By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
SENATOBIA – Andy Greening looks up and down Northwest Mississippi Community College’s defensive depth chart and doesn’t see any great players.
Instead, the Corinth native, who is in his first season as defensive coordinator for No. 4-ranked Rangers, sees a productive group of players.
“The main thing is they’re playing together as a unit … we don’t have any great players,” said Greening, who coached the last two seasons at West Alabama, following a 10-year stint at Northeast in Booneville. “I like the way they’ve played together. They’ve gotten better every week.
“That makes coaching enjoyable. They’ve bought into what we’re doing.”
Greening’s defense, which has allowed only six touchdowns in the Rangers’ last six games, will face its toughest test of the season Saturday when they play No. 15 Gulf Coast in the semifinals of the MACJC state playoffs.
The kickoff between Northwest (9-0) and Gulf Coast (7-2) is scheduled for 2 p.m. at Northwest’s Bobby Franklin Field.
The winner will play the winner of Saturday’s other semifinal game between defending state champion East Mississippi and Copiah-Lincoln.
The state championship game is scheduled for Nov. 13 at a site to be determined.
Gulf Coast comes into the game with a run-oriented scheme that averages 458 yards per game total offense. The Bulldogs’ feature back is James Gillum, who has rushed for 1,003 yards and 12 touchdowns.
“They’ve gotten away from the option and mostly go with a two-back power game,” Greening said. “They run some out of the spread.
“Their offensive line will be the best we’ve played all season. They’re huge.”
Greening’s top defender, statistics-wise, is linebacker Sam Small. The sophomore has recorded 83 tackles and intercepted five passes.
“He understands the game,” Greening said. “He takes instruction and puts it to use.”
The Rangers, who are in their third season under former South Panola head coach Ricky Woods, take a nation’s best 11-game winning streak into Saturday’s semifinal.
Brent Osborn, a freshman quarterback who has passed for 1,800 yards and 16 touchdowns, directs a Northwest offense that’s rated sixth in the country. His top receiver is Myles White, a Michigan State transfer, who has caught 48 passes for 636 yards and five TDs.
Osborn passed for 224 yards and a score in last week’s 31-14 win against Itawamba.