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Blue Devils ready for ‘test’ in region opener

After closing out its non-region portion of the schedule with a win over Winona last Friday, Water Valley has a little momentum heading into its region opener this Friday night.

The Blue Devils (2-4) will travel to perennial Class 3A powerhouse Charleston to open Region 2-3A play (7 p.m., 105.5 FM).

The Tigers (4-2), ranked No. 5 in 3A, are coming off a 26-0 loss to Lafayette last week.

They may have been shut out on the scoreboard, but after watching the film, Water Valley coach Brad Embry still had one word to describe them.

“Impressive,” Embry said.

With the chance to knock off one of the top teams in the state and put themselves back in contention for a region title, the Blue Devils’ players have a positive approach this week at practice. It is something Embry has noticed every week regardless of the previous Friday’s result.

“The win helps, but I’ll say this for our kids: Despite having a few setbacks and some adversity, the kids have done a good job of coming to work every day,” Embry said. “Half of it is showing up ready to learn, and they always have done that. This week, it is a little bit better with a little confidence and seeing hard work and practice is paying off.”

Every year, the matchup between the Blue Devils and Charleston ends up being the deciding factor in how the region title is decided.

The game may not have that big-time feel with Water Valley having a down year up to this point, but Embry views this game as the ultimate opportunity for where his team stands the rest of the year.
“Basically in 3A the past 10 years, (Charleston) has been one of the best teams in the state,” Embry said. “That’s continued this year and not just in 3A but one of the best teams in the entire state. It’s a great opportunity for us. We’ve worked to get better, and this will be a good measuring stick to see how much we’ve really improved. … We’re trying to get to where we were a couple years ago, and when you’re trying to get somewhere, you need to take a test. Friday night, we’ll get a test.”

Senior Ahmad Alexander and junior Tre Truly split time as the Tigers’ quarterback. Truly leads the way with 335 yards passing and two touchdowns, completing 16 of 30 attempts. Alexander has 271 yards on 21 of 36 completions and one interception.

Alexander is part of a three-man rotation at running back that includes senior Craig Buckley and junior Billy Kimble. Buckley has 50 carries for 221 yards and two touchdowns while Kimble accounts for five scores on the ground with 213 yards and 35 carries.

Senior receiver Travion Williams is the target of choice with 18 catches for 389 yards and three touchdowns. Buckley also spends time out wide with four receptions for 140 yards and four scores.

“They’re a very talented football team,” Embry said. “They’ve got some really good interior linemen. Their offensive front is good. I don’t remember any (weaknesses) standing out. They’re a solid football team. Really good athletes and very well coached.”