October 5, 2012 10:45:23 AM
Tonight would be an ideal time for the Lowndes County public schools to make a move in their respective football standings.
Columbus, New Hope, Caledonia, and West Lowndes are all coming off losses last week. Must-win situations usually don't come until later in the season, but all four coaches believe now is the time for their teams to make a move if they are going to advance to the postseason.
Columbus (4-2, 1-1 Class 6A, Region 1) at South Panola (4-2, 2-0)
It's uncharacteristic for the Tigers to have two losses at this point in the season, but they showed last week in a victory against then-No. 1 Olive Branch that they will have a say in the state championship race.
Columbus coach Tony Stanford hopes his team can work its way into that discussion, too. Last week, Columbus allowed all 17 points in the second quarter in a 17-7 loss to Southaven. With six of the teams in the region at 1-1, Stanford feels tonight is as good a time as any to make a statement.
"We feel good about it," Stanford said of making the trip to Batesville. "We want to go up there and see what we can do. We're trying to get back on the winning trail, and we're going to have to play real well. I think the kids are up to the task."
Stanford said his kids realized after last week's game that they "let one slip by them." He said he was proud of the way his players regrouped from the second quarter. He also liked the way the defense accepted the challenged and basically shut down Southaven in the second half.
"I thought we played with a lot of intensity," Stanford said. "With about three minutes before the half we let them get a quick 17 points and the rest of the night we were playing catch-up. Our offense is not at a point where we're a good catch-up ballclub."
Stanford said turnovers were a problem last week and that the Falcons can't afford to make similar mistakes against the Tigers, whose only losses are to Hoover (Ala.) and Bentonville (Ark.).
"They are back to playing like they have in the past and back on an offense that uses power football and lines up and knocks people off the ball," Stanford said. "Their defense is real good, especially in their front seven. They are strong up there and are going to try to stop the run game and force you into throwing it."
Stanford hopes the Falcons will be able to use Kendrick Conner to move the ball on the ground and not have to rely on quarterback Trace Lee to throw the ball on every down. He feels Columbus will have a chance to be successful if it can do that.
Hernando (2-4, 0-2 Class 5A, Region 1) at New Hope (2-4, 0-2)
This likely is as close to a must-win situation for the Trojans as they will get.
Trick plays cost New Hope in a loss to Saltillo in its region opener. A missed scoring opportunity inside the 10-yard line and a key turnover in the fourth quarter allowed Oxford to remain unbeaten and escape with a victory last week.
This week, coach Michael Bradley hopes the Trojans can hand the Tigers their fifth-straight loss. West Point defeated Hernando 49-14 last week.
"They present matchup problems for us, but hopefully we will overcome that with heart and guts and play with passion and intensity that they won't be able to match," Bradley said.
Bradley said he wants to see how his players respond to the loss to Oxford. He said last week the team didn't have a great week of practice. He said this week's effort was "tough" and that is imperative the Trojans don't allow one loss to turn into two. To do that, Bradley said consistency is a key.
"That is something we're working on," Bradley said. "We're a young team. We have a lot of sophomores playing and a lot of older kids who are playing for the first year. It is a process, and there are good days and bad days in that. Hopefully by about 7 o'clock (tonight) it will be one of those good days."
Bradley said he has several players who are "banged up", and that some of them likely will be a game-time decision whether they will play.
Caledonia (4-3, 0-1 Class 4A, Region 4) at Houston (6-1, 0-1)
Caledonia coach Ricky Kendrick said last week his team's region opener against Leake Central was a "must" for his team.
Unfortunately, the Confederates suffered what Kendrick called a "heartbreaking" 28-27 loss.
"We were supposed to put them away, but we let them get back in it," Kendrick said. "We needed that win. The word I used last week was must. Although it doesn't affect things in the playoffs, there are still some possibilities there for us. We need to beat those teams we're supposed to beat."
If there is a positive about the Leake Central game, Kendrick said it was that the loss was by one point, which could come into play if tiebreakers are needed to determine the top four seeds in the region for the playoffs.
Caledonia can prevent that from happening by taking care of its business. Kendrick believes the Confederates can start that process tonight against the Hilltoppers. Louisville defeated Houston 35-14 last week. That was the most points the Hilltoppers have allowed this season.
"We think we can do some things to hopefully slow them down," Kendrick said. "They have a good football team. They have done some things we haven't been able to do. We don't want to go into any week thinking we can't compete."
Kendrick said the injury shuffle continues for his team. Quarterback Ben Marchbanks, who was knocked out of the game last week, returned to provide a spark. Kendrick said the Confederates expect to get at least one player back tonight and will be without another starter.
Despite the injuries, Kendrick said none of the region rivals will take it easy on the Confederates. He reiterated he feels Caledonia can compete with its region rivals as long as it executes its game plan and it keeps players on the field.
"We have scored 214 points this year (178 in 11 games last season), and when we match stats with folks like Houston, we are very similar in rushing yards and passing yards," Kendrick said. "We don't like moral victories anymore. When you lose game like (last week's game) that hurts. ...We did everything at the end of the game except win. We recovered the onside kick, drove it down, and were out of timeouts, so we spiked the ball to stop the clock. We did everything we practiced except for winning the ballgame. We just haven't learned how to do that yet. We should, I guess, and that's on me."
Pelahatchie (6-1, 4-0 Class 1A, Region 3) at West Lowndes (3-3, 2-1)
The Panthers can take a huge step toward solidifying a playoff berth if they can protect their home field.
Last week, West Lowndes lost to Noxapater 28-0. Noxapater and West Oktibbeha also are unbeaten in the region, and while West Lowndes has a game remaining against the Timberwolves, a loss tonight could limit the Panthers to a fight for the last two of the region's four playoff spots.
Pelahatchie defeated Weir 38-7 last week. The past four victories have been in region play. The Chiefs have scored 38 points or more in that stretch. West Lowndes scored a season-high 33 points in a victory against Montgomery County.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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