By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – While both offenses looked pretty good at times Friday night, Pat Byrd and Brian Sutton both thought their respective squads need to improve on a number of things before their respective season openers next week.
“We didn’t tackle defensively,” said Byrd, who’s entering his second season as Saltillo High’s head coach. “That was the biggest thing. And so was misalignment.
“Offensively, we made some plays. We didn’t run the football well. We were OK in the passing game.
“But we got lots to fix before next week.”
The Tigers, however, didn’t walk out Vaught-Hemingway Stadium a loser in Friday’s jamboree game against North Pontotoc. In fact, they tied the Vikings 12-12 in the exhibition contest a week before they host Itawamba AHS in Week 1.
“We treated this like a practice,” said Sutton, who’s also in his second year as the Vikings head coach. “The best thing about it is that we got a film and we can watch it and we can get better.
“We got some places we can get better. We can get a lot better on offense. I thought the defense played well early. I thought we got tired and we started missing some tackles and missed some assignments there.”
The Vikings’ O looked impressive on the opening possession, using a balanced attack to punch in the game’s first score. A 70-yard drive consisting of 10 plays – featuring five runs and five passes – was capped off by Caleb Mills’ 19-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Green. The extra-point attempt failed.
The Vikings lost center Brandon Bolin on the opening possession, and Sutton said he wasn’t sure what the initial diagnosis was for him.
“We haven’t heard from him,” Sutton said following Friday’s game. “I know they (the training staff) took him to maybe get a MRI.”
Meanwhile, the Tigers put together an alternating run-pass drive of their own, following an interception, to knot the score at 6-all with 2:15 left in the opening period. Chase Watson converted two passes to Jalen Gaston for 26 yards and rushed for a gain of 14 yards himself to set up Deon Robinson’s 4-yard touchdown run.
The Vikings regained the lead on Shemiah Carter’s 50-yard scamper with 14:18 remaining in the contest. However, Saltillo tied it when Watson hooked up with Adam Wilder, who made a nice catch in traffic, on a 7-yard pass play with 6 minutes, 30 seconds to go.
A Vikings’ drive to win it ended when Jaquoyia Pounds picked off Mills.
Also on Friday:
Shannon 14, Oxford 7: Juquevis Cockrell’s 99-yard interception return with 21 seconds left proved to be the winner as the Red Raiders overcame a 7-6 deficit.
Cockrell’s score, in fact, was the second INT return of the game for a touchdown as the Charger’s Ethan Holmes had a 52-yard one with 8:55 to play.
The Red Raiders scored first when Jalen Thomas hauled in a pass from Devan Gilleylen for a 45-yard score.
Grenada 6, Oxford 6: The Chieftains started the scoring on Fred Ward’s 24-yard jaunt, but Okolona answered later in the half on a 15-yard TD reception by Trey Bledsoe.