By David Wheeler/Special to the NEMS Daily Journal
It is not Halloween yet, but Northeast Community Tigers head coach Ricky Smither might be wandering which mask his young team will be wearing for its next game.
Will the good young team that beat Jones County 31-20 appear?
Or will it be the inexperienced young group that lost to Copiah-Lincoln?
The Tigers open their North Division schedule tonight at 7 p.m. against the Bulldogs with the contest being played at Madison Central High School.
“The parity in this league is as good as its been in a while, so it’s important you win every game you ought to win,” Smither said. “This game will set the tone for the whole year.”
Northeast’s tone for the 2012 season did improve last week with its road win at Jones County.
A highlight of that contest was freshman quarterback Matt Lipham being named to Player of the Week honors by MACJC/Juco Weekly. Lipham threw for 311 yards, and three touchdowns.
“He had a tremendous game against Jones,” Smither said. “He made all the right decisions, and he led the team.”
Smither also had praise for defensive back Antonius Dogan, a freshman from Charleston. Dogan stepped into the lineup after an injury and made seven tackles, and broke up two passes in key situations of the contest.
“We knew coming into the Jones game we were playing a bunch of younger guys,” Smither said. “To get that win, it was important to get that confidence factor for this week.”
Smither is hoping the strong effort at Jones will continue tonight against Holmes (0-2).
“We think our passing game will be able to take advantage of some things they do,” Smither said. “Holmes is big up front, so our running game might have a hard way to go.
“On offense, Holmes does throw the ball around a lot, but our strength is our depth in the secondary and at linebacker. It should be a pretty good chess match.”
One other factor Smither has allowed for – a short week. Northeast’s first two games were on Saturdays, and this contest is on a Thursday.
“I’m just preaching consistency because we’re starting a lot of freshmen at key spots,” Smither said. “We over-preach the basics, and eventually, it kicks in.”
Next week, Northeast will host Northwest.