After bye week, Purvis hosts familar foe

By CAMAL PETRO,

It took a couple of weeks, but Purvis coach Brad Hankins finally got his first career head coaching win two weeks ago when the Tornadoes took down Columbia Academy prior to last week’s off week.

“It felt good,” Hankins said. “The kids played well. We kind of went back to some of the things we’ve done early in the spring and got back to running the football. I kind of got out of the way a little bit and let them do their thing.”

It was almost a disappointment where the bye week fell where it did, coming off the first win of the season. After struggling through the first two weeks of the season, and only scoring 21 combined points, Purvis exploded for 48 points and the defense allowed just eight.

The off week was still productive, though, despite the threat of Tropical Storm Gordon.

“With the storm coming in, it was kind of a different dynamic,” Hankins said. “I felt like we were able to stay ahead of our conditioning. Now this week, we’ll get into the game plan and get to rolling.”

Purvis is very familiar with Mendenhall after playing it four times in the last three years. Friday night marks the fifth time these two will play each other since 2015. After the Tigers took down Purvis by 14 points in the 2017 regular season, the Tornadoes got a little revenge in the postseason with an overtime, second-round win.

This time, it’ll be Mendenhall that wants to seek out a little revenge.

“It’s a ballgame that they’ve had marked on their calendar for a while, I’m sure,” Hankins said. “They have a really good quarterback and the stuff they do sets up really well for their athletes. They’re good at it, so we have a big test, that’s for sure.”

The Tigers cruised to a 3-0 start to 2018 with big wins over Florence, Raymond and Magee. They’re averaging 54 points per game while opponents can only score 16. They’re a run-heavy team, too, as five players have at least 10 carries this season and four have at least 17 attempts to total 1,147 yards and 17 touchdowns on 110 rushing attempts.

Senior quarterback Christian Allen has only completed 19 passes, but he has 379 passing yards, six touchdowns and zero interceptions with a 61-completion percentage. He’s added 247 rushing yards and six scores on 18 carries, while senior Michael Simmons leads the team with 377 yards and three touchdowns on 28 attempts.

“They’re going to be a shotgun, veer team,” Hankins said. “It’s triple option out of the gun. They have four or five guys who they can get the ball to and when they get in space, they’re pretty explosive.”

Defensively, Mendenhall collected nine fumble recoveries and three interceptions through the first three games, so the Purvis offense will have to protect the ball.

“They’re big up front and their backend guys can run really well,” Hankins said. “They just tackle so well, too, so they do a good job on that side of the ball as well.” 

Sophomore running back Wayne Ray continued his productive start to the season against Columbia Academy, adding 160 yards and three touchdowns to his season totals. He’s now up to 289 rushing yards and four scores on the season. Senior running back Brian Bennett is expected to return to the team soon, after being ruled out the first few weeks of the season, so the offense can only get better.

“(Ray is) learning and it’s starting to slow down for him a little bit,” Hankins said. “He’s starting to see things and he doesn’t have to be wide open all the time when he gets the ball in his hands to set stuff up. We’re looking forward to getting Brian Bennett back, who was our starting tailback, so hopefully, we can have a two-headed monster when those guys get back together.”