August 21, 2009 9:07:00 AM
The Nettleton High School and the Amory High football teams hope to use a rivalry game to start the season with a victory.
Nettleton coach Jack Clark and Amory coach Pat Byrd believe the rivalry will be good for their boys.
"(The rivalry) has a positive impact for our kids. We''ve played each other 15 times in the last 20 years," Clark said. "They have probably won 13 of those games, but even though it is one-sided it is always a competitive game."
Clark said the rivalry will help both teams be ready to play when the lights go up at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
"We are about 11 miles apart, so our kids know their kids, and their kids know our kids," Byrd said. "I don''t think it will be a problem getting them ready to play."
Clark said the Tigers'' defense is the key to winning this game.
"Our offense is young, so we are looking for our (older) defense to carry us, especially in the early season," he said.
Linebacker and tight end Joe Sullivan is a key player for the Tigers, and Clark said the senior could have a breakout season.
"We have (Sullivan) on a very important roll on both sides of the football," he said. "He is going to put up good numbers on offense, but the big concern with him is on defense. I look for him to have 100 plus tackles this season."
Clark said he has been happy with the Tigers'' efforts in the preseason. However, a young offensive line has forced them to work harder at blocking strong defenses.
"We are starting a new offensive line," he said. "It is taking them longer to adjust, but we have been working hard on it."
Jatoree Forks has been a surprise contributor on the young offensive line, Clark said.
"We expected to play him some on defense, but he came out of nowhere in the last few weeks to earn the start for our offensive line," he said.
Clark said he expects his players to go on the road and compete as hard as they can.
"(Amory) is a football school," he said. "But as long as we play hard, maybe the game will take care of itself."
Byrd said the Panthers are in decent shape to win their season opener. He said he the team that makes the fewest mistakes will win.
"The main thing (for the Panthers) is to take care of the football," he said.
While the Panthers haven''t performed in every practice like Byrd would like, he said there have been more plusses than minuses.
"You can''t simulate game speed (in a practice)," he said, "so they are going to have to get used to it in a hurry Friday night."
Byrd hopes the Panthers will be ready for the game because their attention span and conditioning have been good during the practices.
Quarterback Forrest Williams and linebacker William Ezell, Byrd said.
"Ezell is the only three-year starter defensively," he said. "I''m looking for him to show the other guys what needs to take place."
Williams, a sophomore, will make his first varsity start, and Byrd said he is expects his quarterback to make good decisions.
"I''m looking for (Forrest) to play beyond his years," he said. "If he does not I will be very disappointed."
Byrd said even though he has a lot of new faces among his starters, he expects a good season.
"I expect when the lights go on for (the Panthers) to go out and play well," he said.