Hornets open Region 8-4A play

Published 7:24 pm Friday, September 30, 2011

Poplarville High School’s second season starts tonight.

The Hornets, who blew away any remaining dark clouds from a winless 2010 season with their 4-1 start in 2011, kicks off Region 8-4A play by welcoming Forrest County Agricultural High School (5-1) at 7:30 p.m.

It’s the first step along a road that Coach Chris Teal and his team have mapped out.

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“Our goal right now is to get in the playoffs,” Teal said. “It’s going to be a big challenge, but I think we can do it.”

The Hornets saw a four-game winning streak snapped last week as they dropped a 24-14 decision at Lumberton.

FCAHS coach Larry Dolan, whose Aggies have won their past three games, said he expected the Hornets to bounce back.

“Lumberton’s just so fast, and playing there, that’s a tough place for any team,” Dolan said. “It’s going to be a challenge.

“Poplarville’s has got such a potent offense. They’re scoring like, what, 50 points a game. They are a lot better team than they were a year ago, and we’re going to have our hands full.”

Actually, Poplarville averages 42.6 points a game.

Paced by sophomore running back Tyus Raine (785 yards, 17 touchdowns), the Hornets average 387 yards total offense per game.

Junior quarterback Drake Hodges, who had the cast removed from the left arm he broke against Pass Christian on Sept. 3, will miss his second consecutive game.

That will leave the controls in the hands of sophomore Chandler Ray.

In his first career start, Ray connected on 6 of 13 attempts for 66 yards with an interception against Lumberton.

Teal said Ray did just fine.

“I was very, very pleased with him,” Teal said. “I don’t think that he did anything that put us in jeopardy at all. He executed the offense really well.

“I mean, you’re looking at a kid who’s getting his first start at Lumberton. My goodness. But he operated the offense exactly at the way it needed to be done.”

 As with Hodges, Ray’s favorite target was Jarrel Aaron, who caught all six of  his completions.

But as with Lumberton, Teal said FCAHS is going to present myriad problems on both sides of the ball.

“They’re going to get in about 25 formations, and they’re going to run it right at you,” Teal said. “Larry, that’s a first-line program he’s got over there. You have to be ready to play those guys and it’s going to be tough.”

Sophomore Dontavian Lee leads a ground game that has spread the wealth among three or four backs each game.

Lee has rushed for 324 yards on 57 carries, but a pair of fullbacks, Hunter Young and Clarence Atkinson also have packed some punch, combining for 286 yards and five touchdowns.

Le’Darian Lee and Addarius Perkins also can handle the football.

“Coming into the year, we weren’t really sure who we were going to be leaning on the most, but Dontavian has kind of taken on that role,” Dolan said. “Hunter and Clarence, they’re more pluggers, but they’ve been good for us, too.”

Dolan said it’s no secret what his the Aggies are going to do.

“We always want to run 75 percent of the time, and this year, we’ve about 70 percent run,” Dolan said. “That’s good, pretty close to where we want to be.”

And not only does the run play keep-away from the opposition’s offense while grinding away at the time clock, it also opens the Aggies’ passing game.

“Usually, it’s when we’ve got our running going that other things are going to open up,” Dolan said. “That’s when we’re able to hit on some of those long passes.”

Senior Lukas Dubose has taken advantage, completing 30 of 58 passes (51.8 percent) for 696 yards and nine touchdowns.

His top targets: McKinley Howell (204 yards, two touchdowns, 10 catches) and Perkins (160 yards, two touchdowns, nine catches). Dontavian Lee also has proved versatile, with 140 yards and a touchdown on three catches.

The Aggies also have lived up to another trademark under Dolan’s tutelage.

Led by junior linebackers Logan Thompson (64 tackles) and Deyon Edmond (55 tackles, two fumble recoveries) and senior strong safety William Landrum (53 tackles), only one opponent has scored more than 20 points against FCAHS this season.

Despite the loss at Lumberton, Teal said he liked what he saw against the Panthers.

“I was really proud of the way the defense played,” Teal said. “(Linebacker) Kendell Lee, he was something. He played on both sides of the ball and didn’t come off the field. Very proud of that young man.”

Teal said he expected the Hornets to put the first loss of the season behind them.

“Having (FCAHS) at home is going to be great,” Teal said. “We’re going to come off (Lumberton), and we’re going to be right at home and we’re going to be fine.”

Dolan said he expected a highly-competitive game.

“It’s just the way our (region) is this year,” Dolan said. “There’s no clear-cut winner that I can see. Everybody has a shot at this thing, and it’s just going to come down to whoever plays better on a given Friday night.”