By David Wheeler/NEMS Daily Journal
FULTON – There was a simple way Itawamba Indians coach Jon Williams broke the current situation down to his team.
“Win and play another game.”
The Indians 28-18 victory over Northeast last week propelled them into sole second place in the North Division.
Now, the Indians can claim the No. 2 playoff spot from the North by defeating the Northwest Rangers, a contest that kicks off at 7 p.m. today in Fulton.
“Our message on Friday was that I hoped they enjoyed the Northeast game, because it was time to forget it,” Williams said. “We have to prepare for Northwest, which is a really good football team.
“If they play the way they’re capable, it will be a tough game for us.”
Itawamba (4-4, 4-1) showed its running game to be very capable as Shannon’s Keon McGaughy rushed for 112 yards, his third straight contest over the 100-yard mark.
“That was a hard 100 yards for Keon,” Williams said. “And Rashad Pargo (Aberdeen) had two really big catches in the game.
“On defense, Tim McAdoo played really well in the middle, helping to control their run game. And perhaps the unsung hero of the whole game was our coverage unit on special teams.”
Itawamba will again need contributions from all phases of play against Northwest (5-3, 3-2).
The Rangers passing offense has held most of the spotlight over the season behind quarterback Ryan Mossakowski, a transfer from the University of Kentucky. But against Holmes last week, Northwest rushed for 439 yards, with Al Hentz rushing for 207 yards and three scores.
Teshadi Talton added 194 yards.
“Last week showed Northwest to be well balanced,” Williams said. “We’d better be good at defending both the run and the pass, that’s what we have to focus on.”
The playoff implications from this contest are pretty simple for Itawamba. A victory puts the Indians into the post-season, while a loss ends the season.
On the other side of the field, Northwest can slide into the No. 2 playoff seed with a win, and a loss by Northeast versus Co-Lin. No matter what, a Northeast win eliminates the Rangers.
The North No. 2 team will be on the road for the first round of the playoffs next week at the South No. 1 school. Hinds (7-1, 5-0) and Gulf Coast (7-1, 5-0) are tied for the top spot in the South, and play each other Saturday.