By David Wheeler/NEMS Daily Journal
BOONEVILLE – Ricky Smither had his eyes on the prize – reaching the postseason – when the 2011 season began.
But in order to make that journey, Smither had to step back from goals and focus on each individual contest as it appeared on the schedule.
Smither and the Tigers will need all their focus Saturday when they host the East Mississippi Lions for a 3 p.m. homecoming kickoff.
“I think the team knows the importance of this game because this group has been a pretty mature group,” Smither said. “We also need to keep everything in perspective.”
Some perspectives of this contest are obvious.
East Mississippi (5-0, 3-0) is ranked No. 3 in the nation, while the Tigers (5-0, 3-0) have worked their way up to No. 12 after beginning the season unranked.
And from an MACJC North Division standpoint, this is the battle for first place between the only two undefeated squads in the state.
“Look at their stats, East Mississippi is at the top of our league in passing and total offense, and maybe at the top of the country,” Smither said. “These cats are very explosive.
“But I say that if we continue with what we do, things will fall in place for us.”
Things fell into place last week for Northeast in its 34-38 victory over then No. 10 Northwest. The Tigers jumped to a 34-7 halftime lead with excellent offensive and defensive efforts, then had to hold on in the second half to secure the win.
“We went out and executed offensively in the first half,” Smither said. “Then we got content, which shows the immaturity of our offensive line.
“This week, we’ve been pounding on effort, giving more on the offensive side of the ball.”
Against Northwest, defensive back Frankie Lee had three interceptions and 11 tackles to lead some standout performances by the Tigers. Smither was also pleased with noseguards Devin Slate of Oxford and Jeremiah Booth, who had a combined 12-15 tackles.
“Against Northwest, I felt that if we kept the ball for 35 snaps, we’d win, ” Smither said. “I think we kept it 34.
“Against East Mississippi, I think we’ll need to keep the ball about 38 snaps. I think that is one thing that will help our defense.”