By Melissa Meador
Smithville has faced its share of bad weather this season – including a muddy, wet win at Shelby Broad Street two weeks ago.
The Seminoles didn’t have to weather a literal storm in their 47-24 North championship win over St. Aloysius last Friday but with a 60 percent chance of rain, they could see some clouds on Friday when they play French Camp in the Class 1A title game at 11 a.m.
“We’re not all fast, and not all of us can cut real well, but we’re a pretty straight ahead run team,” running back Tyler Hood said. “It always comes to our advantage when it rains. That’s what happened when we played Shelby, and we pulled out with a W on that one.”
Smithville coach Bubba Tacker said he felt like rain or no rain, it would be an even playing field on Friday.
“We’ve been very fortunate in those situations to play well and execute. It’s like I’ve told them that French Camp is here for a reason, and it’s because they’re a really great football team,” Tacker said. “I think both teams are going to come out and do what they do and do it well, regardless of the weather.”
If weather hits, it would be the second week in a row for French Camp to push through the elements after getting rain during its 56-35 win over Stringer.
“We’ve played in a lot of bad weather situations this year, and it probably affects us more than it does other teams, but we’ve had to persevere in it, including last week,” French Camp coach Nathan Wright said. “We’ll take what the Lord gives us and do our best with it.”
After losing to them last year in the state championship game, the Panthers got their revenge in last week’s win over Stringer, the Class 1A favorites.
“It makes you think about that they have to be a really good team to beat a team like Stringer because they’ve been our top team all season,” Smithville quarterback Drew Lann said. “It’s all you’ve heard about, and as far as French Camp goes, we know they’re a really good team, and we expect it to be a good game. You see them on film and then you see them face to face, and it’s kind of a different perspective. You get to size them up and see what they’re like. I’ve watched them on film, and it’s going to be crazy.”
Lann and Hood have combined for 47 touchdowns on the ground, but Wright complimented their line in helping to open up the holes.
“I’ve probably most been impressed with them up front on their line. They’re very disciplined, and you don’t see them make a lot of mistakes,” Wright said. “That’s the part that’s scary because sometimes you rely on teams to make mistakes to win. They have kids that don’t have any quit in them, it seems like.”
Hood credited the team’s ability to work through adversity as a strength going into Friday. The Seminoles have come from behind in two of their three playoff wins so far.
“If we get down, don’t count us out. We’ve faced adversity a lot this year, but we’ve never laid down,” Hood said. “I give it to the rest of my team as well as myself because they don’t give up easily, especially even the guys that don’t play. If you get down, they pick you up as soon as you come off to the sideline. It’s just a great atmosphere around our sideline.”
Lann said attending Monday’s state championship press conference helped the experience sink in.
“It’s being a part of something more than just football. You’re being part of history in Mississippi,” Lan said. “Being a part of just the fourth team to go to state is something big for our school, and we want to make them proud.”
Tacker celebrates his birthday on the same day as his Seminoles go for their third title in school history and first since 1998 but said making the championship game was enough of a present for him.
“If we won it, that would be more icing on the cake, but we just want to come down here and enjoy the experience. It’s all about the kids here in a time for them to enjoy an experience that a lot of kids across the state of Mississippi never get to enjoy,” Tacker said. “A lot of coaches never get to enjoy this experience. That’s what we’re focused on now, and coming in with a good plan to play with lots of effort, execute and see what happens.”