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Directing the offense: Natchez High looks to build off young offensive talent

Natchez head coach Melvin Pete points out a defensive coverage to quarterback Chris Scott during spring practice Monday. Scott ended his freshman season with nine touchdowns in the final two games. (Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat)

Natchez head coach Melvin Pete points out a defensive coverage to quarterback Chris Scott during spring practice Monday. Scott ended his freshman season with nine touchdowns in the final two games. (Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat)

 

NATCHEZ — Without any pads, graduating senior Sidney Davis lined up at slot to run a crossing pattern at Natchez High School’s spring practice.

Starting quarterback Chris Scott dropped back and found Davis quickly over the middle, as Davis juked and jived his way up the field of play, making Natchez players dressed in full pads miss him.

“Dang,” said Natchez head coach Melvin Pete, shaking his head, wishing Davis had another year of eligibility.

Pete is faced with a daunting task of replacing Davis, the 2014 All-Metro Player of the Year, and with most of his skill players practicing for the state track event Friday, Pete is getting a good look at his depth this spring.

“We welcome all of it,” Pete said. “I know our track guys will be in shape going into summer workouts, so we’re just trying to take it slow and mix it the right way with the players we have.”

The multiple absences at practice allowed young players like Travion McDuffie, a player who caught ball after ball in 7-on-7 drills Monday afternoon, impress his coaching staff.

And while the spring has offered new faces opportunities in Natchez High School uniforms, it’s also allowed returning standouts to further improve. Scott, who was much more vocal than he was in the fall as a freshman, had a strong finish to end the 2014 season, throwing nine combined touchdown passes in his final two games. Entering his sophomore season, Scott looks to inherit the role of veteran.

“I should have been (more vocal) last year,” Scott said. “I’m trying to get back into the groove of things, and get used to not having Sidney and all of those other guys around.”

Pete said Scott has made great strides this spring, and anticipates a great season from his young quarterback come fall.

“Basically, he’s understanding what plays we want to call,” Pete said. “He’s starting to understand zone-buster plays. If a team gets into this set, he’ll know to run a certain play. After that, every play that we have can beat every coverage, but we just want him to understand it that way.”

Also returning is sophomore Ty Terrell who should enter the fall as the starting running back with John Ferguson graduating. Terrell is a scat back, who received a lot of playing time last season. Though he’s expected to carry a heavier load without Ferguson, Terrell said he’s not feeling any more pressure than he did a year ago.

“We have a lot of good talent on the offensive side of the field, so it’s not like I’m carrying all of the weight,” Terrell said.

Joining him on offense could be a player opposing quarterbacks already know quite well one year ago — Shavoke Herrington. As a freshman, Herrington recorded eight interceptions, and with his athleticism on full showcase Monday afternoon, Pete didn’t hesitate about playing him on both sides of the ball.

“He approached me about playing slot receiver, but I already had it in mind,” Pete said.

In response to whether or not he would top eight interceptions in 2015, Herrington couldn’t help but smile.

“I’m looking forward to shocking more people in the world,” the young safety said. “I have to get a little bit better at tackling, but I feel like I’ve gotten better at covering.”

Perhaps one of Pete’s bigger focuses this spring will be finding suitable replacements for Jacorey Carter and Jeffery Johnson on the offensive line.

“I think we’re pretty decent on the interior,” Pete said. “We just have to make sure we have good tackle play, and we’re still going to have to move some tackles around. Our league is fast, and the best players are going to be speed rushers on the outside.”

On defense, Dan Smith will still have multiple options in the secondary in Herrington, Chris Crockett, Jadarrius Ivory, and others, while Ernest Woods and Dalvion Jackson return at linebacker. Entering his senior season Kenan Johnson will be pivotal playmaker for the Bulldogs, whether at defensive end or linebacker.