Natchez High set to host Class 6A Hancock High in home-opener
Published 10:33 am Thursday, August 24, 2023
NATCHEZ — The Natchez High School Bulldogs begin their second season in the Steve Davis era this Friday night when they play host to the Hancock High School Hawks in the 2023 season opener for both teams.
Kickoff between MHSAA Class 5A Natchez High and Class 6A Hancock High at Tom F. Williams Memorial Stadium is still set for 7 p.m. Bulldogs head coach Steve Davis wanted to move kickoff back to either 7:30 p.m. or even 8 p.m. because of the dangerous heat wave that has grappled much of Mississippi and Louisiana, but Hancock said no.
“We wanted to move it back. With that long drive from the (Gulf) coast, they wanted to keep it at seven,” Davis said.
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Natchez High is coming off a good showing at last Friday’s Franklin County Jamboree in Meadville. Against the host Bulldogs, the visiting Bulldogs showed a more up-tempo offense and a very aggressive defense. And those were two of the things Davis said he was very pleased to see from his team.
“We fared pretty well. We didn’t keep score. We did situational football. Offense looked pretty good. Offense scored four times that we had the football. Defense only gave up one score,” Davis said. “But it gave us an opportunity to see what we needed to focus on to be a better football team going forward.”
Davis noted that he was most impressed with the tempo and pace the offense ran the ball and that the offensive line, which lost four players from last year’s team, played much better. He added that he was thrilled with how the defense ran to the football.
“We got plays called in fairly quickly and we ran the plays very well. Last Friday we got a chance to see when we do play with speed and tempo. The guys we have (on the offensive line) stepped up and played well. The wideouts got at those defensive backs over there. Defensively, I was pleased that we got guys around the football. I preach to them 11 to the ball. Finishing tackles is something we have to work on more,” Davis said.
As for what the Bulldogs have been working on in practice this week to prepare for a good Hancock Hawks team, Davis said, “Of course, offensively, we’re still going tempo. We want to move the ball quickly. Defensively, stopping their running game. Finishing tackles. Tackling better. Playing our band of football.”
Unfortunately, Natchez High will be without sophomore strong safety Martavious Woods for the entire season and he won’t be back until baseball season next spring. Davis said that Woods suffered a cracked bone in his vertebrae in his neck when he went to make a tackle and dropped his head in practice last week.
“It wasn’t too major, but to be on the safe side, the doctors don’t want him to play any ball. He’s going to be in a neck brace for the next six weeks,” Davis said. “Losing him, that’s a big blow for our defensive secondary. We were going to use his coverage skills. He’s multi-faceted.”
Hancock High’s offense will try to attack Natchez High’s defense with a tight-end, two-wide receiver set and will, at times, rely on the running game.
“It’s like what Auburn used to run. They have three good running backs who can tote the ball well. Their quarterback can throw the ball well. We’re going to have to be on them for us to compete Friday night,” Davis said. “Defensively, they go from a 4-front to a 3-front with match quarters in the secondary. The linebackers are very aggressive, also.”
As for what concerns Davis and the Bulldogs most about the Hawks, Davis said, “They bring back 10 guys on offense. That continuity. Just making sure our young guys can be ready for their first course of action with an offense that’s pretty good. Stopping the run, which people know in the past we don’t do so well. That’s going to be our biggest challenge for us.”
Several players on each side of the ball will have to step up big time for Natchez High to upset a team from a higher classification in Hancock High.
“Defensively, junior outside linebacker/edge rusher Jakel Irving, senior outside linebacker/edge rusher Darius Williams, junior linebackers Jeremiah Tillery and Lannen Moore. In the secondary, we need a big game out of junior cornerback Dajuan Culbert and senior free safety Gary Bailey,” Davis said. “Offensively, junior quarterback Kaden Walton. Senior running back Troy Jones and junior running back Carl McDonald, they’re going to have to tote the load for us. In the passing game, senior wide receiver Caron Williams, junior wide receivers Ken Chatman, and Jekari Douglas. Up front, we’re going to be relying heavily on senior guard/center/tackle Collins Jasper. He’s our do-it-all guy in the trenches. Junior center Jayden Hutchins, and senior guard Kolby Irving.”