NHS, FHS talent will help new coaches

Published 12:01 am Sunday, July 19, 2015

Try walking into a new head coaching job a month or two into a season, and better yet, try calling it an ideal situation.

It’s an impossible claim to make, right? Well, most of the time. When you walk into a situation that presents you with athletes such as Natchez High School’s and Ferriday High School’s, all of a sudden it’s not so bad.

You can’t overstate the importance of head coaches in football, but especially at the high school level, you need athletes to generate wins. Luckily for Dwight Woods at Ferriday High and Henry Garner at Natchez High School, they have such athletes.

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Take Natchez High, for example, who has a sophomore quarterback in Chris Scott that’s already drawn interest from FBS schools such as the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. Surround him with speedsters like Malik Byrd (who couldn’t drop a ball in 7-on-7 if you tied one hand behind his back), Ty Terrell, Travez Lyles and Shavoke Herrington (who will likely play both ways next year) and you’ve got an offense that will keep the scoreboard keeper busy on Friday nights.

And don’t just take my word for it, you can ask several coaches in the area, who have marveled at the speed Natchez possesses.

“Natchez is tough,” said Vidalia defensive coordinator Dee Faircloth after a 7-on-7. “They have a lot of speed.”

“That’s why we schedule them in 7-on-7,” Cathedral head coach Ron Rushing said. “They always have talent.”

Now what makes this an almost ideal situation for Garner and the Bulldogs is the mixture of talent and familiarity. Natchez officials made the right call hiring Garner on such short notice because of his previous relationships with the kids, furthermore making it an easy transition of moving the middle school offense to the high school. With multiple young skill players, including a sophomore quarterback, jogging their memory on the middle school offense has been fairly easy.

While Woods and Ferriday do not reap the benefits of past relationships, Woods has provided a simple scheme that has kids genuinely excited. Woods has implemented simple concepts in the early goings, but has the players sold on a fast-paced offense. Unlike previous generations, today’s grow up watching the Oregon’s and Baylor’s who are in and out of the huddle quicker than Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen dodged the state flag question at SEC Media Days. Mullen unfairly received criticism for that, by the way. As others have previously stated, Mullen is a football coach, not a politician.

Like chrome helmets and crop-top jerseys, up-tempo offenses are in with this current generation of athletes. In talking to rising senior Ronald Davis about the new offense, he couldn’t stop smiling, thinking about racing up and down the field and keeping opponents on their toes.

Of course, like Natchez, Ferriday isn’t absent of any talent. Big bodies like Dare Rosenthal, who committed to Alabama as a rising sophomore, and Marquis Brown, a senior who is an absolute force on defense, will make Ferriday fierce on both sides of the ball. Add in long targets like Dantrieze Scott and Jashon Foster, two of the biggest receivers in the area, and Woods will have plenty to work with offensively.

But make no mistake about it — stepping in with approximately a month of preparation alone is a daunting task to overcome. Melvin Pete, who was in a similar boat at Natchez last season, reeled off five wins in 2014, which I felt was an overachievement under such circumstance.

Fair or not, with the talent available for each head coach this season, five wins would seem like an underachievement.

It’s not every day you’re asked to come in and provide a winning football team in a month’s time. But then again, it’s not every day you stumble upon elite athletes like the ones at Natchez and Ferriday either.


JAKE MARTIN is the sports editor for The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3633 or jake.martin@natchezdemocrat.com.