Natchez’s playoff hopes hinge on victory over Hattiesburg

Published 12:16 am Thursday, November 5, 2009

NATCHEZ — The schedule says the MHSAA Class 6A playoffs don’t begin until next week, but for the Natchez High Bulldogs, the playoffs are already here.

The Bulldogs face a must-win situation Friday at Hattiesburg if they want to make the playoffs for the second consecutive year.

A win over the Tigers gives the Bulldogs a second-place finish in Region 3-6A, which means they will host a first round playoff game.

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However, a loss, combined with a Brandon victory over Wingfield, will drop Natchez all the way down to fifth place, which means they will miss the playoffs as only the top four teams advance.

“We’re taking the approach that this is a playoff game,” Natchez head coach Lance Reed said. “If we win, we keep playing. If we lose, we go home.”

Technically, Natchez (7-3, 4-2) could still make the playoffs with a loss, but only if Brandon loses to a Wingfield team that has not won a game all season and lost to Natchez 66-34 last Saturday.

Needless to say, Reed knows his team had better beat Hattiesburg if they want to advance to the postseason.

And that is something a Reed-coached Natchez team has never done.

“It’s been awhile since Natchez has beaten Hattiesburg,” Reed said. “We haven’t beaten them since I’ve been here. We’ve been close a couple of times (including last year’s 19-14 loss), but we’re up for the challenge and we’re ready to get over that hump.”

And in order to do that, Reed says Natchez’s defense will have to stop Hattiesburg’s standout running back Marcquise Hosey.

“They have a great running back who is the backbone of their offense,” Reed said. “We definitely want to stop the run against these guys. We want to make them have to throw the football. Our emphasis this week has been to contain their great running back.”

Hattiesburg (6-4, 4-2) is coming off a shocking 13-0 loss to Terry last Friday, but Reed doesn’t expect that Hattiesburg team to show up this Friday.

“Hattiesburg reminds us so much of ourselves,” Reed said. “At times they play on a high level and at other times they may not. Whichever is the better team that shows up on Friday night will be victorious.”