October 23, 2009 8:20:00 AM
The "practice" jerseys survived.
More importantly, the New Hope High School football team escaped Saltillo last week with a 6-0 victory.
The win in conditions New Hope High coach Michael Bradley likened to the "worst pigpen" he had ever seen helped the Trojans continue their march toward a No. 2 seed in Class 5A, Region 1 and the opportunity to play a first-round North State playoff game at home.
New Hope (6-1, 3-1 region) will try to take another step closer to securing its postseason fate at 7 tonight when it travels to Clarksdale (3-5, 2-2).
Clarksdale, which won the Class 4A state titles in 1997, ''98, and 2001, has a rich football tradition, and Bradley knows his team has to be prepared for bad weather, sloppy field conditions, and anything that comes its way.
"It is a big game for both teams," Bradley said. "We just have to do everything to be ready. It is going to be a challenge for our guys."
New Hope fared well last week against one of its toughest challenges. Bradley said the Trojans didn''t want to trash their game jerseys, so they opted to wear their practice jerseys, which actually were seventh- and eighth-grade jerseys. The switch was difficult for Ryan Hollivay, who is 6-foot-6 and weighs more than 300 pounds, but the Trojans found a way to squeeze their senior offensive lineman into a jersey.
Bradley said it took multiple washings to clean the practice jerseys. Those jerseys might be needed again tonight if the conditions at Clarksdale prove to be anywhere near what they were last week. Bradley said he will wait until game time to determine if the team will wear its game jerseys.
New Hope also found a way to overcome field conditions that Bradley said were awful. Even though he said the game shouldn''t have been played because the mud came up over everyone''s ankles, he said the players persevered and used a limited set of plays to move the ball just enough to come away with the victory.
"I am very proud of them," Bradley said. "I thought they hung in there and played hard and did the best they could under the circumstances. We practiced in the wet all week long, but you can''t prepare (for field conditions like) that."
Bradley said the rain has prevented New Hope and many schools throughout the state from having any practice time in dry weather or on playable fields. He said the Trojans spent the early part of this week taking advantage of the clear and windy conditions to work on their execution. Rain earlier today could play a role in making the turf at Clarksdale High a little sloppy, but Bradley said the Trojans will continue to try to do the best they can with the hands they are dealt.
"We''re just trying to survive," said Bradley, who is trying to find a way to help his offense find ways to throw the football in the bad weather and on the muddy playing fields. "We have worked on trying to be more physical in practice and on drive blocking. That is basically all you can do."
New Hope closes the regular season with games against Hernando next week at home and at Indianola Gentry.
Clarksdale beat Indianola Gentry 38-14 last week and lost to Oxford 41-22 on Oct. 2. New Hope defeated Oxford 21-11 on Sept. 25.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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