After three weeks, Hattiesburg continues to face a brutal pattern as the Tigers continue to search for their first win after losing last week to Oak Grove 27-0.
Now for the fourth straight week, Hattiesburg faces another 6A opponent, with a defense that continues to outperform its struggling offense.
“We have a great group of kids,” Hattiesburg coach Tony Vance said. “They believe in themselves, each other, and the coaches. We believe in them. We know we have played a tough schedule. We would like to have won every game we have played, but my philosophy is playing good teams in non-division games will make you better for division play. Those are the ones that matter.
“It’s about trusting the process, and I think they understand that.”
The Tiger defense held Oak Grove to 20 points for the majority of the night as the Warriors put up over 400 yards of offense. It wasn’t until late in the fourth quarter when the Warriors scored again. Offensively the Tigers again struggled as they barely eclipsed 100 total yards of offense.
“I think the defense is the strength of our team,” Vance said. “They are going to get better each and every week. We just have to keep leaning on those guys until the offense gets clicking and get more reps on that side of the ball. But those guys played really good for us and gave us a chance to stay in the ball game against a high-powered offense like Oak Grove.
“I thought we did a pretty good job making sure of our game plan, which was to try and run the football. We felt like it was going to give us a chance to shorten the game and keep our defense from having so many snaps so they can be more effective.”
This week Hattiesburg faces Meridian (2-1), which comes off its first defeat of the season last week in a 45-42 loss to West Lauderdale.
“They are a talented team,” Vance said. “They are not the old Meridian yet, but they are certainly on their way back to that form.”
Meridian picked up two dominant wins to start the year against Philadelphia and Northeast Lauderdale. According to Vance, Meridian has a variety of weapons on offense. Last week, Meridian’s quarterback, Mark Smith, went 15 of 27 for 128 yards and two touchdowns. The Wildcats’ running back Jonathan Vaughn ran for 115 yards and two touchdowns. Yet, for Vance, the most important of Meridian’s offense is wide receiver Daniel Hill, who scored two touchdowns last week.
“Offensively, it starts with (their wide receiver),” Vance said. “He may be the fastest kid we see all year.”
Meridian has had highs and lows on defense, with the Wildcats not giving up more than 21 points in their first two games.
“Defensively, they have a good defensive front,” Vance said. “They have some opportunistic guys in the secondary, and I think their linebackers do a good job. They run a 4-man front but will show some 5-man fronts. They’ll be a team that we will have to trade punches. It’ll be a chess match early on to try and feel each other out.
“We have to build off last week. I thought our kids played with great effort. That’s the big thing I’m looking for from our guys is effort. The wins will come. You have to give effort in order to have a chance to win a game.”