By Gene Phelps and John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
Amory (1-2) at Aberdeen (2-1)
– This week: Monroe County bragging rights are on the line as the county’s biggest schools tangle in the 74th annual A-Game tonight at Aberdeen High School.
– Recent history: Although Amory holds a 44-30 all-time advantage in the series, the Bulldogs have won two of the last three games, including last year’s at Amory, 36-3. The Panthers pulled off an upset in 2008 – winning 22-21 to earn Division 2-3A’s No. 3 playoff seed and bump Aberdeen to the fourth seed – and will be looking to do the same against the Daily Journal’s current top-ranked Class 3A team. First-year Amory head coach Trent Hammond will experience his first A-Game.
– Amory: QB Forest Williams is 27 of 57 passing for 282 yards, 2 TDs and 6 INTs. He was picked off 4 times vs. New Hope last week. He’s also the team’s leading rusher, carrying the ball 22 times for 67 yards and 1 TD. … WR Dario Robinson is the Panthers’ leading receiver, with 6 catches for 82 yards and 1 TD. … After recording a shutout in Week 1 vs. Nettleton, the Panthers have given up 75 points in two games. … Panthers head coach Trent Hammond said his team is fairly healthy heading into tonight’s game.
– Aberdeen: Hammond says the Bulldogs are loaded with NCAA Division I athletes who are big and fast. He noted that the Bulldogs’ linemen range from 6-2 to 6-5 in height and weigh from 210 to 260 pounds. One of those guys is Channing Ward, who is 6-foot-4, 230 pounds and runs a 4.4 40-yard dash. Ward had 18 tackles in each of his first two games. He also recorded 3 sacks vs. Ray Brooks. “They’ve tried to do all kinds of things with him and none of it’s worked,” Hammond said about Aberdeen’s opponents this season trying to double team Ward or run plays away from him. … According to Hammond, the Bulldogs have been running the football more and like to “line up and ram it down people’s throats.” With that being said, Hammond did say that the Bulldogs are capable of executing pass plays at any moment. … Hammond added that the Bulldogs defense is extremely fast and runs to the ball really well. “There’s not a weak spot on the football field,” Hammond said of the Aberdeen team. “They’re better than you at every position. We just hope our kids make plays.”
Itawamba AHS (1-2) at Lafayette (3-0)
– This week: These two teams played each other twice last season in Fulton – once in the regular season and once in the playoffs. Tonight’s game will once again feature two big quarterbacks who are both NCAA Division I prospects: Itawamba AHS senior Maikhail Miller (6-3, 235) and Lafayette junior Jeremy Liggins (also 6-3, 235). And, in addition to that, two head coaches who use to coach with one another. Ashley Kuhn was Lafayette’s offensive coordinator in 2005 and 2006 – Anthony Hart’s first two seasons as the Commodores’ head coach. “It does matter,” Hart said about knowing each other’s tendencies as a coach. “He knows what we like to do on offense and defense. We’ll see what he likes to do. It’s just something you gotta prepare for.”
– Recent history: Itawamba AHS won last year’s regular-season meeting, 25-19, but it was Lafayette getting the last laugh, winning last season’s state semifinal 31-6.
– Itawamba AHS: Hart is impressed with the Indians’ wide receivers. “They run good routes and they catch the ball well,” the Lafayette coach said. “They’re going to have a breakout game. They’re going to be tough for us.” … Hart says the Indians play a four-man front on defense, and their defense runs well and is physical. But against his team, the Indians could change their defensive alignment. “Against us, it just seems like people change (defensive alignments) sometimes when they play us,” Hart said. “But what we’ve seen them in is a four-front.” … OG Preston Cross (concussion) and MLB Tyler Atkins (kneck) made their 2010 debuts last week vs. Tupelo after missing the first two games.
– Lafayette: Kuhn said his team watched film of last year’s state semifinal game. “They have a lot of the same kids back,” he said. “They’re pretty much doing the same things. They’re not really complicated, but they’re really good at what they do. They’re pretty much a running team.” … The Indians not only have to be concerned with Lafayette QB Jeremy Liggins throwing the ball, but with the QB running it. “We haven’t tackled a kid this size all year,” Kuhn said. “He’s faster than you think. He’s not only big, but very mobile and runs hard. I think he’s known more of a runner, but he throws the ball really well.” … Kuhn added that the Commodores are “well-coached on defense and their defense plays really hard. This may be one of the best defenses we will face all year – considering what they did last year and based on how many kids they got back.” … In conclusion, Kuhn calls this year’s Lafayette team your typical Commodores team that is big and athletic. “They have a nose tackle that weighs about 340,” he noted. “They’re all big guys who all move so well.”
New Albany (3-0)at Baldwyn (1-2)
– This week: It’s another case of Baldwyn taking on a large school, as no school Baldwyn’s size or smaller seems interested in playing the Bearcats in a non-division contest. The Daily Journal’s second-ranked small school plays host to the Journal’s third-ranked large school tonight.
– Recent history: While the Bulldogs defeated Baldwyn 31-12 last season, the Bearcats have won two of the teams’ last three meetings: 26-7 in 2008 and 54-44 in 2007.
– New Albany: After turning the ball over 4 times and struggling on offense vs. Corinth last week, the Bulldogs have spent this week stressing fundamentals. … The Bulldogs are loaded with playmakers this year. “We feel like we got several weapons on offense,” said New Albany head coach Ron Price. “We did a poor job of getting the ball to the right guy last week. Everybody we have on the field, we feel like is a playmaker. We want to distribute the ball as much as we can and make the defense defend the entire field.” … One of those playmakers, WR Josh Hardin (knee), is expected to return from an injury he suffered in Week 2 vs. Ripley. … Sophomore hard-hitting LB O.J. Hardin is improving each week, and “brings a lot of power with him in every tackle,” says Price. “Folks will know who he is. We expect him to be a good one for us.”
– Baldwyn: Baldwyn head coach Michael Gray said he hopes his team’s speed on defense can give the Bulldogs some fits on offense. Price said the Bearcats appear to run either a split 4-4 or 4-3 defense, which was hard to determine last week vs. Saltillo, as the Bearcats loaded the box against Saltillo’s 2 tight-end set. … Look for the Bearcats to try to slow the game down and eat the clock by running the ball. “We will like to play keep away from them,” Gray said. … According to Price, the Bearcats do a lot of misdirection plays on offense, and have several skill players who are capable of scoring from anywhere on the field. Gray added that his team is pretty healthy and in good shape, but that Friday’s expected warm temperatures and humidity could present a problem.
Starkville (1-2) at West Point (2-0)
– This week: In a Golden Triangle rivalry game, No. 4 Starkville continues its difficult schedule against top-ranked West Point, which had a bye last week. “I hate off weeks,” said West Point head coach Chris Chambless. “Trying to practice during an off week is tough, because you know you don’t have a game that Friday night, so you don’t have that energy level. But we did pretty good. We had three rough days last week of getting after it – hard-nosed.”
– Recent history: West Point has swept the last three meetings, winning 33-13 last year, 34-0 in ’08 and 16-13 in 2007.
– Starkville: Chambless said you can tell that the Yellowjackets have worked really hard on fundamentals and have been re-energized since Jamie Mitchell took over at the helm. “Hopefully not this one, but I expect them to win a lot of games in the future,” Chambless said of his opponent. … As with any team’s QB, Jaquez Johnson is what makes the Yellowjackets’ offense go – either by running or throwing the football. … Starting RB Preston Baker suffered a broken jaw in Week 1 vs. Noxubee County and will be out again for tonight’s game. In his place will be, Garrett Smith. … Also out for the Yellowjackets are WR/DB Gabe Myles (collarbone/ribs) and WR Kentrell Spencer (MCL/ACL). … Chambless added that the Starkville defense plays with a lot of energy and is hard-hitting.
– West Point: Mitchell said the Green Wave “pride themselves with being an extremely physical football team. They’re not really complicated. They control the football with the running game and play outstanding defense.” … The Green Wave defeated Shannon 39-14 in Week 1 and won at Mainland (Daytona Beach, Fla.), 14-0, in Week 2. … QB/DB Justin Cox is a Mississippi State commitment, and DL/FB Tommy Keys, LB Justin Bobo, DL Vontarrius Dora, and RB Lakenderic Thomas are considered the Green Wave’s best players.
Louisville (1-2) at Tupelo (2-0)
– This week: Tupelo comes home after a 31-6 road win last week at Itawamba AHS. Louisville, in its first season under former Noxubee County coach M.C. Miller, beat Quitman 26-14 last week for its first win.
– Recent history: Louisville defeated Tupelo 20-17 last season.
– Louisville: QB C.J. Bates played against Quitman after the Wildcats’ other QB, Nick Shield, was sidelined with a hand injury. “(Bates) can run and throw,” THS defensive coordinator Lamar Aldridge said. “They’re more of a running offense with him.” … RB Montricus Goss is the team’s top runner. However, they used four backs against Quitman.
– Tupelo: RB Ashton Shumpert has rushed for 229 yards on 39 carries and scored 4 rushing TD in two games. He rushed for 185 yards against is former team last Friday. … QB Luke Hobson has completed 10 of 17 passes for 253 yards and 2 TD. … WR Matt McIntosh has rushed for 36 yards and caught two passes for 72 yards and a TD. … WR/DB Terrill Pinson has four receptions for 152 yards and 1 TD. … LB Damion Dillard recorded 9 tackles, 1 sack last week. … DE P.J. Jones had 6 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack against IAHS. … OL Eric Bauman and Austin Swinney had the week’s top grades on the offensive line.
Shannon (0-2) at Corinth (0-2)
– This week: Shannon had last week off after opening losses to West Point and Memphis East. Corinth is coming off a 14-7 home loss to unbeaten New Albany.
– Recent history: Shannon defeated Corinth 35-7 last season.
– Shannon: QB Legilbert Bogan has completed 10 of 43 passes for 173 yards, 1 TD and 4 INT. “(Bogan) was having a good camp until he got a spider bite and missed a week,” coach Chad Cook said. “Then he was baptized at West Point. They were blitzing from every angle. I thought he threw some good balls against Memphis East. He’s gotten better.” … RB Marcus Thornton has rushed for 140 yards and scored 1 TD. … LB Shawn Goree has recorded a team-high 23 tackles in two games. … Cook says the open date came at a good time for the Red Raiders. “We’ve had some key players banged up and hopefully they’ll be back,” he said. “The competition we played was tough on us. We played 6A Southaven in the Oxford Jamboree, 5A West Point and Memphis East, a 6A-type school. We regrouped during the off week. I think we can compete with everybody we play from here on out.”
– Corinth: Cook was impressed with Corinth’s defense, which held New Albany’s high-powered offense to 14 points last week. He was really impressed by Warriors’ LB Trevor Toomer. “He’s the best we’ve faced this year,” Cook said. “He’s all over the field. Their defensive line stands out. They played New Albany toe-to-toe.” … K/P Jordan Parker is a weapon. He kept New Albany backed up with his punts and just missed making a 49-yard FG. … QB Lew Johnson scored his team’s lone points in the loss on a 20-yard run.
Saltillo (2-1) at Booneville (1-2)
– This week: It’s the battle of the new coaches, featuring Saltillo’s Pat Byrd against Booneville’s Mike Mattox. Byrd’s Tigers beat Baldwyn 34-31 in OT last week while Mattox’s Blue Devils fell 26-14 to Center Hill.
– Recent history: Booneville won 18-0 last season. Saltillo’s last win in the series was a 21-0 victory Sept. 10, 2004.
– Saltillo: RB Obrien Stewart rushed for 244 yards and scored the game-winning TD in OT against Baldwyn. He has rushed for 455 yards on 54 carries and scored 4 TD. … RB/LB Quad Freeman has rushed for 268 yards and scored 2 TD. He has also averaged 7.3 tackles per game. … LB Landon McGinnis leads team in tackles, averaging 8 per game. … Coach Pat Byrd is in his first season after a long tenure in Amory.
– Booneville: QB Chet Hawkins has completed 25 of 59 passes for 316 yards, 2 TD and 5 INT. He threw for both TDs against Center Hill. … RB Brendon Pannell has rushed for 268 yards on 51 carries for 2 TD. He’s also caught a 59-yard TD pass. WR Tre Welch leads team with 16 catchs for 197 yards and 1 TD. LB Jordan Miller leads team with 8.3 stops per game. … Coach Mike Mattox replaced the state’s all-time winningest coach, Jim Drewry.
Mooreville (3-0) at Falkner (1-2)
– This week: Mooreville, coming off a 40-19 win against rival Mantachie, has its sights set on a 4-0 start. Falkner, a Class 1A school, lost 41-14 last week against Marshall Academy.
– Recent history: Mooreville defeated Falkner 7-0 last season.
– Mooreville: QB Griff Loftis, a junior, passed for three TD last week against Mantachie. “Griff has really grown up a lot,” coach Kevin Austin said. “He understands what he needs to do with the football. He’s making better decisions.” … RB Josh Johnson, a sophomore, had 160 yards rushing on 16 carries and scored 3 TD last week. “He runs the ball really hard,” Austin said. “He’s not a burner, but he has good vision.” … Errick Dilworth, Channing Nanney and Drew Wheeler all caught TD passes flast week.
– Falkner: RB Will Robertson gives the Eagles a solid back. He has rushed for 281 yards on 33 carries and scored 3 TD. He has four pass receptions for 94 yards and a TD. … QB Kendrick Williams has completed 9 of 12 passes for 145 yards and a TD. … Billy Rainer and Tyler Hearn lead the team in tackles, averaging 6 per game.
O’Bannon (0-3) at TCPS (2-1)
– This week: TCPS is coming off its second straight victory since a season-opening loss to Mantachie. The Eagles defeated H.W. Byers 31-30 last week. O’Bannon remained winless with a 20-16 loss to Palmer.
– Recent history: O’Bannon defeated TCPS 51-6 last season.
– O’Bannon: TCPS’s visitor plays in Division 4-2A with JFK, Simmons, West Bolivar and Williams-Sullivan. … RB Lorenzo Johnson scored a TD in last week’s loss. He replaced injured starter Jeremy McCray, who has been sidelined with a knee injury.
– TCPS: QB Will Cockrell passed for three TD in last week’s win. The scoring passes went to Dallas Finley (32 yards), Jaeger Livingston (32 yards) and Zachary Taylor (20 yards). … Finley added a 51-yard TD run while RB Ron Lavigne scored on a crucial 1-yard run with 2:19 remaining. … DL Dason Maloney recorded 12 tackles and a key sack late in the game.
Capsules compiled by Gene Phelps and John Wilbert