Ferriday, NHS players eat

Published 12:01 am Thursday, September 1, 2011

Natchez High School’s Derrian Johnson, from left, Xavier Green and Natchez head football coach Lance Reed have lunch with Ferriday athletic director James Davis, center, Ferriday High School’s Richard Jefferson, from right, Carlon McKell and Ferriday Head coach Richard Oliver Wednesday afternoon at the Eola Hotel in downtown Natchez. (Eric Shelton \ The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — Quarterbacks Derrian Johnson and Richard Jefferson were passing the salt and handing off iced teas at the Eola Hotel Wednesday.

In two days, though, they’ll start passing and handing off footballs in order to try to beat each other on the field in the 2011 version of the rivalry between Natchez High School and Ferriday High School.

Johnson, along with fellow Natchez teammate Xavier Green and coach Lance Reed, met for lunch with Ferriday’s Jefferson, Carlon McKeel and coach Richard Oliver as a way to unite the two schools before they battle on the field Friday.

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“I think this is a great idea,” Reed said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to get together.”

Administrators from both schools participated in the luncheon as well, and Ferriday principal Michelle Bethea said she hopes to continue to establish a relationship between the two schools.

“This is the third year for the Miss-Lou Classic, but it’s the first year we got together for a luncheon,” she said. “We’re going to start doing it every year.

“It’s important to get together and establish a school rivalry, and a good friendly relationship especially with the schools. We want to come together as a community.”

Oliver said he liked the idea as well.

“I think it’s a good gesture of friendship, and it helps hype up the game, and it’s good exposure for the kids” he said.

Friday will mark the third-straight season that Natchez and Ferriday have faced each other, and the players on both sides said there is a friendly rivalry developing.

“It’s definitely a friendly rivalry, but it might get a little heated Friday,” Green said.

Jefferson said the lunch was a good opportunity for the future foes to get to know one another.

“It’s real nice to get to talk to them before the big game Friday,” he said.

Although the two sides came together in friendship Wednesday, by Friday it will be time for both coaches to get back to business and Oliver and Reed both said they see a lot of similarities in their two teams on the field.

“We’ve seen Natchez’s film and on offense they look exactly like us,” Oliver said.

Reed said Ferriday reminded him more of his team than they reminded him of either of Natchez’s previous two opponents.

“I would compare them to us,” he said. “They play fast and aggressive, and their quarterback and running back are key players on their team, like us.”

Reed said with all the similarities between the two teams, the game will likely come down to execution.

“We’ll just have to keep our composure, and play error-free football. The team that makes fewer errors will win,” he said.

Natchez already has victories over Wilkinson County and Jefferson County under its belt, while Ferriday is playing its first regular season game.

Ferriday won its jamboree 20-7 over Vidalia last week, and Oliver said his team spent this week working on making themselves better more than planning for what Natchez will do. He said he expects to see improvement this week when they take the field against the Bulldogs.

“From the jamboree to the first game we expect to get a lot better,” he said. “The biggest jump in getting better play comes between the jamboree to the first game.”

Both coaches said stopping each other’s rushing attack would be critical in the outcome of the contest.

Green said he knows that Ferriday will be a tough test for his Bulldogs.

“They are a powerhouse,” he said. “They got a lot of key players and a good running game.”

Johnson said a win Friday would be more special because it would be over a local rival.

“I like beating the local teams,” he said.

The Ferriday players have been held out of school all week due to issues at the Ferriday water plant, and Jefferson and McKeel said they have used that time to prepare for Natchez.

“It gives us extra time to go over our studies and look at film,” Jefferson said.

“We have all day to practice now,” McKeel added.

Oliver and Ferriday assistant principal and athletic director James Davis said the water issues would not affect Friday night’s game.

Players will have plenty of water, and portable toilets will be provided for fans, Davis said.

Natchez and Ferriday will kickoff at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Ferriday.