By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
Forest Williams reminds Jimmy Mitchell of recent University of North Alabama quarterback A.J. Milwee.
“He’s so quick with getting the ball out of his hands,” the Corinth High coach said of the Amory QB, who’s being recruited by UNA’s Gulf South Conference rival, Delta State.
The longtime coach saw Milwee perform while watching his former linemen, Michael and Samuel Hathorn, play for UNA.
Milwee put up impressive numbers for UNA from 2005 through 2008, setting school records for most career passing yards (8,436), completions (677), attempts (1,030), touchdown passes (73), total offense (9,401) and TDs responsible for (91).
Williams is on a record-setting pace this season, having completed 116 of 169 passes for 1,660 yards and 21 touchdowns.
Entering tonight’s MHSAA Division 1-4A contest in Corinth, the Panthers (5-2, 1-0) have scored 40 or more points four times this season.
“The whole key to that is how accurate he is,” Mitchell said of the Panthers’ offense with No. 14 behind center.
So the challenge for the Warriors (3-3, 1-0) is to generate enough of a pass rush – one that gets to the quarterback quickly – to disrupt Williams’ throws and timing.
Easier said than done because Williams believes at least one of his receivers will be open on every play, no matter how the opposing defense plays his team’s passing game.
“When you have a good quarterback that takes the snap and gets rid of the ball quickly, it makes it really difficult for you to defend,” Mitchell said.
While Williams is also an effective runner – “one of the fastest kids on the team,” said coach Trent Hammond – the Warriors have a pretty decent quarterback in Lew Johnson.
“They run the option quite a bit with him,” Hammond said. “He also plays safety and is really physical. He really throws his body around.
“He’s a tough runner and a very good tackler. He’s a good athlete.”
Focus on playmakers
And Johnson isn’t the only one the Panthers have to worry about.
“They’ve got several skill guys who are pretty good,” Hammond added. “They got a couple of guys who can go the distance, who can turn a 4-yard play into a 40-yard touchdown if you’re not in perfect position. … With their offense, you don’t have just a tailback to worry about; you have a quarterback, tailback and fullback.”
Collectively, Hammond described the Warriors as a disciplined team that doesn’t make many mistakes.
Meanwhile, Mitchell admitted it was a “challenge” for him and his veteran staff to coach a group of young players.
“The one thing they’re doing is that they’re really trying hard and playing better,” he said.
Mitchell was proud of his club for winning a game last Friday that he thought his team had no business being in at the end due to the way the game was going.
“These kids never gave up,” he said about his squad’s 21-20 win at Itawamba AHS. “When the opportunity came, they made plays.”
You certainly have to credit the Warriors for not giving up on the season when considering their injuries.
“A kid that went both ways for us breaks his ankle on an opening kickoff,” said Mitchell. “Our starting center, a sophomore, hurt his knee and is out for the season. We lost both of those guys within four plays.
“Our freshman that replaced our starting center broke his arm the following Tuesday in practice.”
Mitchell will call upon every one of his players to be ready against a talented Amory squad.
“When you look at them on paper, they’re way ahead of us,” Mitchell said. “If they drop some passes and we make them miss a few, we’ll hang in there.”