September 3, 2010 10:21:00 AM
Michael Bradley hopes he sees a different group tonight.
It has been one week since Bradley and his New Hope High School football team stumbled in a season-opening loss to Tupelo.
The loss sapped some of the optimism to the start of a season many consider could be even better than the Trojans'' Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A North Half runner-up finish in 2009.
But the Trojans who showed up in the first half of their 33-23 loss to the Golden Wave last week didn''t resemble the 2009 squad that had so much success. They played without emotion and focus and committed uncharacteristic mistakes on both sides of the ball. The result was a 21-0 halftime deficit that New Hope rallied from but couldn''t overcome.
At 7:30 tonight against Amory (1-1), Bradley wants his players to respond.
"I think we''re going to be all right," Bradley said. "Monday and Tuesday were pretty tough on us. When you get slapped in the face with something that wasn''t necessarily expected, you''ve got to overcome the shock factor. Hopefully we have overcome it and we''re not in love with ourselves as much as we were. Hopefully we play with a little more intensity than we did last week."
New Hope (0-1) allowed pass plays of 80 and 61 yards for touchdowns last week. Bradley said the miscommunication stemmed in part from losing defensive signal caller Curtis Shirley, who was ejected in the first quarter. Bradley said Shirley will become eligible to platy at some point in tonight''s game. The Trojans will be without junior linebacker/tight end JoJo Reeves, who was ejected in the fourth quarter. Bradley said he isn''t sure who will step in to take Reeves'' place. Both players were ejected after receiving penalties.
Bradley hopes having Shirley''s experience on defense will help settle a unit that allowed Tupelo wide receivers to get behind its last line to make big plays. Bradley credited Tupelo for making the plays and said the Trojans identified the mistakes and worked hard this week to correct them.
But he has been coaching long enough to know he can''t guarantee how that work will translate to this week, or if the team he expects to show up every week will be there tonight.
"We were somewhere else Friday night," Bradley said. "It was not one of us. It was all of us."
New Hope will need to be focused tonight because it has a rivalry game against Columbus at 7:30 p.m. next week. A huge crowd is expected for the team''s home opener, and Bradley hopes the Trojans will get back to their brand of football, which establishes a running game with seniors Terrance Dentry, Johnny Beamon, and Franklin Richardson Jr. and mixes in the passing game with Zak Thrasher. The senior quarterback threw three interceptions last week but showed he has the touch to make big plays with a fine pass to Dillon Hawkins that went for a touchdown.
Bradley said he and his coaches stressed the Trojans can''t worry about who they are playing each week. He said his players need to play with more focus and intensity each week because the Trojans'' status has changed from last year''s 11-2 finish and no one will give them anything.
"Hopefully the tough experience we had last Friday night was a lesson that won''t have to be relearned," Bradley said. "I think Tupelo outplayed us, outcoached us, and outperformed us in every area. Tupelo was indicative of how our entire season. We are not the hunter anymore. We''re the hunted. We didn''t beat the heck out of anybody last year. Tupelo was the first of many of those wins last year, (and last Friday) they wanted to win a lot worse than we did. They are the first of many teams with that kind of attitude that is going to try to take it to us this year."
Bradley hopes his players learned that lesson the hard way last week. If they didn''t, Bradley is going to have to plenty of things to teach Monday.
"I am going to be real disappointed if we don''t play with more focus and more effort (against Amory)," Bradley said.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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