Hattiesburg bounced back last week to regain needed momentum heading into district play as the Tigers defeated the defending 3A state champions Jefferson Davis County 30-25.
“I thought the kids played extremely hard,” Hattiesburg coach Tony Vance said. “I thought (Jeff Davis County) played hard, and I think that’s why it was a heck of a ball game. It came down to the last play of the game. I was super proud of them for bouncing back from the previous week. Resiliency was the word of the week for us. You have to be able to bounce back from bad things. I thought our players showed some tremendous resiliency, and they did what they had to do to get the win.
“At the end of the day, it’s one win, but obviously, it’s a win we needed. It’s one we are glad to get. It’s a confidence booster, but we still have a lot of work to do.”
This week Hattiesburg will play Wayne County (1-2), which defeated Laurel last week with a come-from-behind win. According to Vance, the War Eagles’ defensive line is highly talented.
“They have tremendous athletes just like always,” Vance said. “The defensive line is probably their strong suit. They have a really strong defensive front, which they always have a strong defensive front. They are really good up front. (MarTavius Evans), (Kerdravious Brown) and (Keiston Hill) are big guys that they rotate in and out on the defensive line. Their linebackers tackle well, and the secondary has some hard hitters. They put a lot of pressure on you.”
Wayne County runs a 3-4 defense but will show 5-man fronts. On the season, the War Eagles have held teams to just 22 points per game.
“They are based out of a 3-4 and will play high low,” Vance said. “They are really good at what they do.”
On offense, Wayne County has struggled early on in the season and has averaged 14.7 points and 260 yards per game. The War Eagles are primarily a spread offense, but this season they have relied on their two running backs, Kelnevious Walley and Shadamien Williamson, to make up the bulk of their offense. The two running backs have rushed for a combined for 435 yards and have averaged 5.5 yards per carry.
“I think their two running backs are the key to their success on offense with (Williamson) and (Walley),” Vance said. “(Williamson) is a big bruising back. You have to make sure you make that tackle that sucker because he is a big bruiser, and he has some speed. He does a really good job of running between the tackles. They run a lot of zone reads, and power reads to put pressure on you. They make you play disciplined football, and take what you are supposed to take in the run game.”
At quarterback for Wayne County is Sebastian Chafin, who is a dual threat. Chafin has rushed for 27 yards and three touchdowns while throwing 233 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. His top target is Williamson, who has hauled in eight catches for 161 yards and two touchdowns.
For Vance, the key to earning a win will be for his young offensive line to have success and for his defense to control Wayne County’s run game.
“You have to make sure you work on tackling and be quick to the football and make sure everyone is carrying out their assignments,” Vance said. “Our defensive line has to play well to take the pressure off for our linebackers. That’s what it boils down to in most games.”