• 61°

Devils aim for first region win against Independence

Coming off a 29-14 loss to Charleston last week to begin Region 2-3A play, Water Valley is looking to get back on track and earn its first win in the region.

The Blue Devils will get their chance when they host Independence Friday at Bobby Clark Field.

The Blue Devils (2-5, 0-1 Region 2-3A) have had a roller-coaster year and been unable to sustain any consistency on the field.

“We’re continuing to practice well and getting a little better each week,” Water Valley coach Brad Embry said. “That’s why I think we’re playing. I know we’re playing better from doing those things. I’ve been pleased with guys showing up and going to work.”

That could begin to change on the offensive side of things as senior Kirkland Horton is nearly back to full strength after a leg injury kept him out of action for a portion of the first half of the season.

He split time with sophomore Ty Varner at quarterback against Charleston, which has been the plan all along.

Getting Horton back at quarterback will allow the Blue Devils to add another layer of offense that had been lacking with him standing on the sideline.

“(Horton’s) health is better, and he played a lot Friday night and came out of it feeling good,” Embry said. “It just makes us more versatile. It gives some different avenues to move the ball and causes more problems for the defense.”

Former Water Valley assistant coach-turned-Independence head coach Richard Russo has navigated a turnaround season of sorts for the Wildcats (5-2, 1-0), having already surpassed their win total from last season and opening up region play with a 35-7 win over Holly Springs last week.

Water Valley beat the Wildcats, 27-13, at Independence last year.

“They’re an improving program,” Embry said. “I think coach Russo has established some stability there which always helps. It’s going to benefit them, hopefully not this week but in the future.”

Junior Trevonta Newson leads the Independence offense, completing 29 of 58 passes for 305 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. He has also contributed on the ground with 54 carries for 223 yards and eight touchdowns.

The Wildcat ground game is a triple-headed monster as fellow juniors Zykeris Mosley and Tae McClatchey join Newson in the rushing attack. Mosley leads the way with 750 yards and five touchdowns on 106 carries while McClatchey has 258 yards and two scores on 30 carries.

“They’re a run-heavy team,” Embry said. “They run the ball, control the ball. That’s their game plan.”

Youth movement
The special teams has taken on a younger look from what it started out as at the beginning of the season. Junior Edgar Guzman was slated to be the Blue Devils’ placekicker for field goals and extra points. That plan did not pan out as Embry had hoped, and he’s had to make a change at that position.

Sophomore Joseph Washington has replaced Guzman and has impressed Embry with what he’s done in the past few weeks.

“We thought we had some older guys that could handle those jobs, but they didn’t get it done,” Embry said. “So we’ve kind of gone to a youth movement in some situations. The good thing is we have some young kids who are now getting the job done.”