August 20, 2018 3:23:09 PM
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
Wade Tackett has wiped the slate clean.
The New Hope High School first-year head football coach took notes while he reviewed the film from his team's 33-7 loss to Columbus in the New Hope Jamboree at Mississippi State last Friday. Tackett saw plenty of positives despite the score and several areas to clean up prior to his team's season opener at 7 p.m. Friday against Forest.
While Tackett plans to use the lessons learned from the two quarters or varsity action, he wants the Trojans to start with a new attitude in front of their home crowd.
"The kids were happy because they saw their potential," Tackett said. "They could have easily dropped their heads and quit, but they took it as a learning experience and challenged themselves to get better this week."
Tackett was pleased to see that reaction because he said he has been trying to instill confidence in the program and to get the players to believe they can be a really good football team in 2018. He feels the Trojans are making steps in that direction every day.
Junior running back Braylen Miller is leading the charge in that direction. Miller scored the New Hope's points against Columbus and rushed for 85 yards in two quarters. Tackett liked what he saw from the 5-foot-8, 160-pounder, who he said is a middle brother with something to prove.
"I think he welcomes that (responsibility of being counted on as a key contributor)," Tackett said. "Braylen is a competitor. He already has a natural tendency to compete in everything he does. He is going to embrace that role. He has done a good job of being a leader."
Tackett said the ability of having a "short memory" applies to junior quarterback Ryan Burt and to a defense that gave up too many big plays. He said he feels Burt, who is in his first year as the starter, will adjust and that the defense will continue to grow into the aggressive unit that he wants to set the tone.
"We saw flashes of that aggressive mentality we want to establish on both sides of the football," Tackett said. "The defense is going to be a strong point of our team."
Kelly, Confederates settling in
Michael Kelly saw the nerves.
The Caledonia High first-year head football coach wasn't surprised because the Confederates have plenty of players who had never played in a varsity game prior to their jamboree against Mantachie last Friday. As expected, the nervousness contributed to penalties and mistakes on things Kelly and the coaches have worked on in practice.
Coming off a 20-0 victory that Kelly feels helped Caledonia build confidence, he is anxious to see his players take the next step at 7 p.m. Friday when they play host to West Lowndes in a matchup of county neighbors.
"We settled into the ballgame and started executing, and I saw a lot of players who haven't played make some plays," Kelly said. "There weren't a lot of major mistakes that we had to fix. I am looking forward to Friday night."
JeDarius Gore caught a 55-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Brandon Edmondson, Edmondson had a 55- to 60-yard touchdown run, and Edmondson connected with Gore on another scoring pass. In all, it was a satisfying performance for a group that continue to learn and build an identity.
Kelly said that mind-set will include Gore in a variety of roles. He feels confidence Gore will be able to handle the responsibility of playing quarterback, wide receiver, running back, and any other positions because he has a lot of "football savvy. Kelly said Gore and Edmondson know how to handle the offensive huddle, which he said will be crucial for a team that is transitioning to a new system.
The Confederates also appear to be making the transition on defense. Kelly said Caledonia had plenty of guys running to the football against Mantachie. He said there are issues up front and in the secondary the Confederates have to fix, but he said several young players made an impression in their first action.
"I let the kids enjoy it," Kelly said. "Even though it was a jamboree game and it is not on our record at the end of the day, there are a lot of guys in that locker room that had never been a part of a winning high school football game.
"You really like that momentum because it makes our job as a coaching staff and it makes our week of preparation for game one a lot better. ... Winning is contagious. I hope this young football team with a good leadership core can take off in his non-division schedule and we can get rolling off that."
Panthers will look to Lucious, Sanders
Travion Lucious and Jherquaveus Sanders aren't concerned about the numbers.
Even though Lucious, a senior, and Sanders, a junior, realize the West Lowndes High football team doesn't have a lot of depth, they are ready to shoulder a bigger load to help the 2018 season be a success.
In addition to playing multiple positions, Lucious and Sanders know they have to lift their teammates up in an effort to find depth to make things easier for them.
"We have to put it around the whole team instead of just two people," Lucious said. "I am going to try to lead by example. I also am going to be a vocal leader, especially in big games."
West Lowndes coach Anthony King said a medical issue with senior transfer Quaylon Rogers will force him to miss the season. As a result, the Panthers will go to Melvin Crawford at quarterback. Don't be surprised if you see Lucious or Sanders there, too, as the Panthers try to get the football in the hands of their playmakers as much as possible.
"Lucious and Sanders will have to tough the ball for us a whole lot," King said. "
With a roster size hovering above the teens, King said conditioning will be a key. He felt his team was a little further along than Kemper County last week in a 26-8 victory, but he realizes the Panthers will need to get into better shape if they are going to be able to make it through the season. King said the overall team speed could be a big equalizer.
Still, everything goes back to Lucious and Sanders, who King said are the "alpha dogs" on the squad.
"Both of those guys want the ball, but they are not jealous of each other," King said. "Jherquaveus is a lot bigger and stronger than he was last year, and faster, and he can play multiple positions. Lucious is just an athlete. He will be a cornerback in college, but we are using him in different places."
Sanders is ready for the "fun" of lining up in multiple positions. He doesn't mind the label of "athlete" if that is what it takes to make the Panthers go.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.