By Gene Phelps and John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
(All kickoffs at 7 p.m.)
New Albany (9-0) at Shannon (6-2)
– This week: Simply put: This is for first-place in Division 1-4A. “We’re just thrilled to death to be in this position,” New Albany coach Ron Price said of being one win away from the school’s first Division 1-4A football title. “There was a lot of hard work we have gone through in this process. We’re thankful for being able to play for a championship on Friday night.”
– Recent history: Shannon has won the last three meetings by 22 or better.
– New Albany: Shannon coach Chad Cook says the Bulldogs’ offense may be the best offense he’s seen since he’s been at Shannon. According to Cook, New Albany’s offensive line features “a lot of seniors up front who know how to block wherever you send them.” He’s also impressed with RB Kelvin Worship, whom Cook says is a 200-plus pound running back who puts his head down and is a load to tackle. Then, added Cook, there’s the four WRs who “know how to run routes against every coverage” and, of course, QB Tyler Basil, who gets the ball to his receivers in tight spots. And finally, New Albany hardly ever has to go 70 to 80 yards on scoring drives due to its exceptional defense and special teams.
– Shannon: After missing the first 5 games with a lower leg injury, Red Raiders RB Bodarius Taylor – pound for pound the strongest guy on the team, says Cook – has rushed for 447 yards in the last 2 games. The running style of Shannon’s 5-foot-8, 185-pound junior is what Cook describes as being hard-nosed and old-school. … For the first couple weeks of the season, the Red Raiders didn’t have the same 5 offensive linemen at each practice due to various injuries. The last couple of weeks they have had the same unit together and are averaging 43 points per game in division play. … QB Legilbert Bogan has “an extremely strong arm, and they’re just really dangerous at throwing the deep ball,” Price said. “He’ll throw it 50-60 yards and it is right on the money.”
South Pontotoc (4-5) at Aberdeen (8-1)
– This week: The fourth-ranked Cougars travel to top-ranked Aberdeen. Clinging to the fourth playoff spot out of Division 2-3A, South Pontotoc coach Roger Chism knows his team will be facing it biggest challenge of 2010. “We’re going to do the best we can do,” said the Cougars coach. “We’ll try to do our best, and really that’s all we can ask for our players to do.”
– Recent history: The Bulldogs have been able to put up points against the Cougars the last 3 seasons, winning 48-21 in Springville last year, 50-0 at home in ’08 and 44-40 three seasons ago.
– South Pontotoc: QB Wesley Barefield, who is a college prospect, has thrown for 5 TDs and rushed for 12 more. Chism said Barefield “has calmed down a lot this season and is making good decisions with the football, putting it where we can get it and nobody else. He’s also making really good reads on the option.” … RB Deonte Dillworth has scored 7 rushing TDs. … K Matt Collums returned from a quad injury last week vs. Water Valley and was successful on both extra-point kicks.
– Aberdeen: Chism said the Bulldogs are the most athletic team they’ll see this year. “They’re very good on both sides of the ball,” he said. “They do everything well.” … He said the Bulldogs can essentially do whatever they want on offense, including running the option or a power running game. “The offense scores often and quickly,” Chism said. “They’re pretty dangerous.” … Chism said the Bulldogs defense is very athletic and fast: “Any mistakes you make, they’ll take advantage of it.”
Tupelo Christian Prep (5-4) at New Site (0-8)
– This week: If Houlka loses tonight to H.W. Byers, then Tupelo Christian Prep clinches the Northeast Mississippi independent division title. Nonetheless, the Eagles look to take care of business tonight at the junior high field in Marietta and in Okolona next Thursday vs. Houlka.
– Recent history: TCPS won 31-0 at home last season.
– TCPS: New Site coach Bobby Purvis says the Eagles like to throw the ball a lot. “Their receivers are probably as good as we’ll face all year,” he said. “But they run the ball well, too, and are well-balanced.” Purvis added that TCPS QB Will Cockrell isn’t afraid to run it and the Eagles RBs are exceptional runners. … According to Purvis, TCPS’ defense will not give up the deep pass. He said the Eagles’ defensive line is not the biggest his team has faced, but that the Eagles move some of their smaller guys around on defense and feature good linebackers and shutdown corners. … “They’re a solid little ballclub,” Purvis said. “They’re athletically better and more mature than a year ago.”
– New Site: QB Jeremy Samples has rushed 113 times for 856 yards and 7 TDs, while throwing for 7 more scores. Meanwhile, RB Channing Stephens has carried the ball 90 times for 360 yards and 1 TD. “They’re both 200-plus pound kids who run hard and are hard to tackle,” said TCPS coach Aubrey Boren. … Purvis said his team has changed its offense since the start of the season. “We spread things out a little more,” he said. “The receiver corps has also improved.” … After a stretch of injuries, Purvis said he expects all 23 of his players to be available to play tonight.
Walnut (7-2) at Calhoun City (9-0)
– This week: Top-ranked small school Calhoun City has already clinched a playoff spot and is out to clinch its division title tonight. With a win tonight in the “Battle of the Wildcats,” Calhoun City will have clinched the 1-2A title with one more division game to play (home vs. Bruce). “We’re not taking them lightly,” Calhoun City coach Perry Liles said.
– Recent history: Calhoun City defeated the Wildcats 47-27 in Walnut last year.
– Walnut: Liles said Walnut does a number of things on offense and runs a lot of different formations, but its bread and butter may be out of its Wildcat formation. RB Shaquille Perry is the marquee name, but Liles has also been impressed with skill players Dominic Steele, Denariel Jones, Wyatt Huffman and Steven Whittemore. “They’re all part of what they do,” Liles said. … The Calhoun City coach said Walnut tends to play a 5-2, cover 0 defense with man-to-man coverage and no free safety.
– Calhoun City: “As far as talent, size and speed, they’re probably the best team we’ve seen,” said Walnut coach Timmy Moore. … He said Calhoun City is capable of lining up in the I-formation and “pounding the ball right at you” and of also spreading the field. “Their quarterback (J.R. Jennings) is as good as we’ve seen,” Moore said. He’s thrown for 1,461 yards and 16 TDs and has rushed for 248 and 6. … Moore said Calhoun City will be the biggest team his squad will face. “Their defensive front is very big and they’re all really quick.” DT Rokedrick Mays (broken leg) and MLB Dantrell Parker (knee). are out, however
Tupelo (5-2) at DeSoto Central (0-8)
– This week: Tupelo, 2-2 in Division 1-6A play, looks to rebound from last week’s 62-6 loss on regional TV to top-ranked South Panola. DeSoto Central, 0-4 in the division, lost 39-6 to Columbus. THS coach David Bradberry believes his team needs to close with three consecutive victories to qualify for the postseason. The Wave hosts Horn Lake next week and wraps up its regular season on the road at Olive Branch.
– Recent history: Tupelo defeated DeSoto Central 42-0 last season.
– Tupelo: Sophomore RB Ashton Shumpert has 149 rush attempts for 895 yards, 8 TD. He was held to 58 yards on 13 carries in last week’s loss to South Panola. … QB Luke Hobson has completed 35 of 67 passes for 705 yards, 6 TD, 3 INT. … WR Terrill Pinson has 17 receptions for 501 yards, 6 TD. … WR Josh Hamilton, a newcomer, caught a 51-yard pass to set up Wave’s lone TD against South Panola. … LB Damion Dilliard has a team-high 70 tackles for the season. … DE P.J. Jones leads team with 5 sacks and 6 TFL. … Tupelo’s defense gave up 305 yards rushing and 5 TD to South Panola RB Qyen Griffin.
– DeSoto Central: The Jaguars have used two sophomore QBs this season – Clay Fortin and Kyle Morgan. The two have combined to complete 29 of 88 passes for 493 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT. … Fortin leads the team in rushing with 59 carries for 383 yards. … WR Skip Knox has 10 receptions for 120 yards. … DC is averaging 159 yards per game total offense.
Saltillo (3-5) at West Point (7-1)
– This week: Saltillo, 0-4 in Division 1-5A, is coming off a 44-14 loss to New Hope. West Point, 4-0 in league play and the defending state champion, defeated Lake Cormorant 28-27 last week.
– Recent history: West Point defeated Saltillo 28-12 last season.
– Saltillo: The Tigers, who are 1-3 in road games this season, last won Sept. 10 when they defeated Booneville, 38-28. … “We’re fighting the injury bug and we have a lot of youth,” Saltillo first-year coach Pat Byrd said. … QB Chase Watson completed 11 of 20 passes for 122 yards and suffered 1 INT in last week’s loss to New Hope. … RB Obrien Stewart has rushed for 1,062 yards (7.7 ypc), 11 TD. … RB Quad Freeman has rushed for 712 yards (9.1 ypc), 6 TD. … DB Khary Staggs leads team in tackles, averaging 6.9 per game.
– West Point: The Green Wave defense stopped Lake Cormorant’s 2-point conversion attempt last week to survive an upset. … “Lake Cormorant could have beaten them,” Pat Byrd said. “They run the spread and did a good job against West Point.” … RB Lakenderick Thomas scored twice in the Green Wave’s win against Lake Cormorant – one for 12 yards, the other for 1. … RB Jacoby Lee added a 2-yard TD run and RB Tez Pulliam scored on a 31-yard run in the win.
Itawamba AHS (5-4) at Pontotoc (5-4)
– This week: Itawamba AHS, 2-1 in Division 1-4A, defeated Tishomingo County 41-28 last week. Pontotoc, 1-2 in league play, is coming off a 48-41 shootout loss to Shannon. This is the next to last week of the regular season for 4A teams.
– Recent history: IAHS defeated Pontotoc 16-13 last season.
– Itawamba AHS: QB Maikhail Miller has completed 105 of 187 passes for 1,220 yards, 12 TD, 6 INT. … Miller also leads the team in rushing with 712 yards and 15 TD. He scored 4 of those TDs last week. … WR Austin Shumpert has 30 catches for 446 yards and 6 TD. … WR Jimmy Ruff leads the team with 32 catches for 355 yards and 4 TD. … Talk about balance, the Indians are averaging 136 yards passing and 141 yards rushing per game.
n Pontotoc: QB Marcus Reed, a sophomore, scored on a 7-yard run and passed 5 yards for a TD to WR Shaquille Gillard in last week’s game against Shannon. … RB Randall Crayton rushed for 147 yards and 2 TD last week. … … The Warriors gave up 208 yards rushing and 5 TD to Shannon RB Bodarius Taylor. … Pontotoc trailed the Red Raiders by 21 points before rallying.
Mooreville (6-3) at Nettleton (3-6)
– This week: Two teams looking for their first 2-3A win battle this week. Mooreville, 0-3 in league play, dropped a 46-10 decision last week to Aberdeen. Nettleton, also 0-3 in the division, lost 53-20 to Winona. The Tigers have lost four straight.
– Recent history: Nettleton defeated Mooreville 27-0 least season.
– Mooreville: Despite losing three straight, the Troopers have an outside shot at the postseason if they win out. “We’ve got to have some help,” coach Kevin Austin said. “We need Winona to beat Water Valley (tonight).” … RB Josh Johnson rushed for 65 yards on 16 carries and scored 1 TD, on a 2-yard run, in the loss. … QB Griff Loftis exited last week’s game with a shoulder injury, but is expected to play this week, … DL Quadzing Rodgers leads team with 9.4 tackles per game.
– Nettleton: QB Dakota Cruben is averaging 120 yards passing per game. He had thrown for 700-plus yards and 10 TDs prior to last week’s loss to Winona. … RB Corbin White is averaging 6.3 yards per carry and has a season-high 188-yard rushing effort against Baldwyn. … LB Wesley Lee leads with 10.3 tackles per game.