• 54°

Meeting the defending champs: Week nine high school football previews

Another week of high school football dealt yet another week of our three local teams putting together a sweep.

On Thursday night, Oxford handed Desoto Central a 51-7 beatdown for homecoming, while Water Valley squeaked out a 21-17 victory on the road at Independence. Both of those games were moved up due to threat of inclement weather. Meanwhile, Lafayette stayed on Friday night, fighting through the cold and rain for a 24-7 win over Center Hill.

This week presents a new set of challenges. Oxford will be going on the road for a regional game against the defending 6A state champions. Lafayette has homecoming night and Water Valley hosts Holly Springs.

Lafayette vs. Saltillo, 7 p.m. (Homecoming)

Simply put, Saltillo isn’t very good at football this season. At 1-7, the Tigers’ only win comes against 4A Ripley. Over the past three games, Saltillo has scored just 23 total points. If there’s a bright spot for the team, it’s young sophomore running back Tyler Smith. Four times this year, Smith has gone over 100 yards rushing and he’s averaging 6.8 yards per carry on the ground. Lafayette will be heavy favorites in the game, and if they can shut down Smith early and force the Tigers to throw, it will be even easier.

Last weekend, Lafayette (5-2) grounded the football through for one of the quickest games possible. Long, methodical drives put Center Hill away early and really prevented any chance of much of a comeback. Randy Anderson set a career high in the win with 256 rushing yards. This weekend, expect more of a similar ground-heavy approach, especially if quarterback Tyrus Williams is still sidelined with his concussion.

Oxford at Horn Lake, 7 p.m.

Traditionally, a trip to defending 6A champ Horn Lake would be the circled game on every team’s calendar from the start of the season. Not to say Oxford (6-1) isn’t fired up to go against the 3-4 Eagles, but it’s simply not the same Horn Lake team that ran the table to a 15-0 season a year ago, culminating in a state championship. Last year’s Horn Lake team sported five of the top 75 recruits in the entire state, including the number one overall player in Mississippi in linebacker Nakobe Dean. Now, Dean is playing at Georgia while two-way quarterback and corner Raydarius Jones is playing defensive back at LSU. That loss of talent is simply hard to maintain a year later, hence the 3-4 start to the season for Horn Lake.

Now this team still certainly has some talent; it’s just hardly as deep as a year ago. Two of the top 25 seniors in the state play for Horn Lake, but it’s just those two ranked in the top 50. The biggest single problem for Oxford on Friday night will be in the middle of the Horn Lake defense, with defensive tackle Josiah Hays, the second ranked recruit in the state. They also have another highly recruited player on defense, with three-star outside linebacker Jakivuan Brown. Both Brown and Hays are committed to play at Ole Miss next season.

For Oxford, the keys to the game will be continuing to run the ball effectively, even while having to deal with the game-wreckers that are Hays and Brown. Their record may not show it this year, but those two alone can shut down a rushing attack. With JJ Pegues limited with an ankle sprain, a lot more will fall on the shoulders of running back K.J. Wadley and quarterback John Meagher.

Water Valley vs. Holly Springs, 7 p.m.

After a nearly perfect year last season, Water Valley (5-2) has hit some bumps this year. That said, they’re still 5-2 with a good chance to pummel a division opponent this week. Holly Springs, at 2-6, have literally not scored a point in their last two football games and have been outscored 62-0 in the process.

Holly Springs presents a good opportunity to get quarterback Jacob Truss back on track for Water Valley. Truss has been up and down this year, but the team will need him in order to make another deep playoff run. Last week against Independence was his best game, as far as passing yardage is concerned, this year. Yet he also threw two interceptions. An efficient, clean game from Truss would be a positive sign for the Blue Devils moving forward.