Petal is in a must-win situation now if the Panthers want to make the playoffs.
After suffering a 45-0 loss to Brandon last week, Petal must win out and will also need some other teams to lose.
“Our message to the guys was that we wanted to go 1-0 this week,” Petal coach Allen Glenn said. “What’s in the past is in the past. The last three weeks are the last three weeks. You can’t press the rewind button. We are in fast forward mode to go 1-0. That’s our goal.”
This week, the Panthers will host Northwest Rankin (2-4, 2-1). The Cougars were off to an ugly 0-4 start to the season, but have won back-to-back games after making a change at quarterback.
“Winning football games breeds confidence,” Glenn said. “They have won their last two. I think defensively, for them, they are playing faster. They have more swagger and more confidence. When good things are happening for you as a team, it helps in all phases of the game.”
In the four weeks of the year, the Cougars averaged 16 points per game with Wes White at quarterback, who had thrown for 827 yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions. Northwest Rankin has scored its season highs of 30 and 47 with Jalen Nelson at quarterback in the last two weeks.
“They have started clicking offensively in the last couple of weeks,” Glenn said. They have made a change at quarterback. They put a skilled (player) at quarterback. He’s giving them a spark. They have figured some things out. Their kids are playing extremely hard. Those guys do a great job over there.
“Our scheme will be geared towards (Nelson) at quarterback. He’s a guy that can run it and throw it. He’s played corner for them over the course of his high school career. He’ll continue to play some corner as well. He sees a lot of snaps on Friday great job at corner and at quarterback.”
In his first game against Terry, which was a 47-21 win, he threw for four touchdowns and 97 yards while running for 103 yards and a touchdown. On the season, Nelson has rushed for 265 yards and three touchdowns.
“I think they are talented in the run game, too,” Glenn said. “Now that you put a quarterback that’s also a threat, then you have two guys in the backfield that can run it at either time.
“We’ll have to do a great job of trying to win the line of scrimmage.”
At wide receiver, Northwest Rankin’s top target has been Caleb McCoy, who has hauled in team-leading 17 catches for 292 yards and four touchdowns.
“(McCoy) is a long, tall, good-looking kid that can hurt you in a lot of different ways,” Glenn said. “He hurts you as a vertical threat and as a position guy too. He’ll be one that we have to key on. Like I said, they are playing better all-around offensively. They have played better on the offensive line too. I think they have got a little confidence going on that side of the ball. When you have a skilled guy at quarterback, it makes you dangerous.”
Like the offense, Northwest Rankin’s defense struggled in the first four games of the season. The Cougars gave up an average of 38 points. In the last two weeks, Northwest Rankin has not allowed teams to score more than 21 points.
“Defensively, they fly around and are a 3-4 defense,” Glenn said. “They give you some multiple looks in the back end. They are going to play fast on that side of the ball. We’ll have to account for their speed of the game.”
According to Glenn, the key for Petal this week is to get its defense off the field and have its offense sustain drives.
“Offensively, we have to stay on the field,” Glenn said. “We have to get first downs and keep our defense off the field. Our defense is playing way too many snaps in a football game. Offensively, we are not doing ourselves any favors of staying on the field. For an offense, we have to put drives together and finish drives. Defensively, we have to get off the field on third down. We have to make sure we are forcing the other team to punt the football. We have to play better all around.”