Jefferson County battles Seminary for berth in south state game

Published 11:12 am Friday, November 17, 2023

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FAYETTE — Even though the Jefferson County High School Tigers are the MHSAA Region 7-3A champions and No. 1 seed, they will have to travel for their next game in the 2023 Class 3A South State Playoffs.

That’s because their opponent this Friday night in the semifinal round, the Region 6-3A No. 3 seed Seminary High School Bulldogs, have yet to host a playoff game. Kickoff between Jefferson County (8-3) and Seminary (8-4) is scheduled for 7 p.m.

And one person who is not at all thrilled about having to play on the road this deep in the postseason is Jefferson County head coach Roderick Holmes. But he added that the rules are the rules and that the Tigers will have to go by them.

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“It would’ve been nice to be at home. But I don’t make the rules. We just have to go by them,” Holmes said. “We haven’t been on the road the last three games. We haven’t been on the road since the South Pike game and we know what happened there — we lost. But we’ve been gaining a lot of traction lately. We have to go over there with the mindset that we’re at home, but we’re not at home.”

Jefferson County is coming off a 30-27 win last Friday night at home over playoff nemesis and Region 6-3A No. 2 seed Magee High School. Seminary is coming off perhaps the biggest upset of the playoffs, regardless of classification, as the Bulldogs smoked Region 5-3A No. 1 seed Kemper County High School 47-6. And that was one week after they shut out Region 8-3A No. 2 seed West Marion High School 27-0, also on the road.

Even though the Tigers are the higher seed of the two teams, they cannot take the Bulldogs lightly or their dreams of playing for the Class 3A South State Championship are over.

As for what Jefferson County is working on in practice this week to get ready for a good Seminary team, Holmes said, “We’ve been working on trying to play in these weather conditions, because we don’t know what the conditions will be over there. We had a muddy field when we played Magee (last Friday night), so we’re trying to get used to it.”

Especially considering that for every game before last Friday night, Jefferson County has not had to worry about sloppy field conditions or inclement weather during the season — which in itself is very unusual between late August and early November.

As for what concerns him the most about Seminary on each side of the ball, Holmes said, “Offensively, they have a great running attack with a good running quarterback. The plan would be to have to force them to throw the ball. If we stop the running game, we can handle their passing game. But because of the (field) conditions, I don’t think they’ll throw the ball very much, anyway. Defensively, they have a great defensive line.”

Tigers senior quarterback Jabari Watson and junior Royale Shelvy carries them to a win over Magee last Friday night in the Class 3A South State quarterfinals. Because of how good those two have played in recent weeks, Holmes said he looks for Seminary to game plan for them.

When asked who else needs to step up for Jefferson County to defeat the Bulldogs and advance to the Class 3A South State title game, Holmes said, “Anyone other than those two needs to step up for us offensively,” Holmes noted. “Defensively, we need to play better against the run.”

Holmes added that he is “extremely concerned” about the field conditions come Friday night with all the rain that has fallen across much of south Mississippi earlier in the week.

“But both teams have to play under those conditions. We have to play better ball than they do and try to get a win,” Holmes said.