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Water Valley, M.S. Palmer square off for region’s final playoff spot

 

Believe it or not, Water Valley still controls their own playoff destiny. No, they are not competing for the Region 2-3A title, but the Blue Devils are playing for the fourth and final seed when they host M.S. Palmer Friday night in the teams’ regular-season finale on Friday (7 p.m., 105.5 FM).

The stipulations are simple, whoever wins at Bobby Clark Field will advance into next week’s MHSAA Class 3A playoffs and whoever does not will see their season come to a conclusion. This situation came to be as Water Valley (2-8, 1-3 Region 2-3A) defeated Holly Springs last week for their first region win of the season. Palmer (5-5, 1-3) has dropped their last two region games, including last week’s loss to Charleston, putting them in a tie with the Blue Devils for the four seed.

“Honestly, we got a win and a little confidence and an understanding that there’s an opportunity here now,” Water Valley coach Brad Embry said. “It’s added a sense of purpose in practice and a goal that can still be reached.”

For Water Valley, defense has been the key for them the past two weeks. They kept Holly Springs out of the end zone and even though they gave up 32 points in their loss to North Panola two weeks ago, Embry liked what he saw and is seeing.

“We’re improving,” Embry said. “Offensively, we’re just struggling so bad that we put the defense in a bad situation against North Panola continually until we broke. … We still busted a few assignments that we’ve got to get fixed this week. Last week, they didn’t hurt us, but this week they might.”

When the Dragons win, they win convincingly. In their five victories of the season, Palmer’s offense is averaging 33 points per game and outscoring their opponents by a margin of 25.4 points. Scoring has been an issue for Water Valley, and if it becomes a shootout, it could favor the Dragons.

“They get you spread out so you have to make open-field tackles, so that’s always scary,” Embry said. “They’re athletic. They like to run and gun and get the ball down the field. You’re not going to trick them with zone coverage. They’re one of those teams that you know what you’re getting, and you’ve just got to be able to execute the gameplan.”