NHS preps for Petal

Published 12:01 am Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Natchez High School football player Davion Ward lifts weights in the Natchez High School weight room Monday afternoon. Following the workout, the Bulldogs went through the game plan for Friday’s opponent, Petal High School. (Ben Hillyer \ The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — The weights were clinging as the Natchez High School football players were preparing for another week of practice Monday afternoon.

The Bulldogs devote Mondays to strength and conditioning, as well as a walkthrough of the game plan for Fridays, head coach Lance Reed said. Maintaining physical strength and stamina is important in having a strong season, he added.

“This gives us an opportunity to withstand the wear and tear of a long, hard season,” Reed said. “We’re trying to work out the body and do things of that sort, so it’s important to spend time in the weight room.”

NHS (6-1, 2-1) will need that strength if it wants to win Friday night at home. The Bulldogs will host Petal High School, a new addition to this year’s realigned MHSAA Region 3-6A. And Petal will also bring a player that’s renowned in Mississippi.

“They have a quarterback, Anthony Alford, who was the Mississippi Gatorade Player of the Year last year,” Reed said. “He’s a tremendous athlete. He can run well, and he can pass as well. He’s an all-around talented player.”

The Bulldogs will be hoping for more production from the passing game this week. Against Forest Hill last Friday, NHS managed just 23 yards through the air.

“We have to get more confident there and execute our schemes passing-wise,” Reed said. “It’s all about practice, repetition and developing confidence. That’s what will get our passing game (where it needs to be).”

With running back Larry Chatman out with an undisclosed injury for two weeks, the Bulldogs’ other running backs will have to step up. One of them did last week as NHS escaped Forest Hill with a win: Denzel Washington.

Quarterback Derrian Johnson was able to pull his share of the weight Friday night, rushing for 106 yards on 17 attempts. But it was Washington that made the game-deciding play for the Bulldogs.

The sophomore running back scored from 4 yards out Friday night at Forest Hill, giving NHS an early 7-0 lead. It would be the only touchdown of the game, as the Bulldogs went on to win.

“It was my fourth touchdown of the year,” Washington said. “I like to get the heavy yards. I just try to do whatever it takes.”

Reed said he had no idea the early run by Washington would be the difference in the game.

“We felt we were getting on a roll and it would be an early start to a lot more scores,” Reed said. “It was a hard-fought game. We had our chances to score, we just didn’t capitalize.”

Washington, who led all Bulldog running backs in rushing with 60 yards on 10 carries, said as a between-the-tackles type of runner, his main goal is to just get first downs.

“It feels great,” Washington said of leading the running backs in rushing last week. “It was the first time this year. Our offensive line is really good as zone pulling, where the offensive guard pulls around and picks up whoever comes (after us) first.

“I think it throws the defense off and opens up holes for me.”

Reed also said he’s been impressed with the young running back carrying the load in the trenches.

“He has toughness,” Reed said. “He runs hard, and that’s his biggest asset. He’ll get those tough yards. We don’t expect a 90-yard run, we just expect him to get 5 yards. If he can do that every time, that’s something positive.”

And Reed said he’s not surprised Washington is stepping up, even though he’s just a sophomore.

“We’re not shy about putting in young guys,” Reed said. “Here at Natchez High, we have to play guys who are ready to play.”

With Washington’s performance last week, Reed said he’s hoping all of the running backs on the team’s squad will help carry the load until Chatman returns.

“It kind of shows you what teamwork is all about,” Reed said. “Our guys stepped up when it was necessary, and it’s a good example of guys stepping in and getting the job done.”

Kickoff at NHS is at 7 p.m. Friday.