Natchez looks to upset Class 6A Vicksburg to finally get first win of season

Published 3:04 pm Wednesday, September 6, 2023

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NATCHEZ — Coming off a shutout loss at McComb High School a week ago, the Natchez High School Bulldogs are still looking for that elusive first victory of the 2023 season. Doing so this week against a team in a higher classification will be easier said than done.

Natchez High (0-2) of MHSAA Class 5A will welcome the Class 6A Vicksburg High School Gators to Tom F. Williams Memorial Stadium on the NHS campus. Kickoff between the Gators and the Bulldogs is set for 7 p.m.

Bulldogs head coach Steve Davis said after a 41-0 beatdown at Class 4A McComb, his team is still not mentally where it should be and that they don’t have much time to get things right before region play starts a month from now.

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“When we turn the ball over or we get penalties, we can’t rebound from that. We had things snowball,” Davis said. “It’s hard to win a football game when after one bad play you fall in the tank and you can’t rebound from that.”

What Davis would also like to see from the Bulldogs is better execution on offense, more aggressiveness and more fight in them instead of putting their heads down when things don’t go as planned.

“On offense, we execute in spurts. We fight in spurts. We’re aggressive in spurts. We haven’t been able to put together four quarters, a full game,” Davis said. “Last week after breaking down the film, we were always a step or two late. We didn’t block correctly. It’s like all the things we coached in practice, when the lights came on, we didn’t prepare them for the game.”

Davis added that even he’s trying to figure out why, when the lights come on and the game begins, “everything we coach goes away. That’s the mental aspect. That’s the really frustrating part. We are still talented. But the mental aspect of the game, we haven’t brought to Friday nights yet.”

What is hurting Natchez High this week in preparation for Vicksburg is that some of its players have got COVID-19 and that Davis and his coaching staff have had to slow down their practice routine.

“As of right now, we are trying to stay healthy. COVID has been hitting us pretty hard. We lost some guys. We’re trying to get a few guys back. Our focus is on making sure what the game plan is offensively and defensively,” Davis said. “We’ve spent more time individually and group work. No matter who we have, we need to make sure they’re ready.”

Especially against a Vicksburg team that’s coming off a 33-6 win over Forest Hill High School. This will be the first road game of the season for the Gators. And they run a lot of different formations that will test the Bulldogs’ defense.

“Offensively, they can go from the wing-T to the spread and they have a lot of speed. You have to spend a lot of time on a team that can from the wing-T to the spread to five-wide. They can go multiple formations with the same personnel on the field. We have to recognize what they’re in sooner so we can run the right defense and we can get guys lined up,” Davis said.

The Gators’ offense is led by senior quarterback Ronnie Alexander and running back Decorey Knight Jr. Davis said that Alexander is an athlete and that he’s explosive. He then said that Knight Jr. is the one player the Bulldogs’ defense has to key on.

“They move him from the win to running back to the slot receiver. He’s a dangerous kick returner, also,” Davis said. “Defensively, their front four is good. It we can’t block them, we’re going to be scrambling. We’re going to have to neutralize those guys. We’re going to have to run the ball.”

In order for that to happen, Natchez High’s offensive line will somehow have to slow down defensive end Tyler Carter, whom Davis said gave his team fits last year.

“He’s about 6-5, 6-6 and 235 pounds. We have to make sure we block him. On film, I’ve seen him disrupt teams. We have to make sure we get him blocked,” Davis said.

For the Bulldogs to turn that zero into a one in the win column, Davis said they have to run the football. He said he’s putting the pressure squarely on the offensive line.

“We only ran for 31 yards last week. If we can run the football, we can slow down their pass rush and give (quarterback) Kaden Walton and the wide receivers time to do their thing,” Davis said. “Defensively for us, it also starts up front with Erick Woods, our nose tackle, Greg Washington, and Keldon Jones. Whatever we do defensively, it starts with them. Take away the dives and the traps and wraps that they love to run. We have to control the middle of the line of scrimmage.”