Purvis and Sumrall could not have had more polar opposite starts to the season – literally – as the Tornados opened the year 4-0 while the Bobcats started 0-4.
However, after the first week of Region 7 play, the outlook for both teams’ season has completely changed.
Sumrall, which was shutout in the previous back-to-back weeks, opened region play with a 41-14 win over Greene County.
“Our quarterback was accurate, and we caught passes,” Sumrall coach Shannon White said. “We didn’t have any turnovers. We had a great night throwing the ball, and that comes from protections, accuracy and catching the ball. When you do those things, then that’s fun to watch. We also didn’t have a turnover, and we didn’t have special teams mistakes. If we played like that at the beginning of the season, we would easily be 4-1 or 3-2 right now.
“Our kids have never quit, and they never quit believing. I think that’s really important because it would be easy for them to just quit and say this is no good. They just had to make it work.”
Last week, Purvis lost to Stone 40-22 and notably trailed 26-0 in the first half.
“(Stone) has a good football club,” Purvis coach Brad Hankins said. “They whipped us in all three phases of the game. They kind of manhandled us defensively, on the offensive line. They kind of imposed their will on us. We have to go back to the drawing board and try and get better.
“(Sumrall) showed up Friday night and played great against Greene County. We didn’t get the job done, so it puts a big sense of urgency on it for us. We definitely don’t want to start out 0-2 (in region play). If they start out 2-0, they have a great chance of being in the driver seat in the district.”
According to White, Purvis’ efficiency on both sides of the ball will be hard to prepare for. On offense, the Tornados have averaged 220 rushing yards per game with Ty Badon and Kade Sherrill leading the team in the run game with a combined 683 rushing yards and six touchdowns.
“They are typical,” White said. “Purvis never changes. Their offense is extremely multiple. You can’t imagine most of the formations they throw that at you.
“They all look the same, and they all run the same. They are all built alike, and they all have similar skill sets. It amazes me. And a lot of those guys play defense. No one stands out on each side of the ball. That’s why they are such a good team, I think. They are not depending on one person. They just aren’t. They run too many different plays and hand the ball to too many different people to worry about one person.”
For White, Purvis’ ability to distribute its team workload equally is what also makes them efficient on defense.
“Defensively, they are sound and solid and don’t get out of their gaps,” White said. “They run to the ball and are physical. This is Purvis for as long as I have been playing Purvis. (Hankins) is doing a great job with them.
“Their guys know where to go when the ball is snapped. They all move in the right direction and get in the right spots. That comes from good coaching and a lot of reps. You are not going to fool them. You are actually going to have to beat them if you are going to beat them.”
As for Hankins, his main worry is facing Sumrall’s underrated defense and controlling the time of possession. In the Bobcats’ win over Greene County, quarterback John Ford threw for 355 yards and three touchdowns and also ran for a touchdown.
“The quarterback doesn’t miss a read,” Hankins said. “He knows where to go with the football even on pressure reads. He gets the ball where it is supposed to go. They have got some wide receivers that run great routes.
“We have to get some first downs, and we have to eat the clock. That’s the thing. When you have a quick-strike offense like Sumrall does, we can’t get behind in a ball game like that and come back from behind and expect to win.”
According to Hankins, his main worries on Sumrall’s defense is defensive lineman Cole Daniels and linebacker James Ford. Ford has a team-leading 78 tackles while Daniels has five tackles for loss and 27 tackles.
“Defensively, they get after it on that side of the football,” Hankins said. “They have Cole Daniels and the other Ford boy at linebacker. You can’t fool them. This will be the best defensive line we play so far.
“My biggest thing is that we have to get ready to play. We have to do all the little things right to try and make the big things happen. We’ll go back to the fundamentals and work our tails off this week.”