By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
SHANNON – There are obviously not many positives to come from Shannon High’s two losses this season.
The Red Raiders had issues with high snaps, surrendered a pick-six and gained only 48 yards of total offense in a 22-14 loss to Aberdeen on Aug. 26.
Then, one week after they blasted West Lowndes on the road, 50-14, the fifth-ranked Red Raiders committed six turnovers in a 23-8 home loss to Tupelo High.
“You’re not going to beat a seventh-grade team,” Raiders coach Chad Cook said about the high number of turnovers. “The ones that are turning the ball over are the ones we gotta get the ball to.
“Sometimes you just get beat, but I wish we could have eliminated the turnovers.”
Despite losing to Aberdeen and Tupelo, both of those early-season contests, in addition to this week’s game against top-ranked Lafayette, will benefit the Raiders (2-2), who begin their MHSAA Division 1-4A slate at Pontotoc on Sept. 30.
“The speed of the game is going to slow down so much when we get to division (play),” said Cook, whose squad defeated Kosciusko, a Class 4A playoff team in 2010, 33-7 in Week 1. “I told my guys to keep their heads up.”
He’s got a point.
Aberdeen, the Daily Journal’s top-ranked Class 3A team, boasts one of the best defenses in the state, led by 2010 Daily Journal Defensive Player of the Year Channing Ward and another NCAA Division I prospect in linebacker Justin Lucas. The Bulldogs are holding teams to 17 points per game this season – and that includes games against Class 6A Columbus (3-0) and 4A power Noxubee County (3-1).
Fourth-ranked Tupelo, meanwhile, held Starkville, the Daily Journal’s third-ranked large school, to 10 points.
“It’s hard for young guys. That speed of the game in 6A is a whole different thing,” Cook said about playing a Golden Wave team that made the 6A playoffs last year.
And prior to playing 13-time Louisiana state champion Evangel Christian Academy on Saturday, Lafayette had outscored its first three opponents, including Tupelo, by a combined 122-23.
So, with two new quarterbacks behind center this year, the Red Raiders offense should be fully accustomed to seeing various defensive looks and up to speed by the end of this month. Not to mention, a healthy Bodarius Taylor in the backfield should definitely open things up for a perennial playoff team.
“He’s better,” Cook said about a banged-up Taylor. “He practiced most of the week.
“We got to find a way to get him the ball. I mean, he’s dangerous. He’s so explosive. A couple of times they (Tupelo) had him at the line of scrimmage and he still got a couple of yards.”
The senior running back – who rushed for 1,289 yards (7.5 yards per carry) and 14 touchdowns in just seven games last season – played in his team’s season opener, played only the first quarter against Aberdeen and didn’t play against West Lowndes before playing the entire contest against Tupelo.
“We had to survive without him,” Cook said. “Now we got him back.
“And I wasn’t quite sure if he was going to play (against Tupelo). I couldn’t put the whole offense or a lot of it around him because if he couldn’t go tonight (Friday) then we were back to square one again.”
The Raiders host Lafayette this Friday before entering their bye week.
“We have to regroup for Lafayette and then we got an off week before our stretch run,” Cook said. “That is going to give us two weeks to prepare for division.”