Progressing is key: Natchez High School football replaces 24 seniors, retools scheme

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 21, 2018

NATCHEZ — Spring football practice has come and gone for the local schools on the Mississippi side of the Miss-Lou area.

For the Natchez High School football team, those 15 spring practices were about players getting accumlated at new positions as the Bulldogs are replacing 24 seniors heading into the 2018 season.

“The best way to describe (spring practice) was that it was revealing,” said head coach Roy Rigsby. “When you lose 24 seniors, you have a lot of positions to fill. You have guys that may not have that experience of competing and they get that opportunity to do so in the spring. A lot of things get revealed.”

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This year, Natchez has to replace a plethora of talent such as starting quarterback Chris Scott, running back E.J. Woods and defensive back Shavoké Herrington.

Due to the massive overhaul, the Bulldogs had to retool their schemes this spring to fit the athletes that return.

“A lot of people say you have a system — like in college, you have a system and you go out and find players that fit that system. In high school, you can’t,” Rigsby said. “You have to work with whatever (your players) give you. You have a system in place but your system has to be tinkered with whatever personal you get.

“The coaches did a great job. It takes a lot of teaching and a lot of patience when you are dealing with new people getting into a new system.”

Probably the biggest change to Natchez heading into this fall will be the offensive mindset. With Scott under center — whom Rigsby called a prolific passer — the Bulldogs liked the throw the ball around a lot. But due to him being gone and having a deep group of running backs, Natchez will be more run heavy this season.

“Our goal is to be more ground and pound this year,” said offensive coordinator Robert Benson. “Three yards and a cloud of dust.”

And this spring, a couple running backs stood out in the coaching staff’s minds.

Rigsby raved about backs Desnick Bolden and Joe Davis. The coach said Bolden is like a smaller version of NFL back MarShawn Lynch while Davis runs like former pro Jerome Bettis.

“Both of those guys are going to make it difficult for opposing defenders to tackle them,” Rigsby said.

While those two runners had solid springs, a couple defensive players showed out as well in Rigsby’s eyes. Rigsby said linebacker Ryon Rigsby and defensive end Devonta Stancel. However, Risgby said the biggest winner this spring was the offensive line.

“The whole line — except for one player who started occasionally for us last year — is new,” Rigsby said. “We have five players who are new at starting in the trenches. So the offensive line gets major props for playing physical and learning as much as they have learned so far. They still have a ways to go, but it was encouraging to see them wanting to learn and put in the work to become better.”

Despite planning on having multiple trout out to start come fall, Rigsby’s expectations stay the same — Natchez will compete for a state title.

Yet, before the Bulldogs for a championship, Rigsby wants to keep seeing his squad improve day to day.

“It’s challenging because you only get 15 days to progress and at least see some progression,” Rigsby said. “That was my main focus going into spring practice. Try to find progress from Day 1 to Day 15. For the most part we did, and that is encouraging thing.”