SALTILLO – Saltillo lost in the first round of the MHSAA Class 5A playoffs last season, but the Tigers still finished the season on a high note.
It was the first time they made the playoffs as a 5A school and their first winning season since 2004, as a 4A school.
Fourth-year coach Pat Byrd acknowledges that continuing that growth, while expected, won’t be easy. It all starts against a larger school when the season kicks off at 7 p.m. tonight against visiting Class 6A DeSoto Central.
“We’re doing a lot of different things offensively,” new quarterback Tyler Tollison said. “We’ve got a few key players and I feel like to further go on, we’ve just got to execute.”
Saltillo had won only 11 games since 2004. That mentality is tough to overcome with one good year. But leading the group trying to overcome it is a tough player.
Tollison, a 5-foot-7, 145-pound senior, is a new full-time quarterback, but he’s played there and everywhere for the Tigers.
He has a new weapon in transfer running back Diamante Pounds, who collected nearly 1,600 yards last season as a sophomore at Shannon. In a jamboree win against North Pontotoc at Ole Miss on Saturday, he had a 51-yard touchdown run through the middle and dodged a lot of tackles on the day.
“He brings a different style to the offense,” Tollison said. “Last year we didn’t really have much of a running back, besides (quarterback) Andrew Soper. To know we’re dynamic this year, it’s really good.”
Receiver AJ Rye is another dynamic threat, a rare deep threat for Tollison.
The Tigers’ defense already has faced one good test, having to chase around North Pontotoc receiver Marcus Green. He scored a pair of touchdowns, which gave Saltillo a good chance to see what not to do.
It’s an “All In” motto this season.
“We’re going to go out there and compete every week, have a good week of practice and perform,” senior defensive end Worth Robinson said. “We’ve just got to play hard, but smart, too.”