Tony Tsoukalas & Sarah Moomaw
The Meridian Star
Cougars host 4A champs
The Newton County Cougars are coming off a week of a rest as they open district play by hosting reigning Class 4A champions Forrest County on Friday night.
Newton County entered their bye off a soggy, 33-10 win over West Lauderdale in Week 5.
“We had the chance to go back and work on some basics,” Newton County head coach Jamie Williamson said. “It's been positive for us, that's for sure.”
In addition to being well rested, the Cougars were given healing time.
Sophomore quarterback Jacob Edwards has been cleared for contact after suffering a hairline fracture in his non-throwing wrist against Forest in Week 4. Trent Hundall will be back after being out with a concussion.
“Getting those back at the right time is definitely a big plus,” Williamson said.
Both squads enter the matchup at 4-1, but Williamson said the Cougars' strength the last few weeks has been the defense and hopes it continues that way.
“With districts starting, it couldn't be a better time for them to grow up and play good,” he said. “[Forrest] is strong on offense, defense is pretty good, we'll have our work cut out for us.”
Williamson said a key to getting the win will be starting strong.
Tigers look to build on wins
The Newton Tigers have built up some momentum with back-to-back wins as they enter district play hosting Scott Central on Friday night.
Last week, they had to come from behind to grab a 25-16 win over Richland. This week, head coach Chris Gale hopes the team puts up more points and plays strong the entire 48 minutes.
“I thought we should have scored more last two weeks, but again we scored period,” Gale said.
“Crawl before you walk, walk before you run.”
Gale said the biggest weakness in the win was giving up easy points and the team's ability to hold onto the ball as a few drops ended possible scoring drives.
“We gave up nine or 10 points, a touchdown and a field goal, basically on penalties … we don't know what would happen if we don't make those mistakes.”
The Rebels enter the match up fresh off a 32-14 loss to Leake Central and stand at 3-2 on the season. As for a the outlook, the Tigers are healthy and have been practicing hard to erase mistakes to prevent the Rebels from getting on the board.
“[Scott Central] do[es] a good job of challenging your toughness, so we are going to have to stand up to the challenge,” Gale said.
Panthers’ new QB gets the W
After four tough losses to start the season, the Quitman Panthers finally have something to build on.
Last week, the Panthers topped Bay Springs, 23-6, to earn their first win of 2013. This week, Quitman will open up district play when it hosts Northeast Jones at 7 p.m. Friday.
“It's good to have one under our belt,” Quitman head coach Steven Bynum said. “We needed that to help morale a little bit.”
Senior Toriano Howard took over at quarterback for the Panthers next week and shined in his debut, completing 15-of-20 passes for 317 yards and one touchdown.
“He was on target, avoided pressure and threw a good football,” Bynum said. “We had 317 yards passes Friday night, which for us is highly unusual.
“They loaded the box, and we were able to play pitch-and-catch a little bit. [Howard] gives us that element of passing the ball a little bit in the back field, and maybe folks will start thinning the box out a little bit.”
Bynum said Howard will be the starting quarterback moving forward as former quarterback DeQuan Stanley will move to the H-Back position.
“You might see us a little more in a two-back set,” Bynum said. “We will still get Stanley his touches which will take a load off Toriano Howard and Josh Davis.”
Bulldogs back in win column
A Week 6 win was just what The Enterprise Bulldogs needed after a winless start to the 2013 season. Now, riding off a 38-22 win over Choctaw Central, the Bulldogs will head into district play as they host Union for Homecoming.
“A win builds confidence,” Enterprise head coach Kelly Jimmerson said. “As coaches, it makes us feel better to get a win. But, we've got to stack more than one together. We have to win two, three in a row if we can, and that's the way momentum starts.”
Jimmerson said the biggest difference between last week and the previous five games was the effort his team displayed throughout all four quarters. Despite homecoming distractions, Jimmerson said he hopes his team will come out with the same intensity Friday against Union.
The Yellowjackets enter the game at 3-. However, Jimmerson said they are a much better team than their record indicates.
“They are one of the top teams in my district in my mind,” he said. “If they get things together and stop turning the ball over, they are going to be a good football team. Sometimes a loss is not indicative of how your team really is.”
Philly rolls into district play against Forest
Philadelphia High School opens up district play with a bang as the Tornadoes travel to Forest Friday at 7 p.m.
Coming off a 58-8 win over previously unbeaten Kemper County, head coach Teddy Dyess said his offense is starting to click on all cylinders.
“We have sophomore offensive lineman who have been playing a lot,” Dyess said. “They are getting better and will continue to get better as the season goes along. If we are blessed to be one of those four playoff teams at the end of the season, I think we will be a good offensive team heading into the playoffs.”
Friday's game will be a rigorous test for Philly as the Tornadoes face a tough Forest defense that held 4A Newton County to just one touchdown in a 10-7 victory over the Cougars.
“In order to win a state championship, you have to go on the road and beat a good team,” Dyess said. “I think it will be like a playoff game Friday night.”
Dyess said Forest is a model program and one that he hopes the Tornadoes will someday match. The Bearcats have won four state championships while Philadelphia’s lone state title came in 1992.
“They are what we want to be,” Dyess said. “We'd like to get us four state championships and be mentioned in the same breath as them.”
Wildcats look to bounce back from first loss
The Kemper County Wildcats finally lost in 2013, but it took the Philadelphia Tornadoes to tear through them, 58-8, in Week 6.
Wildcat head coach Chris Jones said he thought the team, coaching staff included, had gotten cocky with their 5-0 start so the loss was a good thing before district play begins this week. On Friday, Kemper will host South Pontotoc for Homecoming.
“I hate to say this, but I think we needed that loss,” Jones said. “We needed a little humble pie to kind of humble us … you can't get satisfied being undefeated, especially only half way through the season, because you're not where you want to be.”
South Pontotoc is 3-3 on the season coming off its third straight loss. Jones said he hopes his team can bounce back strong from their own brutal loss as the second half of the season is what truly counts for a playoff run.
“Friday is going to determine how we are going to play the rest of the season,” he said. “If we do the things we need to do, eliminate mistakes and play good football, we'll be fine.”
Last week, Jones' said he liked the defense line despite the point differential. On offense, he said he is taking the blame for the loss.
“I might have had too much on their plates, especially with it being such a big game,” Jones said.