Knights fight for playoff positioning
By By Will Bardwell / staff writer
Oct. 30, 2003
Public school football's regular season ends in Lauderdale County on Friday night.
Many area teams are looking to improve playoff position, while some are already looking to spring practice. Some have enjoyed relatively easy seasons, while others have faced stiffer challenges.
For West Lauderdale, nothing has come easy.
Although the Knights have won six of their last seven, their last four games have been tougher than their first few contests. After averaging 27 points in three September wins, West Lauderdale averaged only nine points per game over their next three games, which included a loss to Forest on Oct. 19.
With a 31-30 double-overtime win over Morton on Friday, though, the Knights (7-2, 4-1 in division) sealed a playoff spot. A win against Carthage on Friday would give West Lauderdale at least a tie for the Division 5-3A title.
Though West Lauderdale will go to the playoffs no matter the outcome on Friday, the game is still critically important to its postseason seeding. The Knights can still finish as high as first or as low as fourth in the division, meaning they could face any of Division 8-3A's top four teams anywhere from 9-0 Tylertown to 1-8 Poplarville.
That is why McCain is now downplaying the importance of Friday's match-up against 3-5 Carthage, which is locked into the division's No. 4 seed.
McCain said he hopes the Knights can use Friday's game as a learning experience for the upcoming postseason, just as it did a week ago against Morton.
at West Jones
If it is possible to catch the No. 2 team in the state at a good time, Northeast Lauderdale may do it.
The Trojans head into Friday's game at West Jones locked into Division 5-4A's fourth and final playoff spot, while the Mustangs wrapped up the division title on Friday with a 23-15 win over previously unbeaten Wayne County.
While knocking off 9-0 West Jones on their home field should not be confused with easy, Trojans head coach Steve Nelson said his team has nothing to lose.
It will not be the first challenge Northeast Lauderdale has faced this season. Playing in perhaps the state's toughest division, 5-4A, the Trojans were picked near the bottom at the beginning of the year but rallied to advance to the postseason.
Now the Trojans finish their regular season against a team coming off its biggest win of the year. While Nelson said Friday's atmosphere will be good exposure for his playoff-bound squad, he also hopes for a chance to pull the upset.
District 2-AAA's Division 2 title in hand and its postseason fate secure, Mac Barnes said Lamar can do only one more thing get better.
With that as their goal, the Raiders travel to McComb on Friday to face Parklane.
The Raiders, 8-1 overall and 3-1 in Division 2, wrapped up the division championship with a 35-7 win against Copiah Academy on Friday. Still, Barnes said his team has room for improvement before the playoffs begin in two weeks.
Lamar's head coach said he has saved a few scheme wrinkles for the late part of the season, but with the Raiders' playoff future certain, he can keep those changes off the field until the postseason begins.
The 2-6 Pioneers have struggled throughout the season, but a year ago, it was Lamar that pulled off an upset win over Parklane. Barnes said the Pioneers would certainly like to return the favor.
The end is near for Southeast Lauderdale.
After a long, hard season, the 1-8 Tigers wrap up their season Friday with a road game against Richton.
Despite the obviousness of their record, the Tigers have been competitive until recently. A 25-0 win over Clarkdale in September was followed by a close 22-16 loss to Forest. On Oct. 3, Southeast Lauderdale lost 14-6 to West Lauderdale, and a week later, fell 16-13 to Choctaw Central.
Friday, the Tigers will try to go out on a high note against playoff-bound Richton, 4-5 overall and 3-3 in Division 8-2A. A win will bring no tangible results, but Taylor said it would help immensely with offseason morale.
The contest will be the final home game for five Southeast Lauderdale seniors, and Taylor said the Tigers will have to depend on them for their leadership one last time if the season is to end on a high note.