ON THE ROAD: Natchez High ready to take McComb Tigers

Published 1:01 pm Thursday, August 31, 2023

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NATCHEZ — The Natchez High School Bulldogs look to put last week’s season-opening loss behind them, but it will not be easy as they will travel to McComb to take on the McComb High School Tigers. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Natchez High took it on the chin against MHSAA Class 6A Hancock High School in not only the season opener, but also the home opener. The Hawks ran the ball at will on the Bulldogs’ defense in a decisive 42-20 win over the Bulldogs.

“I was pleased with how we competed and fought for all four quarters. We didn’t quit. We still fought to the end. We’ve been focusing on being a better disciplined team,” Bulldogs head coach Steve Davis said. “As for what needs to be worked on, tackling better and shoring up offensive execution. We weren’t as sharp as we were in practice. (Quarterback) Kaden (Walton) wasn’t sharp on his reads. He didn’t trust his eyes. He didn’t trust what he saw. They made him a little hesitant on his reads. They weren’t running their holes in tracks. We weren’t getting out of our breaks.”

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Davis and his coaching staff were not all thrilled with some phases of the game that he said should be fixed before the ball is teed off Friday night.

Meanwhile, Class 4A McComb began its 2023 campaign with a 48-0 on the road over Jim Hill High School. The good news is that the Tigers don’t run the ball nearly as much as Hancock does. The bad news is that they like to throw the ball a lot.

“We started practice this week with what we call a physical aggression class. The coaching staff wasn’t pleased with our tackling. We weren’t pleased with how we blocked. We weren’t happy with how Hancock brought the physicality to us,” Davis said. “We have to be prepared to stop their passing game. They have some extremely fast and very talented wideouts, starting with San Francicso Magee, and their quarterback, Jamarcus Pittman. He’s a big guy who can really throw the ball. So the secondary has got to step up for us. They have a good group of wideouts. They put up 48 points on Jim Hill. So they are very, very talented.

“Our pass rush has to be great. We have to be sure we’re in the right scheme. We have to make sure we don’t have any busts in our coverage,” West added.

Offensively, Davis said the Bulldogs have to play faster and run the football better. He also noted that the special teams unit, especially the punt return team, has to play much better than it did last Friday night against Hancock.

“We ran the ball better in the second half (last week), but have to start the game running the football better. We have to show up in special teams,” Davis said. “We gave up a ton of field position. We had three turnovers on punts. We have to fix special teams. We focused on that during the coaches’ meeting. We focused on that during Monday’s practice. We’ll have that fixed by Friday.”

McComb runs a 4-2-5 quarters defense. And while Davis noted that the Tigers don’t have anyone that stands out individually on that side of the ball, they are a very opportunistic group when it comes to forcing turnovers. And that’s something else that the Bulldogs’ offense will have to be mindful of.

“They run to the football. All their guys are around the ball and they create turnovers. We’ve been working on ball security,” Davis said. “The wideouts, they blocked very well. They secured the ball. If we can run the ball and secure the line of scrimmage, if we can do that, I believe we will come out with a win. It doesn’t matter if we throw the ball 60 times or run the ball 50 times. It tried to run the ball too much last week. We had very little success running the ball. We had a lot of success passing the ball.”

In order for Natchez High to come out victorious to avoid an 0-2 start to the season, Davis said the Bulldogs will need big games not only from Walton, but defensively from Jakel Irving, Jeremiah Tillery, and Landon Moore, as well as their secondary.