September 24, 2009 11:09:00 AM
Michael Bradley can''t wait for Friday night.
Through the offseason and the preseason, Bradley developed more and more confidence that the New Hope High School football team could have a special season in 2009.
Three victories to start the season haven''t changed Bradley''s thinking. They just have heightened the buildup to Friday night''s (7:30) Class 5A, Region 1, District 2 opener at Oxford (1-3).
"The teams they have lost to have a combined record of 12-1," Bradley said. "We''re going to line up with them and see what happens."
The game will be New Hope first on the road this season. The Trojans have defeated Tupelo, Amory, and Caledonia to prepare for their first game, while Oxford enters the game on a three-game losing streak following a season-opening victory against Grenada.
Coach Johnny Hill''s team has lost to Charleston (31-13), Lafayette (31-21), and Senatobia (29-20).
Bradley said the Chargers could have won their past two games and that he knows Hill and his staff will have their team ready to play.
As for the Trojans, Bradley is anxious to see how his team handles the travel and the district opener after rain has limited the time the Trojans have had to practice outdoors.
"We have a lot of guys who have played in this type of environment before, but this is the first time this year," Bradley said. "I fully expect our guys to be ready to go."
Junior running back Terrance Dentry rushed for 121 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries in New Hope''s 30-0 victory against Caledonia last week.
The Trojans attempted just one pass, but Bradley is confident that junior quarterback Zak Thrasher will be able to play a bigger role against Oxford.
Hill knows Thrasher is capable of making plays, as are a host of Trojans on offense. He said New Hope''s skill position players will make it doubly difficult for the Chargers to get back on track.
"There ain''t much you can say about a 1-3 season right now," Hill said. "I hope we can turn it around, but it is awful tough to turn it around against a tough team like New Hope. We hope to give them a little better game than they have had so far."
Hill said the Chargers haven''t been able to finish games and haven''t played near as hard as they have to play to compete with the rest of their district rivals.
He said the players worked hard in the offseason and remain confident they can reverse their fortunes. He said the key will be eliminating turnovers and penalties that have hit at key times.
"It has been like a roller coaster ride," Hill said. "Roller coaster rides aren''t good in football. You want to be a little more consistent. Without consistency it makes it tough."
Hill said the positive for his team is it hasn''t peaked too soon. He said the Chargers will look to senior lineman John Fisher, quarterback Guy Billups, and senior running back Mackrell Higginbotham (also a linebacker) on offense and junior linebacker Leandre White to lead the way against New Hope.
"We like to throw the ball and run the ball. We are pretty multiple and similar to New Hope," Hill said. "We know they''re real balanced and that their quarterback is a good one. Defensively, we''re younger this year and haven''t made the plays we normally make. Hopefully we''ll learn from some of those mistakes and get better."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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