August 24, 2018 11:17:22 AM
Scott Walters - [email protected]
Columbus High School football coach Eric Rice has tremendous confidence level in his running back tandem of senior Derrick Jordan and junior Devarkas Ramsey.
Rice feels like strong offensive line play could have that duo become two of the best backs in Mississippi High School
Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 6A competition.
"We feel like those two have a chance to have a special season," Rice said. "Any running game starts with offensive line play. If we can get some things going and block up front, we have a chance to have some success on the ground."
The ground game will be a focal point when Columbus (0-1) plays host to Noxubee County (0-1) at 7 p.m. Friday at Falcon Field.
"For this team to be successful, we have to get the running game going," Jordan said. "During the offseason, both (Ramsey and I) have worked hard in becoming better backs. We both want to be somebody that other players can look, too."
After three seasons of Kylin Hill slicing opponents, the running game stalled in 2017, as Columbus struggled to gain first downs and yards on a consistent basis.
In a 55-6 loss to West Point in the 2018 season opener, the Falcons ran 32 times for 104 yards.
The challenge won't get easier, either, as Columbus will face Noxubee County, the reigning MHSAA Class 4A champion, and Starkville, the reigning MHSAA Class 6A North State champion, next week.
"The thing we have been stressing to the kids is getting better each day," Rice said. "If we can improve each day, the results will take care of itself. The attitude (after the West Point loss) was good. Practice has been good. Everybody is ready to have another opportunity to play."
Jordan said he and his teammates are proud of the strides junior quarterback Jaelan Craddieth made in the offseason.
"It has a chance to be balanced offense," Jordan said. "The passing game is much better. It helps to have (Jervorius) Vance back (missed the end of last season with injury). The biggest thing is confidence. We have to keep working hard and believing. A year ago, we didn't handle adversity well."
Both teams will look to bounce back from adversity. Noxubee County dropped a 30-6 decision at Starkville in its season opener.
The Noxubee County and Columbus struggles mirrored each other in the openers, as both failed to complete drives and their defenses gave up too many big plays.
"Just have to keep working hard," Jordan said. "You can't let one game get you down. You have to come out ready to play. We need a much better start."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.