September 5, 2010 12:24:00 AM
AMORY -- Sometimes a slap in the face is just what a team needs.
The New Hope High School football team responded from the season-opening blow with a two hits to the chin strap Friday night that helped set the tone and get it back on track.
Terrance Dentry rushed for 146 yards, including an 88-yard scoring run, four other players had touchdowns, and Terrence Payne added some defensive line play with attitude in New Hope''s 37-6 victory against Amory at Longenecker Field.
The inconsistent performance left New Hope High coach Michael Bradley feeling a little better than he did last week following a disappointing 33-23 loss at Tupelo.
The Trojans showed flashes of the multi-faceted offense that features an experienced cast and steadier defensive play, especially up front, against the Panthers (1-2).
"I thought we played really good on defense," Bradley said. "I thought coach (Dale) Hardin (defensive coordinator) and the defensive coaches, coach (Jacob) Owen and coach (Matt) Keith, had a really good game plan. I thought we attacked and did a good job of correcting the mistakes we saw on the tape.
"Offensively, we looked good in spots. We still committed way too many penalties and made way too many careless mistakes. We did a lot of things that are uncharacteristic of a football team that has nine returning starters on offense."
New Hope led 16-0 at halftime thanks to a safety, a 21-yard touchdown pass from Zak Thrasher to Dillon Hawkins, and a 1-yard plunge by Dalton Hodges.
The Trojans pulled away in the second half thanks to Dentry''s burst around left end and down the sideline. Following one of four interceptions, this one by Franklin Richardson Jr., Johnny Beamon scored on a 5-yard run to help make it 30-0.
"Last week, we lost a game we should have won and it put a bad taste in our mouths," Richardson Jr. "We had to learn we had to be humble We wanted to come out and work hard tonight and get the win."
Richardson Jr. said the Trojans, a Class 5A school, entered the game against the Golden Wave, a Class 6A school, overconfident thinking they would win just like they did in 2009 in Columbus (28-17). But Bradley said last week the 2009 result was closer than the double-digit margin and that he didn''t do a good enough job preparing his team to face a larger classification opponent that was hungry to get revenge.
Against Amory, Bradley only had to worry about the mistakes that hampered his team. Thrasher, who threw three interceptions last week, only had one Friday night and threw for 147 yards. But New Hope also had one other turnover following a reception that stopped a potential scoring drive and mistakes like missed blocks and poor pass routes that stalled others. Bradley knows the offense will have to find its rhythm ahead of the team''s home opener at 7:30 p.m. Friday against Columbus. Following a game at Caledonia on Sept. 17, Class 5A Region 1 play starts Sept. 24 against Oxford.
Richardson Jr. feels the team is ready.
"We are humble now. We have it back under control," Richardson Jr. said. "We had people step up on defense. Sophomore Ryan Lee had two interceptions and a touchdown in his first start. We did good."
Lee''s second interception came when he jumped a quick-hit route to the right and raced 45 yards for a touchdown. The performance was quite a statement in the sophomore''s first varsity start.
"I thought he played like he had always been there," Bradley said. "I was real proud of him. I was real proud of a lot of our kids. I thought our defensive secondary bounced back after getting torched last week."
Bradley said his team is still looking for that "attitude" and "doesn''t seem to have a sense of urgency" yet. He was pleased some of the players seemed to find it later in the game.
New Hope limited Amory to 108 yards total offense, including -5 rushing, without junior JoJo Reeves, who missed the game serving a one-game suspension after his ejection against Tupelo. Senior Curtis Shirley, who also was ejected, didn''t enter the game until the second quarter and played most of the rest of the evening.
But Payne, a 5-foot-6, 255-pound sophomore lineman, took charge. He hit Amory''s center hard on the Panthers'' first two plays, forcing two high snaps that led to a safety.
Payne also took charge on the first three defensive series of the third quarter. He stopped a first-down rush for -7 yards and then had a sack of Forest Williams on third down that cost the Panthers 9 yards. On the second series, he snuffed out a pass play for -2 yards and then was in on a fumble that lost another 2 yards. On the second series, he teamed with Q Newby on another tackle for a loss of 2 yards.
"I kept blowing the center up, so I felt I was going to have a big game," Payne said. "Everybody kept telling me to keep going hard, keep blowing the center up, and keep making sacks. I just kept doing my assignments and it worked for me."
Payne said he came out in the third quarter and wanted to be a presence up front. He said he had that attitude because he didn''t apply enough pressure last week against Tupelo, so he was out to make amends. The result was a statement game that proved he and the team can play at a different level with more focus and intensity.
"Everybody just stepped up," Payne said. "We break it down every game by saying ''One Heartbeat.'' Ryan Lee stepped up. Frank stepped up like he does every game. ... Everybody comes in when somebody goes done and steps up and we play as a team."
Payne and Richardson Jr. agree the Trojans will have to play more like they did Friday night to prevent games like Tupelo from happening again.
"Everybody has to stay into and keep the intensity," Richardson Jr. said. "We can''t go back to Tupelo week. Anytime we start to get a big head we will just say, ''Remember Tupelo.'' "
If they don''t, they''re likely to get another slap in the face, and by then it might be too late to secure a spot in the postseason.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.