By David Wheeler/NEMS Daily Journal
BOONEVILLE – Head coach Ricky Smither wants his Northeast Tigers football team to know this week’s foe, Northwest, is just another opponent.
“This is just another team,” he said. “We just want to dominate each opponent each week, and play our style of ball.
“It’s worked for us so far.”
But the Northwest Rangers (3-1, 1-1) are hardly another opponent. They were a preseason favorite in the MACJC North Division, and are a major hurdle the Tigers (4-0, 2-0) need to get over, starting at 6:30 p.m. today in Senatobia.
Northwest comes in with a No. 10 ranking in the nation, and a high-flying offense averaging 497 yards per game. Leading that attack is University of Kentucky transfer quarterback Ryan Mossakowski, who has thrown 15 touchdowns while passing for 1,299 yards.
“Our linebackers will be put under pressure because they have a controlled passing game,” Smither said. “We’re going to have to keep them in front of us.
“The defense is playing hard, understanding concepts, and I’m excited about that. The defensive side of the ball for us is going to be fun to watch this game, and I think we do some things that Northwest won’t like to see.”
The Tigers, ranked No. 15 in the nation, have a defense that can counter all of the Rangers flash with some down-right stingy numbers. Northeast leads Mississippi schools in total defense, allowing 196 yards per game.
It’s a number the linebacking corps of Dennis Drapper, Eli Canton, Nick Thomason, J.R. White, Ryan Richardson, Courtney Sutton and Anthony Brown want to keep.
Strength vs. strength
It could be an intriguing clash as well when Northeast has the football and Northwest is on defense. The Rangers have one of the more porous defenses in the state, one giving up 350 yards per contest, but does lead the state with its rush defense, which is allowing only 81 yards per game.
“We challenged our offensive line for this game,” said Smither, whose Tigers have been trying to establish their run game so far this season. “They’ll have to play mistake free.”
Smither will be counting on offensive line starters Nathan Kendrick, Collin Stubblefield, Chanston Jeter, Terrance Jennings, and Antonio Foster to handle its share of the pressure against the Rangers.