‘Home’ coming to visit: Ferriday assistant ready to square off against former team

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ferriday High School assistant coach Elbert Lyles, formerly the head coach at Wilkinson County High School, discusses Wilkinson County’s offensive line during practice Tuesday evening. Ferriday hosts Wilkinson County on Friday for its homecoming game. (Lauren Wood \ The Natchez Democrat)

FERRIDAY — For Ferriday High School, it’s homecoming. For Elbert “Mo” Lyles, it’s his old home coming to see him.

The Trojans’ linebackers/running backs coach will see many familiar faces Friday night when Ferriday hosts Wilkinson County High School (4-0) for homecoming. Lyles was head coach at Wilkinson County from 2008-2010, but he said this week’s game isn’t any different as far as the team’s preparation.

“It’s really just another ball game,” Lyles said. “I lock everything else out. We’re just trying to win. It’s homecoming, so it’s a big ball game for us.”

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Lyles said he stepped down as head coach of the Wildcats prior to the 2011 season due to personal reasons, but he stuck around at the school as a teacher. When the Ferriday job opened up with new head coach Cleothis Cummings, Lyles said it made too much sense for him.

“I was looking for a change at the time, and the opportunity presented itself,” Lyles said. “I sat down with Coach Cummings and liked what he wanted to do with the program.”

Lyles said it was Cummings’ dedication to both the school and the community that made Lyles want to coach on his staff.

“He’s a product of (Ferriday),” Lyles said. “Unlike the coaches before him, he’s committed to the program and community.”

Despite a one-year hiatus, Lyles said he knew he’d eventually get back into coaching after stepping down at Wilkinson County. In the meantime, he got a chance to watch his son, Elbert Jr., compete in basketball, football, track and baseball in the Natchez public school system.

“I enjoyed the break,” Lyles said. “I just like the teaching part of coaching. I played the game, and I like passing it on.”

Lyles said the Trojans’ program is a work in progress. With a 1-2 start to the season, Lyles said the program is headed in the right direction.

“(Cummings) is building a program,” Lyles said. “There’s a difference between that and winning ball games. I think we’re basically on schedule. A lot of people look at it as wins and losses, but there’s a lot more to it than that.”

It’s not much different than what he was trying to do at Wilkinson County, Lyles said.

“I enjoyed every minute of (coaching there),” Lyles said. “I don’t regret a thing. Even now, to see them successful is great. Of course, we don’t want them to be too successful this week. This is the only time I root against them.”

Wilkinson County’s main key to success is their experience, Lyles said.

“On offense and defense, I don’t think they have anyone who doesn’t have experience,” he said. “They have a very seasoned ball club. We’re hoping they make some mistakes.”

Wildcats quarterback Devin Voorhies may be in the middle of a breakout season this fall for, but Lyles said is not surprised by the Wildcats’ quarterback’s success.

Lyles coached the junior signal-caller as a freshman in his final season at Wilkinson County, and he spoke highly of his former quarterback.

“He’s just a good all-around kid, as an athlete and in the classroom,” Lyles said. “He’s a coachable kid, and he just has God-given talent. Just like in college and the pros, the quarterback plays a major role with the team, and Wilkinson County is no exception.”

In Ferriday’s case, the Trojans will have to set the tone early if they want to keep up with the Wildcats.

“Attacking them from the start, not making mistakes and trying to shut their offense down is key,” Lyles said.

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