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By RUSSELL TURNER
Conventional wisdom would say not to read too much into the Greene County Wildcats’ performance in their season opening scrimmage last Friday.
But, the Wildcats dominated both sides of the ball in two quarters of varsity action. The end result was a 28-point margin over the Bulldogs before turning things over to the JV players in the second half, which head coach Mike King hopes will give his team a lot of confidence heading into Friday night’s regular season opener on the road at Biloxi.
“Overall, I was pleased with how we competed,” King told the Herald after the coaching staff reviewed film Sunday afternoon. “First, we didn’t have any injuries, which is most important. And, we didn’t have any turnovers.”
“We had some explosive plays on offense and played well on the defensive side.”
Senior quarterback Jacob Mitchell had a solid night leading the varsity offense. Mitchell had just two incompletions on the evening. One of those came when he missed senior Peyton Roberts for what would have been a TD pass, but he made up for that when he and Roberts connected later in the game with a 25-yarder for a score. Mitchell also ran the football well and notched a 5-yard TD run to start the scoring.
Some of those runs came when Mitchell was forced out of the pocket by pass rushers. King said Vancleave’s defensive scheme was a little unorthodox with a lot of blitzes and that caused some missed assignments by his linemen. But, while the GCHS pass protection may have appeared as a big problem to some in the stands, King said he actually felt pretty good about his offensive line’s play.
“We have some things we need to clean up, but for the most part we were pleased with how the line played,” King said. “Our guys were physical up front and that was starting to wear down the defense, which was opening up things in our running game.”
King said boosting the running game was a key goal for his offense heading into fall camp. With the receiving corps not at 100 percent against Vancleave, getting the running game going was even more important.
“We ran the football when we needed to and had some big plays in the running game,” King added. “I thought our running backs showed a lot of positives and hopefully we can build on that moving forward.”
Senior Anthony Calhoun, who made the switch over to the backfield from defense in the spring, had a big night for GCHS. His 65-yard TD run in the first quarter was his biggest highlight and should provide a lot of confidence for him moving into games that matter. Sophomore Dallarius Cooper had a big TD run as well to wrap up the scoring for the Wildcats.
Defensively, the Wildcats entered the matchup with a lot of big shoes to fill after the departure of sevel key players to graduation. But, GCHS smothered the Bulldogs for two quarters on Friday, getting strong play from the defensive line, linebackers and secondary.
“I was happy with the way we played defensively,” King said. “We have eight guys who started or played a lot last year coming back and a lot of good depth on that side of the ball.”
How well the Cats’ success against Vancleave carries over against Biloxi will give King a much better picture of where his team stands at this point in the season. The Indians are looking to bounce back from a somewhat disappointing 4-7 season a year ago. They compete in Division 6-A and have 43 upper classmen on the roster, including 19 seniors.
King expects the Indians to be a strong test and says his team is ready for the action.
“It was good to get some of the first-game jitters out of the way,” King said. “Biloxi will be a good test for us and we are excited about getting things started.”
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Friday at Biloxi Indian Stadium. The address for the field is 1845 Richard Drive, Biloxi, MS 39532.
Fans unable to make the trip can follow along with the game action via the GCHS livestream, which is available at www.NFHSnetwork.com.
Fans should log on ahead of time to subscribe to the service and make sure their computers or phones are capable of streaming the video.