Water Valley look to keep playoff hopes alive at North Panola

Published 12:04 pm Thursday, October 13, 2016

A postseason berth is still reachable for Water Valley, but their season is on life support.

Losers of six straight, including their first two Region 2-3A games, the Blue Devils (1-7, 0-2 2-3A) are sitting in last place tied with Holly Springs. Four of the six teams in the region reach the playoffs. If Water Valley does not want to end their streak of making the playoffs the last eight seasons, they will have to run the table their final three games.

It starts Friday night at North Panola (7 p.m., 105.5 FM).

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“A lot of teams in our division have improved over the last year or so, and we’ve taken a step or five backwards,” Water Valley coach Brad Embry said. “It’s definitely a learning experience for me. I’ve coached 20 years now and in 20 years I’ve never had a season like this. It’s just one of those things where I’ve learned a lot and I guess it happens. I don’t know anything else to do other than to keep working.”

Youth and inexperience have been key factors to the Blue Devils’ struggles, starting ninth-graders on offense, defense and special teams. Outside of the blowout win at Coffeeville, none of the seven losses have been competitive past halftime. The closest loss for Water Valley was a 42-27 loss to Eupora in the season opener. After the win, the Blue Devils have been outscored 302-69 during their current losing skid.

“We shouldn’t be playing so many ninth-graders and 10th-graders. It’s just the situation we’re in,” Embry said. “We’ve got to make the best of our situation. I don’t think negativity has helped anything. … Confidence is a problem with our players. When you lose as many as we’ve had, you lose a lot of confidence.”

Last year, North Panola (7-1, 1-1) traveled to Bobby Clark Field and lost 30-18. This year, it’s almost a near role reversal.

The Cougars are led by sophomore quarterback Kenneth Jefferson, who has completed 67 of 136 passes for 1,430 yards and 19 touchdowns. Senior running back Jamal Leverson leads the running attack with 51 carries for 394 yards and one touchdown. Jefferson is right behind Leverson with 51 carries on the years as well for 321 yards and two scores.