Meridian Star

September 12, 2013

NEL looks to bring winning home

Sarah Moomaw
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     Northeast Lauderdale will finally get to break in their own freshly painted field as they open the 2013 home slate on Friday night when then host Neshoba Central.

    The Trojans finally got a win in Week 3 after thinking a field goal with 1:53 to play the week earlier against West Lauderdale had clinched a victory, but a last second Knight play let the first win of the season slip away.

    Northeast head coach Curt Blackburn said this year's home opener has a little bit different hype because of having double-digit seniors on the team.

    "We've got 20 seniors, most of them have been playing the last four years. They are excited about starting their senior home season," he said. "There are all kinds of ways they break it down – they look at home games and away games, they look at district and non-district, and all that good stuff. They're excited about the first home game of the season and getting to play in front of a home crowd."

    Last week's 37-21 win over Southeast Lauderdale restored the teams confidence and has propelled it through another hard week of practice as it prepared for the Rockets from Class 5A.

    "After losing two, it was kind of a question of how they were going to respond and I feel like we did a pretty good job," Blackburn said. "The two that we lost were quality opponents ... it was good to get that win and get a little momentum."

    The win came with a cost of which the total isn't known yet.

    Senior running back Stevie Sanders was well on his way to his third consecutive game of 100-plus rushing yards when he went down midway through the second quarter with a knee injury.

    On Wednesday, Blackburn said Sanders was waiting on MRI results, but almost definitely would miss Friday night's game.

    "We are fortunate and have a few pretty good ones (fill-in options)," he said. "I'm hoping we'll have one step up that'll fill his shoes and we won't miss him a whole, whole lot."

    On Friday, Blackburn said he'll use Kenderius Naylor, Willie Campbell and Robert Collins, among others, until Sanders returns or one shines as a replacement.  

    "We'll sort of play by committee because we aren't sure where that is going to take us yet," he said.

    As for this week's game, running back aside, Blackburn said he thinks the Trojans and Rockets will be evenly matched on both sides of the ball. He called his offensive line a "spirited group of kids" that will be ready.

    Neshoba is sitting at 0-3 and was almost blown off the 5A map by Class 3A powerhouse Philadelphia last week, losing 41-0. With Northeast only grabbing it's first win a week ago, Blackburn said he knows how bad losses can affect a team, but doesn't think it'll be an issue.

    "I was worried how our kids would rebound from the loss to West Lauderdale (in Week 2) and they didn't really miss a beat," he said. "[Neshoba head coach Chuck Friend] will have them ready to go."