Natchez High, Jefferson County square off in opener
NATCHEZ — Rivalry games are typically played toward the end of the season, but Natchez High and Jefferson County are getting a head start.
At 7:30 p.m. Friday, the Bulldogs will play at Jefferson County for both team’s opening game of the season. Natchez head coach Lance Reed said he’s expecting to see a physically imposing team in the Tigers.
“They’re a very athletic team, a very big team, and we’re expecting a very physical game,” Reed said.
“We only hope their skill players come down when we hit them (the first time), but we have to catch them first. They’re one of the fastest teams in the state, and they play up to their speed.”
Jefferson County coach James Herrington also had good things to say about the Bulldogs.
“They’ve always been a well-coached team every time we’ve played them,” Herrington said.
“They’re pretty solid execution-wise, and pretty speedy. Their quarterback (Javon Washington) is their greatest asset. As he goes, they go.”
With such a dynamic player to contend with, Herrington said his team would have to be mistake free on the defensive side of the ball.
“Basically, we just have to play disciplined, sound football. They’re a team that looks to capitalize on mistakes made being undisciplined on defense. We have to play disciplined and make them spread it out to try and beat us,” he said.
Both coaches are also well aware of how serious the Jefferson County-Natchez High rivalry is.
“At this point in the season, you especially want to get a game in. It’s nice playing Jefferson County, because it’s a big rivalry for us. Each team is looking for bragging rights for the rest of the year,” Reed said.
And Herrington said the losing team has to hear about it all year long.
“With (the schools) being so close, dating back even when I played here in the ‘90s, it was always a big rivalry. The kids and people in the community know each other so well, it’s about bragging rights,” Herrington said.
“Our kids are always up in a game against Natchez. From when the last second ticks off the clock from (the previous) season, whoever loses has to hear about it from the fans and neighboring county fans. It’s a year-round thing. Our guys are definitely excited to have the opportunity to avenge the (59-24) loss from last year.”
After both teams participated in the Natchez High Jamboree last Friday, Reed and Herrington each noticed things their teams needed to improve leading into the game.
“We’ve been working on special teams, and we’ll see how much things have improved. It’s a very, very important aspect of the game,” Reed said.
“We hold it to the highest of importance, and already spent a lot of time on it. Obviously, we needed to spend more time on it, because special teams can win or lose a game for you.”
Meanwhile, mental awareness is the focus for Jefferson County as it prepares for Friday’s matchup.
“We just need to be sharper with execution and with being smart. Making smart decisions and making sure we’re taking care of our assignments is key,” Herrington said.