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NEL hopes to pick up where 02 left off

By By Marty Stamper / EMG sports assistant
July 23, 2003
Northeast Lauderdale second-year head football coach Steve Nelson hopes to build on the 2002 season finale this fall.
The Trojans finished a 4-6 season a year ago with a solid 28-7 whipping of
Quitman. Northeast's victory snapped a string of 11 straight Panther wins in the series.
"Maybe that can carry over," Nelson said. "And we beat South Jones 18-7 in the spring. Maybe we're ready to get something going.
"After leaving the spring, I feel like we're going to be a little more balanced as far as passing and running the football.
"We don't have as many folks out as I'd like. We've got 35 in the 10th
through the 12th grade. We're going to get a ninth grade-only team started
so maybe we can get a few more out each year. It's a growing process and
you've got to be patient."
Of concern is the fact that Northeast's four wins came against teams with a combined 9-32 record and two of them (West Lauderdale and Magee) aren't on this year's slate.
On the plus side, Northeast has six home games this fall.
The Trojans open their 2003 season at home on Aug. 29 against Northwest Rankin. It will be the first meeting of the two schools on the gridiron.
"They're 5A and they're supposed to have a pretty good tailback," Nelson
said of the Cougars.
Northeast travels to county rival Southeast Lauderdale on Sept. 5. This
year's contest will be the 43rd meeting between the two with Northeast
holding a slim 22-20 series advantage following last year's 13-7 win.
On Sept. 12, the Trojans host Class 3A power Newton County. The two haven't tangled since 2000. Both teams have two wins in the series.
On Sept. 19, Northeast opens Division 5-4A play at home against Northeast Jones. The Tigers from Jones County hold a 13-5 series advantage. The Trojans go to Florence on Sept. 26. The Eagles have won both previous meetings, including a 7-6 squeaker last fall at Northeast.
Northeast and Quitman tangle for the 31st time on Oct. 3 at Northeast with Quitman holding a commanding 23-6-1 all-time advantage.
On Oct. 10, Northeast takes on defending Class 5A state champion Wayne County at Waynesboro. The War Eagles have dropped to Class 4A this fall and are in Division 5-4A. It will be the first meeting between the two.
Northeast resumes a long-dormant series from the Sam Dale Conference days with Neshoba Central at Northeast on Oct. 17. The two last met in 1972 with Northeast taking a 16-0
victory. The Trojans hold a slim 6-5-1 series edge.
Of the six wins was a 67-6 blowout in 1966 that remains as the school record for most points scored in a game by Northeast.
The Trojans host Mendenhall on Oct. 24. Mendenhall has won all eight
previous games in the series. Northeast closes out its regular season on Oct. 31 at Soso against West Jones. The Mustangs blanked Northeast 35-0 last year and hold a commanding 13-1 series advantage.
`"We're not playing any cupcakes," Nelson said. "We'd better come ready to
strap it on every Friday night. We don't have a lot of depth. If we get a few key people hurt, we could be in for a long year.
"We could go anywhere from .500 to 8-2 with a few good breaks here and