Natchez travels to North Pike to open region play

Published 2:45 pm Thursday, October 5, 2023

NATCHEZ — After consecutive wins over MHSAA Class 3A teams in which they had to use second-half rallies to come out victorious, the Class 5A Natchez High School Bulldogs learned the hard way to never take your opponent for granted.

Now that the non-region portion of the schedule is behind Natchez High, the Bulldogs begin Region 3-5A play this Friday night when they travel to Summit to take on the North Pike High School Jaguars in a battle of two teams that have had up-and-down seasons.

Kickoff between Natchez High (2-4, 0-0) and North Pike (2-3, 0-0) is scheduled for 7 p.m. The Bulldogs had to rally from a 20-6 deficit after one quarter of play to defeat the Hazlehurst High School Indians 22-20 last Friday night while North Pike lost at home to Class 4A Columbia High School 39-21 after having a bye week the week before.

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Bulldogs head coach Steve Davis said his team learned a lot after what they went through the previous two weeks. And perhaps they can take that into this week’s game against North Pike.

“We learned that we can’t take anyone lightly. Preparation always has to be good. We need to stay more focused. We also learned to be resilient and fight through tough times,” Davis said. 

After last week’s comeback win, Davis said that “it was an embarrassment the way we played.” On Wednesday morning, he went into detail as to what he meant by that.

“We came out listless. We were not there mentally. We were not there physically. Our fans deserve better. I told my players that they took the game lightly. Personally, I don’t take any game lightly. We have to understand that on any given Friday, anybody can be beat,” Davis noted.

And after Davis and his coaching staff watched film on North Pike earlier this week, the Bulldogs better not take the Jaguars lightly or they could be in for a long night. Especially considering how many offensive formations Davis himself said that have.

“Breaking down the film, studying North Pike, offensively, they give you a lot of formations. Recognizing their groupings, recognizing their formations. With coach (Charles) Cothern (Jr.) and the staff on that side of the ball, we think we have a pretty good game plan so we don’t get caught misaligned or don’t get caught out of position totally,” Davis said.

Davis added that the Jaguars have a pretty good front seven, but he feels like the way the Bulldogs have run the ball well in recent weeks, especially Carl McDonald Jr., that unit can have some success. He noted that quarterback Kaden Walton told him he was happy with the win, but that he was disappointed in his own performance.

“We’re simplifying things more for Kaden. So, we’re trying to clean up some things there,” Davis said. “The key for us Friday night will be Lannen Moore, our ‘mike’ linebacker. I want him to make sure he has everyone lined up right. Also, our free safety, just recognize guys and the many formations they have. I counted all their formations and the have at least 20 of them”

Davis added that practice has been a lot better this week than it was last week and that so far, the Bulldogs are dialed in.

“They’re correcting one another. They’re listening to us. Tuesdays and Wednesday are our serious work days. Thursdays are the days we have to perfect everything. Friday is payday. Our goal is to go 1-0 every week for the next (five) weeks and get into the playoffs,” Davis said.

Davis noted that the Bulldogs’ defense will have to slow down North Pike’s running game, led by junior running back Jakevious Smith and senior quarterback Xzavion Nunn. The Jaguars for the most part run a 3-4 defense, but they also use a five-front with their linebacker, Smith as well as Tyshaun Ross. Another member of their defense the Bulldogs will have to key on is defensive tackle Al’Javion Wells.

“We have to know where they are on the field,” Davis noted.

Davis said that both McDonald, who had 174 yards and three scores in last week’s win over Hazlehurst, and Walton will need to step up as well as wide receivers Ashton Minor, Ken Chatman, and Je’kari Douglas.

“Defensively, the big man in the middle, Erick Woods. He’s going to have to keep doing what he’s been doing. Our linebackers, Jeremiah Tillery and Lannen Moore. Those two guys. If my defensive ends, our edge rushers, Darius Williams and Jakel Irving, control their tackles, we’ll be fine defensively,” Davis said.