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Natchez, Wilkinson Co. to battle it out tonight

NATCHEZ — Another week, another cross-county rivalry game for Natchez High.

After a 41-14 win against Jefferson County last Friday, the Bulldogs hope to make it two in a row against area rivals when they take on Wilkinson County at 7:30 tonight.

But NHS head coach Lance Reed isn’t selling this year’s Wilkinson County team short.

“They’re a very improved team with great athletes. We expect them to be jacked up for us, and we expect it to be a very competitive match-up,” Reed said.

Wilkinson County head coach Elbert Lyles said the Bulldogs will bring a formidable offense to the table, headlined by senior quarterback Javon Washington.

“They seem to have their timing down as far as execution from an offensive standpoint,” Lyles said.

“With it being the beginning of the season, they seem to be on schedule or a little bit ahead of schedule with what they’re doing offensively, so that gives them an edge.

“Javon is going to make some plays and do some things. We just have to play together, do our job and carry out our responsibilities. We have to counteract him and make him do some things he doesn’t want to do, in order to maybe throw him off a bit.”

As for Reed, he said he’s wary of Wilkinson County athlete Devin Fosselman, and the explosiveness he brings for his offense.

“We have to do our best to play sound defense and contain him. He’s going to make plays, we’re just going to have to slow him down relative to his strengths,” Reed said.

“We have to focus on containing big plays and being efficient with our offense. If we do that, we feel like we can be successful.”

One thing Natchez has been focusing on ever since its jamboree game is special teams, and Reed said he did see improvement in that area last week against Jefferson County.

“Our kickoff team was a concern, but we’ve worked on it and are getting better there.

“We definitely need to work on other areas of special teams, because we don’t want to get hurt there,” Reed said.

On the other hand, Wilkinson County doesn’t have a game under its belt yet, with its opening date being last week while the rest of the MHSAA teams began their season.

“I really don’t know if there’s an advantage or disadvantage to that. It does give you more time to work on some things, but Natchez has a game under its belt and we don’t,” Lyles said.

And Wilkinson County has been using the extra time to make sure the players understand their assignments, Lyles said.

“We’re just trying to work on getting kids where we need to be and doing the things we need to do to be a good football team.

“We want to get them to execute and know what they’re doing, where they’re supposed to be, and things of that nature,” Lyles said.

In addition to having the right assignments down, Lyles also said not shooting themselves in the foot will be a big key for his players.

“We can’t make mistakes that cost us. We have to execute and move the football, try to get started early and not put ourselves in a hole. We want to be in a position where we have a chance to win the ball game in the end,” Lyles said.

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