By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
SALTILLO – Pat Byrd saw a number of things he didn’t like in Saltillo’s season-opening loss to Itawamba AHS.
One of those was not A.J. Rye.
The sophomore connected on all six of his extra point attempts in the Tigers’ 45-42 loss, but that’s not what impressed his coach.
Byrd saw Rye catch five passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns. The two TD receptions from quarterback Chase Watson were for 75 and 77 yards – one on a fade, the other a hitch-and-go.
“(Rye) has a different gear when the lights come on,” said Byrd, who added that he wasn’t surprised by the sophomore’s success. “You can see what he has in practice. He has a chance to take it to another level.”
Watson completed 12 of 28 passes for 301 yards, but also threw two interceptions to go along with his two scoring strikes to Rye. Watson scored the game’s first TD on a 13-yard run.
“I thought he played well,” Byrd said. “He did have the two interceptions and a fumble.”
Watson’s second-quarter fumble was returned 87 yards for a touchdown by Itawamba AHS’s Reggie Morris.
Saltillo (0-1) travels to Lee County rival Mooreville (0-1) this week. The Troopers lost 42-28 to Amory in their opener.
“It looked like Mooreville went into the game intending run the ball,” Byrd said. “Amory played well in the secondary and Mooreville couldn’t get its passing game untracked. They’ll get it all fixed by Friday night.”
Mooreville and senior quarterback Griff Loftis will face a Saltillo defense described by Byrd as “a work in progress.”
“Believe it or not, we tackled better than we did in the jamboree,” the coach said. “We didn’t do a good job getting off blocks. We had some mis-alignments and they blocked us.”
In other Friday games involving Lee County schools, Shannon (1-0) visits Aberdeen (0-1), Tupelo (1-0) travels to Center Hill (0-0) and Tupelo Christian Prep (1-0) hosts Middleton, Tenn. (0-1).