Meridian Star

September 20, 2013

Public, private affair: Lamar, Northeast square off tonight

Tony Tsoukalas
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     Northeast Lauderdale High School and Lamar School will meet for the first time ever tonight when the Trojans travel six miles down Highway 39 for the rare public school vs. private school matchup.

    The game came about this off-season when Lamar head coach Mac Barnes dialed up Northeast head coach Curt Blackburn after reading that the Trojans had an extra bye week on their schedule. After talking it over, the two coaches agreed the matchup would be a natural fit for both teams.

    “Us moving up to 3A gave us 12 playing dates,” Barnes said. “We were able to pick up two games in Northeast and Russell where it will cost us nothing to travel. It just made a lot of sense. Plus, I feel like it will be a really good game.”

    On top of the financial benefits the matchup offers, both teams expect a packed house at Grey Cobb Field tonight.

    “It's not a whole lot different than playing Southeast Lauderdale or West Lauderdale,” Blackburn said. “Anytime the kids are playing a school so close, you are going to know one another pretty well. Both teams are looking for bragging rights. It's going to be a pretty intense game.”

    Lamar (3-1) comes into the game fresh off of a 41-13 loss to MAIS powerhouse Jackson Prep. Despite the lofty defeat, the Raiders were able to hold the Patriots to 14-13 at halftime before falling apart in the second half. Barnes said he is impressed with his team's early performance but noted the Raiders will have to step up their play if they are to upset 4A Northeast.

    “They are faster than the teams we have played,” Barnes said. “Those are the type of things that you don't know how you will match up until you take the field.

    “They run a scheme that we don't see very much. We are having to make a few changes and have our guys realize just how wide the field is and how Northeast uses that weapon.”                         

        Blackburn said the Trojans (3-1) will not only utilize their speed advantage  but also look to lean on an experienced offensive line headlined by seniors Brandon Windham, Reginald Hopson and Devokias Mosley.

    “I'd be crazy if I said I wasn't going to do that,” Blackburn said. “We are going to try and run at them. But, we are also going to use this as a game to build up all of our weaknesses going into district.”

    The Raiders will rely on High School Sports in Mississippi Fab 15 member Lee Martin to combat the Trojan's athleticism. Martin, along with defensive lineman/offensive lineman Jesse Seale will play on both sides of the ball for Lamar.

    “Lee (Martin) had seven or eight catches against Jackson Prep last week, and as the season goes on we will be using him more and more,” Barnes said. “We are trying to spread the ball out right now. We don't really rely on one guy, but Lee (Martin) is one guy we want with the ball in key situations.”

`    Northeast racked up 387 yards on the ground against 5A Neshoba Central during last week's 40-14 win over the Rockets. The Trojans received over half of those yards from wide receiver LaDale Cockrell who rushed eight times for 198 yards and three touchdowns. The offensive explosion came despite the absence of senior running back Stevie Sanders who missed last week's game due to injury. Blackburn said Sanders is listed as questionable for tonight's game.

    The game will be Lamar's final tuneup before heading into district play on Sept. 27 when they travel to Copiah Academy. Northeast will host non-district foe Forest next week.

    “I always like playing good teams,” Barnes said. “I think this game will help us as we prepare for the playoffs.”