on knowing where they are all the time because they do a lot of moving around. We have to hold our blocks, stay on our man and give ourselves a running lane. They’re hard to trap, and they don’t stay blocked very long.”

Southeast Lauderdale lost in the first round of playoffs last year to Magee. The year before that the Tigers fell in the second round, and they were not in the playoffs three seasons ago.

But all Hammond said the Bulldogs have now is the present, and that is all he will let them see.

“Each game brings a lot of nervousness for the kids,”

he said. “But you have to remember we are talking about 15-, 16- and 17-year-old young men. It’s a big deal to them. It doesn’t matter how many times you get there, you always have that fact that in playoffs you either win or you go home.”