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WATER VALLEY PREVIEW: Blue Devils look to end losing skid against unbeaten Winona

The first five weeks of the season have not been pleasant for Water Valley. Dropping four of its first five games has the Blue Devils searching for their second win of the season and any momentum they can find before their region slate begins next week at Charleston.

To do that, Water Valley (1-4) will have to do Friday night what five other teams have not been able to do — hand Winona a loss.

The Blue Devils are in the midst of a three-game losing streak, but it has not killed the moral of the team as they arrive at practice each week ready to get better.
“We all showed up Monday and went back to work,” Water Valley coach Brad Embry said. “They’re not throwing in the towel, and obviously we talked about that. None of us are going to. We play a tough schedule, and we’re not where we want to be in any phase of football.”

Working on correcting the offense this week could pose a challenge for the Blue Devils. Winona (5-0) has held three of its opponents to less than 70 yards rushing. West Lauderdale managed to crack the century mark with 120 yards on the ground.

For a Blue Devil run game that is averaging around 100 yards a game, it will be tested by the Tigers’ defensive front. The ground game is something Embry has labeled a work in progress with the problem starting with the battle in the trenches.

“It’s not getting any easier,” Embry said. “Winona is a very good team. It’ll make us get better. We’ve been able to throw it enough to be able to keep the box the way it should be. We’re just not blocking them and we’re in a hole there. We’re not hitting it correctly and quickly enough. It’s a lot of things going into it, and two of the three we’re not doing real well.”

Winona does not have an explosive offense with numbers that jump off the page, but the Tigers have a solid running attack of their own. Senior Teon Thomas leads the team with 27 carries for 181 yards and three touchdowns. Sophomore Jatyler Moore is close behind with 103 yards on 21 carries and two touchdowns.

Moore also controls the air game when the Wildcats choose to throw it. He has one touchdown and 63 yards, completing 6 of 15 passes. He also has one interception.

For Water Valley, the Blue Devils are relying on the play of sophomore quarterback Ty Varner. It is his first year playing at the varsity level on a consistent basis, and Embry has talked with him each week to make sure the struggles and pressure are not affecting his young quarterback.

“He’s a sophomore quarterback who’s working hard, learning,” Embry said. “He’s going to have ups and downs, highs and lows, and you’re just going to have to continue to progress.”