Bulldogs try to shake off loss

Published 12:01 am Thursday, September 30, 2010

NATCHEZ — After a heartbreaking 24-20 loss to Meridian last week, Natchez High coach Lance Reed knows his Bulldogs can’t hang their heads.

Doing so might already put them on the outside of the playoff race.

The Bulldogs (4-1) travel to Hattiesburg to take on the Oak Grove Warriors (2-2), and the Bulldogs can’t afford an 0-2 start in the always tough Region 3-6A.

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“We definitely wouldn’t like that, but we’ve been there before,” Reed said. “We’d like to get back on track in district and position ourselves to get into the playoffs and make a better run at it this year.”

One week after facing the No. 2 ranked Wildcats, the Bulldogs will take on the defending South State champions, and a team that Reed said is much more talented than its 2-2 record might indicate.

“Oak Grove is always one of the top programs in the state,” Reed said. “We’re going to face a very tough challenge. Their record doesn’t reflect their ability. They have very good athletes and are well-coached.”

The Bulldogs defeated Oak Grove 48-45 last season in perhaps the program’s biggest win since defeating Hattiesburg 35-34 in the 1997 state playoff quarterfinals.

But Reed knows in order to defeat the Warriors again, they must cut down on turnovers. The Bulldogs have five costly turnovers in last week’s loss.

“Mistake-free football is our goal,” Reed said. “If we are able to play mistake-free football, we feel like we have an opportunity against anyone in the state. Our key focus is for us to play hard, but limit our errors.”

Oak Grove is the defending South State champion, but lost several standout players from that team, including quarterback James McMahon and wide receiver Steve McNair Jr.

The Warriors struggled a little coming out of the game, with losses to Petal (26-21) and Laurel (29-8). However, they destroyed Wingfield 54-0 last week to start 1-0 in region play.

Despite the loss of two of their top offensive weapons from last season, the Warriors still like to throw the ball down the field from a spread formation, which means the Natchez secondary will have its biggest test of the season.

“They will run it when available, but they definitely can chunk it around,” Reed said. “This will be our first test against a strong passing team. Our secondary will be heavily challenged.”