Jefferson County to take on undefeated Hazlehurst

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, October 17, 2012

fayette — The Jefferson County High School football team was sitting with a 1-4 record on Sept. 14.

But region play brought new life to the Tigers, and they managed to put their tough start behind them and will have a chance Friday to win MHSAA Region 7-3A outright.

To complete the turnaround, the Tigers must take down undefeated Hazlehurst High School, a team whose last loss came in last season’s state championship game.

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“(Our guys) are very excited,” head coach James Herrington said. “They know the gravity of the game and know what lies in the balance.

The town is excited. A couple of weeks ago, who would have thought we would have been here at home playing for the (region) championship in one of the toughest regions. This is what you live for.”

Hazlehurst’s biggest strength is its experience in games of this magnitude, Herrington said.

“They have championship experience,” he said. “They won the region last year, won south state and competed tough in the state championship game.

“They brought back a number of players from that team with experience in big games.”

The Indians will definitely have the size advantage on both lines of scrimmage, Herrington said.

“They do a lot of different things, and they do them well,” he said.

The Tigers have to continue to run the ball effectively and avoid big mistakes to pull the upset, Herrington said.

“The most important thing is to take care of the football,” he said. “Against a top-ranked opponent and a solid football club such as Hazlehurst, you definitely can’t afford to give them anything.”

In Herrington’s eight years as head coach for the Tigers, the team has only competed for the region title once. In 2007 Jefferson County and South Pike both finished 5-1 in the region, but South Pike won the head-to-head matchup and got the title.

“We are back at that same crossroad again, where Hazlehurst is 3-0 and we are 3-0,” he said.

Jefferson County (5-4, 3-0) will host Hazlehurst (9-0, 3-0) at 7 p.m. Friday.

Wilkinson County versus Crystal Springs

WOODVILLE — The Wilkinson County High School football team was running full speed toward a dominating 2012 football season.

But the Wildcats hit the wall of region play two weeks ago, and two-straight losses have them on the verge of missing out on postseason play.

After a 6-0 start, consecutive losses to MHSAA Region 7-3A foes Jefferson County, Hazlehurst have the Wildcats reeling and in need of a victory against Crystal Springs this week.

“We are trying to get in their minds that this is the postseason now,” head coach Kenneth Brown said. “This is a game we must win. This is the beginning of our postseason coming up Friday. They playoffs start Friday.”

The Wildcats are currently tied with Franklin County and Prentiss for third place in the region.

Brown said Crystal Springs runs a versatile offense, but if the Wildcats manage to play their game he will be happy.

“It’s a matter of us taking care of our business and doing what we do,” he said. “I feel like if we do what we do, we will be successful.”

Brown said a win would not only keep the Wildcats in playoff contention but also help the team’s confidence.

“I think if we win Friday we have a good chance of making the playoffs,” he said. “We just don’t want to dig a hole more than we already have.

Obviously no one is going to walk in and give you anything. You have to work for it, and with Crystal Springs and Prentiss (Wilkinson County’s final opponent), you can throw the records out the doors — I know it’s a cliché, but it’s true.”

Wilkinson County (6-2, 1-2) will host Crystal Springs (4-5, 0-3) at 7 p.m.

Franklin County versus Prentiss

MEADVILLE — Franklin County High School’s 43-14 victory over Crystal Springs last week got the Bulldogs their first region win of the season.

The team will need a similar performance against Prentiss High School this week to keep their postseason hopes alive.

“Last week was a big win,” head coach Rickey O’Quinn said. “We’ve been explaining to the kids that we have to remain positive and the season wasn’t over.”

The Bulldogs lost to Wilkinson County and Hazlehurst to start region play, but O’Quinn said the team could not let that end its season.

“Unfortunately we started 0-2, but we couldn’t dwell on that,” he said. “We told them, ‘Don’t let 0-2 get you beat in the remaining games.’”

Friday night is homecoming for the Bulldogs, and O’Quinn said that is always a special time on campus.

“For the seniors it is their last homecoming, so it’s a big game,” he said. “The fan base should be bigger, because a lot of people that haven’t seen us play are coming home.”

Franklin County (5-4, 1-2) will host Prentiss (2-7, 1-2) at 7 p.m.