MHSAA: Natchez High School travels to South Jones High School

Published 12:01 am Thursday, October 4, 2018

NATCHEZ — The Natchez High School Bulldogs will look to get back on the winning track when they travel to Ellisville to take on the South Jones High School Braves at 7 p.m. Friday in a critical MHSAA Region 3-5A game for both teams.

Neither team can afford a loss to drop to 1-2 in region play with tough opponents remaining. Natchez High, 3-2 overall, still has to play Brookhaven High School, North Pike High School, and Laurel High School while South Jones, 4-3 overall, still has West Jones High School, North Pike, and Brookhaven on its schedule.

The Bulldogs are coming off a rough 35-0 loss at home to West Jones in which their offense was nowhere to be seen. The Braves took care of Forest Hill High School on the road 40-8 last week.

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Natchez High will also be seeking to avenge last year’s 42-35 home loss to the Braves.

Jefferson County at Wilkinson County High School

WOODVILLE — When the Wilkinson County High School Wildcats host the Jefferson County High School this Friday night, it will be a battle of two teams that are complete opposites of what they were at this time last year.

Kickoff in this pivotal MHSAA Region 7-3A match-up for both teams, which also happens to be Wilkinson County’s homecoming game, is set for 7 p.m.

Last year, Jefferson County was just 1-5 overall and 0-1 in region play going into this game while Wilkinson County did have a good record at 3-3 overall and 1-0 in region play.

The Tigers held on for a 16-15 win, but did not make the Class 3A playoffs. That loss started a four-game losing streak to end the season for the Wildcats, who lost in the first round of the playoffs.

The 2018 season has proven to be more successful for both programs. Jefferson County head into this game with a 4-1 overall record and a 1-0 record in region play after winning its homecoming game over Port Gibson 22-12. Wilkinson County is 5-1 overall and 1-0 in region after ruining Franklin County’s homecoming game with a 36-14 win over the Bulldogs.

Despite the lopsided win, Wilkinson County head coach Kenneth Brown said there are a lot of things his players are working on in practice this week.

“We’ve got to improve our special teams. We’re spending time on that. Trying to play more kids, but we’re going to have to play more regulars. Especially in punt returns,” Brown said. “Correct the line play, especially on offense.”

Not only did the Wildcats give up two punt returns for touchdowns in the second quarter, they also turned the ball over three times and were penalized 18 times for 150 yards. He added that some of those penalties were completely unnecessary.

“We talked about that all week – being disciplined. Just because someone does something to you, you cannot retaliate. You can’t overact. They (referees) will always get the second guy,” Brown said. “We had way too many penalties. Being more focused. Just clean the game up. We don’t want someone to sit out a game.”

Jefferson County head coach James Herrington said he was pleased with his team’s performance in the second half after nearly letting a 14-0 to Port Gibson lead slip away before halftime.

“As the game picked up, they stared to take the rust off and I started to see the team I saw before the opening week,” Herrington said. “I was most pleased with our play in the second half and holding them scoreless. Cut down on some of the penalties. I was impressed with the coaching staff making some adjustments at halftime and our players executing those adjustments.”

While Herrington said he was most concerned with the overall athleticism of the Wildcats on both sides of the ball, Brown said the Tigers’ running game is what concerned him the most.

“They have good athletes at the linebacker position. Very aggressive up front on their defensive line. Their receivers do an outstanding job of catching the football. They’re definitely going to be a problem,” Herrington said.

“They look real good. I’ve watched a couple of films on them. They run the ball as much as they can. They have some good running backs. They have a couple of good quarterbacks. We’re going to have our work cut out for us, that’s for sure,” Brown said.

The one thing that concerns Brown the most is how focused the players will be for this game with it being homecoming week.

“That’s a problem. We’ve had a couple of good days of practice. We try to tell them, we know it’s homecoming, but you have to be as focused as we can,” Brown said. “We’ve still got to practice. We’ve got to get some work in. It’s an important game.”

As for what will it take for the Tigers to be victorious Friday night, Herrington said, “Do the same things we’ve done all year. Assert the running game and the offensive line will have to block. Limit the big plays on defense. They have a lot of chunk plays of 30 yards or longer. Make them earn every yard.”

Brown said a couple of units on offense and well as containing the Tigers’ running game will be key for the Wildcats to come out with another win and be on top of the Region 7-3A standings.

“You always want to work at the quarterback position. But it starts down front. We have to control the line of scrimmage and keep doing what we do on the defensive side. A little more accuracy in the passing game,” Brown said.

Franklin County at Hazlehurst

MEADVILLE — It is hard to believe that this Friday night’s MHSAA Region 7-3A game between the Franklin County High School Bulldogs and the Hazlehurst High School Indians will be one between two winless teams.

Kickoff in Hazlehurst will be at 7 p.m. Franklin County has been beset by the injury bug throughout the season and that is a big reason for the Bulldogs being 0-7 overall and 0-1 in region play after last week’s homecoming loss to Wilkinson County.

Both the offense and the defense have struggled because of those injuries, especially in the last three weeks. The Bulldogs’ offense narrowly had over 100 yards of offense in a loss at Lawrence County and failed reach that mark in losses at Jefferson Davis County and to the Wildcats. Their defense has given up over 300 yards of total offense in each of those games.

Meanwhile, what has happened to Hazlehurst? Just last year, the Indians were 4-2 overall before defeating the Bulldogs in Meadville 28-15. They finished 11-3 overall, winning eight straight before losing to Jefferson Davis County in the Class 3A South State Championship game.

But in the 2018 season, Hazlehurst is 0-6 overall after falling at home to Forrest County Agricultural High School 20-14. This will also be the region opener for the Indians, who have given up at least 33 points in four of those losses.