What a difference a year makes.
Last season, the Tigers were a sophomore-dominated group. But in 2012, Northeast plays more than its fare-share of freshman, who will take the field today at 7 p.m. against the sophomore-dominated Rangers, who are ranked No. 6 in the latest NJCCA polls.
“Last year, they played a bunch of young kids, and we took advantage of it,” Northeast head coach Ricky Smither said. “Now our kids have three games under their belt.
“Athlete versus athlete, I think we match up with them. But we have to get a little momentum going in our favor.”
Northeast (1-2, 0-1) needs some positive momentum, coming off a 34-14 loss last week to Holmes.
“Things really got black for us in the first half,” Smither said. “But the kids didn’t quit.
“I’m proud of the way the kids played in the second half. When this group figures it out, they will be a dangerous squad.”
For Northeast last week, Smither liked the way the defensive front played, including freshman Daniel Ross and sophomore Lavon Hooks, especially in the second half.
But in the competitive North Division, a game deficit is bad, and Northeast is trying to make up that deficit against Northwest.
“Lose another, and we’re playing behind the 8-ball,” Smither said. “We practiced with a sense of urgency this week.
“We have to give our best effort, and it wouldn’t matter who we were playing.”
The Rangers (2-0, 1-0) could be considered a game down to the rest of the state, having its first contest of the season canceled because of a hurricane. But the Rangers have rolled since with wins over Copiah-Lincoln and Coahoma.
“Last week, the team was pretty efficient with what we were trying to do,” Northwest defensive coordinator Andy Greening said. “We’ve talked about last year, but not that much, really.
“But we should be focused for the game.”
Northwest features an experienced offensive line, which sophomore QB Domonique Harris from Southaven has used to his advantage. Against Coahoma last week, the 6-foot-5 QB threw for 323 yards.
“They have a big quarterback,” Smither said. “Offensively, we need to maintain some drives, and keep their defense on the field.”