Water Valley seeking more leadership ahead of Pontotoc

Published 9:35 pm Wednesday, September 7, 2016

A lot of new faces at the varsity level and a treacherous schedule in the early going.

It’s a formula that hasn’t resulted in much winning for Water Valley.

After taking out an overmatched Coffeeville squad the week before in a 55-point shutout, the Blue Devils returned to face a team their own size last week and were blanked 29-0 on Friday by Calhoun City, the No. 3-ranked team in Class 2A. After opening with a loss to perennial 1A playoff participant Eupora, Water Valley (1-2) doesn’t have time to feel sorry for itself with a trip to Pontotoc, the third-ranked team in the 4A classification, looming Friday at 7 p.m. (105.5 FM).

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Water Valley coach Brad Embry won’t ever apologize for putting together a challenging slate regardless of the Blue Devils’ experience level so his team can adequately prepare for a Region 2-3A schedule that will ultimately determine if Water Valley is still playing come the postseason, but the coach said he needs more out of his more experienced upperclassmen as Water Valley tries to navigate a difficult start.

“We’ve got to get a little more leadership from some old guys that have been there and done that,” Embry said. “We need more leadership out here in how to practice and how to focus. We have a couple of kids trying, and I see it. I see a couple of kids trying that. Those things add up in the negative category when it comes to executing and beating a team like Calhoun City.”

The Blue Devils will see the opposite of themselves in terms of that experience from a Pontotoc offense Embry called “very, very well balanced.” The Warriors (3-0) are led by senior quarterback Jacob Carter, who’s completed 60 percent of his passes for 778 yards and seven touchdowns with just one interception.

Three backs also get regular carries for Pontotoc. Sophomore Gabe Harmon leads the bunch with 380 yards, averaging 6.4 yards a carry with four touchdowns.

“They’re a balanced football team on offense, and defensively we’re sitting there looking where to attack them, and you don’t see a lot of weaknesses,” Embry said. “They’re sound. They’re solid.”
Embry said he feels like his team has improved despite last week’s numbers on the scoreboard, and the objective now is to stay the course regardless of what the scoreboard shows Friday.

“We could be playing some teams that aren’t very good and winning, but we wouldn’t be getting ready for who we have to play in region and the playoffs,” he said. “That’s what I’m excited about. Obviously we don’t want to be 1-2 right now. Nobody does. … We’ve got to challenge ourselves, and that’s where we’re at right now.”