After taking a 66-27 loss last week, Hattiesburg is by no means hitting the panic button for the season.
According to Hattiesburg coach Tony Vance, his Tiger team, that now sits with a 1-1 record, understands the importance of learning, and growing from that type of loss.
“We just have to do better,” Vance said. “We have to coach better, and we have to play better. That’s pretty much it. We are still not where we want to be, and (Oak Grove) was well ahead with where we are right now. We just have to keep coaching and keep working to get better. I know our kids will do that. I still think we will be fine when it matters.”
For Vance, the biggest takeaway is stressing the importance of executing as the Tigers had three blocked punts and multiple plays to lose yardage.
“When you win, and when you lose, it’s never as good as you think and never as bad as you think,” Vance said. “After evaluating the film from last Friday, it wasn’t nearly as bad as the score may have indicated on our part. The blocked punts put us in a hole early, but even with that, you have one or two missed assignments, and that’s all it can take to change the course of the game. There is room for improvement in every phase and every aspect.”
This week Hattiesburg will play the defending 3A state champions, Jeff Davis County, at Pearl River Community College. The Jaguars notably started last season 2-6 but won out to win Jeff Davis coach Lance Mancuso’s eighth state championship after returning several players from injuries. Even with the loss of many key seniors, Vance believes that the Jaguars are more talented this year than the previous season.
“I told Coach Mancuso that I thought they were better this year than they were last year based on the film,” Vance said. “They have some really big guys at the tight end position. They have a couple of really good skilled guys. They always have great skills guys, but the running back they have this year may be better than one they had last year. I told him that the reason we play that game isn’t that that we are looking for an easy win.
“It’s a game that prepares us for division play because we will see that type of offense three or four times. That’s the main purpose we play this game, which is to get us prepared for division play. Those are the ones that matter.”
The Jaguars opened the season with a 13-7 win over Poplarville and recently comes off a 25-14 win over Lawrence County.
“They are a Wing-T offense,” Vance said. “They are going to run the buck sweep, and jet sweep and his you with some dives. Then they’ll throw it to you when you are sleeping. They’ll throw it over your head with a play-action. That’s just what they do, and they are great at it. They are probably the best team in the state doing it. (Mancuso) hasn’t won eight state championships by doing that if they weren’t good at it. They are really great at what they do. We’ll have our hands full.”
While Jeff Davis County’s offense looks to be efficient, Vance believes that the Jaguar defense, which runs a 5-2 defense, has almost no weaknesses and will be a tough test for his young offensive line.
“Their outside linebackers and their defensive front (stand out) and their secondary is really good,” Vance said. “A lot of those guys played last year, and they are back. I think they have four interceptions. I can’t point out a weakness on that side of the ball because they have a lot of strengths.
“They’ll put seven or eight guys in the box to stop the run and then ask those guys on the back end to hold things down. If you can do that and have those guys in the secondary hold things down, then it puts a lot of pressure on your offensive line. It’s one of those deals where we’ll have to get first downs and do a better job of executing this week than we did last week.”