By David Wheeler/Special to the NEMS Daily Journal
BOONEVILLE – The past, present and future.
All of those apply to Northeast Community College’s Tigers as they prepare to face the Itawamba Indians today at 3 p.m.
The past? One of the best traditional rivalries in Mississippi.
The present? This contest will be about pride with Northeast at 2-5 and 1-4 in North Division play, while ICC is at 4-3 and 2-2.
And, it is Northeast’s homecoming.
The future? Northeast head coach Ricky Smither indicates freshmen will get more than their share of playing time today.
“The guys are trying to find something positive about this season,” Smither said. “We’re still trying to find our identity, something this group can hang their hat on.
“This game is going to be very important to find out who we are going to be next year.”
Northeast comes into the ICC matchup off a 49-0 loss to No. 4 ranked nationally East Mississippi last week.
“Defensively, I think we played a lot better than what we thought we did that night,” Smither said. “The defense played well enough that if the offense had made a few plays, it would have been a lot tighter ball game.”
Against East, the Tigers offense’s first six plays resulted in three turnovers, which East turned into three touchdowns. And with more than 3 minutes to play in the first quarter after a fourth giveaway, Northeast was staring up at a 28-0 deficit.
Smither did like the effort of linebacker Tim Hudgins of Columbus, again. The freshman in his second start of the season because of an injury to Nick Thomason, recorded 10 tackles.
Smither also pointed to the efforts of Antwan Wilson, who moved from safety to corner because of an injury, and lineman Lavon Hooks. On the offensive side, Smither thought the effort running back Jay Jones, who had 100-plus yards of total offense, was his best of the season.
But can Northeast carry positives forward when it hits the field against Itawamba?
“I also think one of our biggest rivals is Northwest because we have so many players from that district,” Smither said. “I know it’s a big rivalry for Northeast fans, cause every time I mention Itawamba, they cringe.
“Our defense needs to continue playing solid. And our offense needs to be able to run the ball, or throw the controlled passing game.”
ICC won last year’s contest, 28-18.