November 21, 2012 4:46:42 PM
LOUISVILLE -- When Tyler Peterson watches Louisville High School junior quarterback Wyatt Roberts trigger the Wildcats' potent passing offense, it brings back pleasant memories.
"Wyatt is just so much more mature," said Peterson, the coach at Kosciusko High. "He started as a freshman, which is unheard of at Louisville. There are probably very few sophomores who have started."
The list of sophomores that started for Louisville includes Tim Ellis, who led the Wildcats to an undefeated season in 1973 before the Mississippi High School Activities Association playoffs existed; Clayton Moore, who quarterbacked the Wildcats to a state title as a junior in 2007; and Peterson, who led Louisville to a state championship in 1995. Peterson was a junior at the time of his title.
Roberts, a 5-foot-11,185-pound junior, has passed for 3,077 yards and 31 touchdowns this season. His performance has been a key reason why Louisville (10-4) has won seven of its last eight games and will play Noxubee County at 7 p.m. Friday in the Class 4A North State title game.
Beating Noxubee County won't be easy, but Louisville will rely on a well-oiled passing attack to pull the upset.
"I truly believe that if anybody has the recipe to beat Noxubee, it's us," said Louisville High receivers coach Chris Jones, who was a standout at Noxubee High.
Part of that recipe is for Roberts to do what he has all season: get the ball into the correct receiver's hands at the appropriate time.
"He is really getting the ball to the open guys," Jones said. "He's not just locked in on one player. He is truly playing quarterback instead of just dropping back and throwing the ball to one playmaker."
Last year, most of Louisville's passing attack was centered around getting the ball to senior C.J. Bates.
As soon as the 2011 season ended, Louisville coaches began work to find more ways to take advantage of Roberts' abilities and to make the offense harder to defend.
"We made up our mind as to what we had to do to be successful," Louisville coach M.C. Miller said. "We worked hard during 7-on-7 to develop more receivers, and it has really paid off for us. We can throw underneath, but we can also go deep, and you have to cover more than one man."
Nobody was more aware of Roberts' predilection of throwing to Bates than the quarterback.
"I pretty much keyed on C.J.," Roberts said. "I feel like I am more advanced now than I was last year. Working with the receivers (in the offseason) has really helped me out and we have just started clicking."
Going from a one-receiver offense to one with as many as five options didn't come overnight.
"It started as soon as the (2011) season was over with," Jones said. "We started developing some guys. We knew we didn't have C.J. anymore. We had to develop some young guys who had potential but had not been throw into the first yet."
Those young guys, all of who are underclassmen, have come up big. Junior Desmond Goss (5-10, 175) has 66 catches for 1,259 yards and 15 touchdowns. Classmate Dalton Hudspeth, who has started since his freshman year, has 33 catches for 446 yards and a pair of scores as a possession receiver.
Perhaps the biggest addition came as a surprise to the Wildcats.
"I knew what I had in Goss," Jones said. "The most surprising thing was Dontae Jones. He was more of a basketball guy who just started playing football. We knew he had some talent and ability, but didn't know what would happen when he got into a game. Once you put your pads and helmet on it's a different game."
The 6-4, 170-pound sophomore has 43 catches for 663 yards and 12 scores.
Junior Travian Hudson has 21 catches for 284 yards, and Lathomas Brown has 15 catches for 260 yards and four scores. That combination gives the Wildcats five options for Roberts.
The presence of 5-9, 185-pound senior Cass Love, who has rushed for 1,215 yards and 13 touchdowns on 200 carries, helps Louisville balance a rushing attack with its passing game.
While the Wildcats are riding a four-game winning streak, the start to the season was a little bumpy. Louisville split its first six games and then won three straight before dropping a 41-28 decision to Noxubee County on Oct. 18 at R.E. Hinze Stadium in Louisville.
Miller, Chris Jones, and Roberts said Wildcats found their identity at halftime of that game after trailing 28-0.
"It was just like something clicked all of the sudden," Roberts said. "We found our rhythm and the defense started stepping up and our confidence just built."
Said Jones, "I thought a couple of guys just weren't ready for that moment. They were trying to feel their way through the game. There were some plays to be made we didn't make and we dropped a couple of balls. But in the second half we came out and make those plays."
Miller agreed, and he is looking forward to the rematch.
"We have come a long way since that game," Miller said. "We have confidence in our guys that they will catch those balls and make those plays.
"If we are gong to beat Noxubee, we are going to have to play one of our best games and we are going to have to pass the ball. They have good athletes, and we are going to have to make some plays."