While Petal suffered its first loss of the season to 5A power West Jones last week, for Petal coach Marcus Boyles the loss is a critical lesson for his young team.
“There were missed opportunities, and give West Jones credit because they came out and played really well in the second half,” Boyles said. “I didn’t think we matched their intensity and effort in the second half. It’s a four-quarter game. You have one team over there with a lot of experience, and they never quit. With us, it’s a great learning experience for our guys. You have to play four quarters against a quality opponent, and that’s been the emphasis all week.
“I think our kids played hard and with good effort. I think we did a lot of things really good on offense, defense and special teams. We are still getting better and not making the same mistakes each week, but the biggest takeaway is learning to play four quarters.”
This week Petal will open region play at Pearl, which is off to an unusual 0-3 start. According to Boyles, the record does not showcase Pearl’s talent, especially after losing to Warren Central 28-21 in overtime.
“When you watch them, they have gotten beat by three really good football teams,” Boyles said. “I’ve been telling the kids not to look at their record because I promise they are better than their record. They had every chance to win against Warren Central, but they just didn’t do it. It’s the first district game and a home game for them, and everything kind of starts back over right now. It doesn’t matter what your record is.”
Pearl’s offense has averaged 14 points a game, but Pearl’s run game will make for a tough opponent, according to Boyles.
“They’ll mix it up on you (on offense) and run a lot of two tight ends, run power and run counters,” Boyles said. “They will also spread you out and do some speed sweeps. They have a couple of good playmakers that they can get the ball to.
“Their quarterback actually started as a freshman because the starting quarterback tore his ACL and then their starter came back last year. But he has a lot of experience, and he throws the ball well. He does a very good job with the RPO game (run-pass option). The running back is over 200 pounds and has much experience because their starter got hurt last year, and he played a lot that season. He has a lot of experience and is a big running back that is always falling forward.”
Defensively, Pearl runs a 4-3 defense and has allowed an average of 32 points per game.
“They are a 4-3 defense with two high safeties,” Boyles said. “Their linebackers are really fast. They can run to the football and do a great job of getting off blocks. Up front, they are big and strong, which is just a typical Pearl team with four defensive linemen that play hard with great technique.
“In the secondary, they play two wide, and they’ll change it up from a Cover 2 to a man to man look out of that. They do a good job with that on defense.”
For Boyles, this week’s game is about earning the first win in region play and successfully coming away with a win on the road.
“It’s our first district game, and that’s a huge one,” Boyles said. “You don’t want to start out 0-1. You want to start 1-0. I think we have proved that we can play on the road when we went to West Jones in a tough environment. I was pleased because our kids handled that well, but the emphasis is to start 1-0 in the district.”