Hattiesburg is rolling right along, as Wayne County comes to townBy CAMAL PETRO,
It seems like the Hattiesburg Tigers are getting better every week, or at least they’re putting up more numbers and beating teams by a wider margin. Last week’s win over Pearl River Central wasn’t any different.
The Tigers pretty much scored whenever they wanted, and that usually meant in a matter of minutes. Not game minutes, but actual minutes. With its run-heavy offense, PRC held the ball for a significantly longer period of time, but it only scored seven points on Hattiesburg while the Tigers put up 60.
Senior quarterback Jarod Conner had a season-high 295 passing yards and five touchdowns on just six completions – a 49-yard per completion average. Senior receiver Darius Ruffin snagged five of those passes for 249 yards and four touchdowns. Senior Drexlan Allen added 90 rushing yards and a touchdown on four carries.
“We executed at a high-level last week, and you have to when you play teams like that, that cause problems with what they do defensively,” Hattiesburg coach Tony Vance said. “You have to try to score as often as you can because offensively, they’re going to have the ball a lot more than you are.”
Playing against Pearl River Central’s offense was a preview of what Hattiesburg will see next week against Picayune. Although the Blue Devils aren’t on the same level as Picayune, Vance was pleased with how his defense performed against it.
“As the game went on, we got a better feel at what they were doing,” Vance said. “Our guys got a little more experience seeing it. It’s one of those offenses you can’t duplicate in practice. I thought they got more comfortable with their blocking schemes and what they were trying to (our defense).”
With the big-time matchup against the Maroon Tide set for next Friday at D.I. Patrick Stadium, the Tigers face their toughest competition since starting region play Friday against Wayne County.
The War Eagles (5-2, 2-1 in Region 4-5A) come to Hattiesburg with region wins over PRC and Long Beach, and they fell to Picayune 60-33 in their lone loss. Junior quarterback Zhakerreun Wesley is the No. 1 threat on offense, averaging nearly 150 rushing yards per game, but he has only completed 39-of-86 passes this season for 464 yards, five touchdowns and a pair of interceptions.
The Wayne County offense starts with Wesley, Vance says.
“He’s definitely a difference maker and makes them go,” he said. “He’s an athlete with a tremendous running ability and he can throw the football. But running the ball, he gives you fits. You can’t fall asleep because he can complete some passes.”
With three more region games to go after Friday night, Vance said this will most likely be the last spread team the Tigers’ defense faces in the regular season, too.
Defensively for the War Eagles, they’ve shown they can give up a lot of points. They allow an average of 33 points per game to their opponents, and all but two teams have put up at least 24 points on the scoreboard. Since the season-opening 10-6 win over West Jones, Wayne County hasn’t allowed less than 19 points.
When watching film, senior defensive lineman Jeremy Sibley jumps out to Vance.
“Their defensive front jumps off the film at you, especially No. 90,” Vance said. “When you watch, you see how he gets off the ball and how he disrupts the blocking schemes, running game and passing. We’ll definitely have to pay attention to him and get him blocked, but they have some other guys up front. The linebackers are active and those guys in the secondary are really good tacklers.”