Thursday, August 20, 2009
Indians hold 5A Tigers to one touchdown in jamboree
By CLAUDE VINSON
The Byhalia Indians would get a “baptism by fire” in a pre-season jamboree at Independence High School Friday night.
They tested the waters in a classification above their own by taking on perennial powerhouse Hernando. The 5A Tigers have been picked to be a state title contender this year. They’re ranked in the preseason Top 10.
Just before the game, head coach Markeith Washington was asked what his game plan was for the evening.
He answered, “The game plan is to put points on the board.”
The coach said later the contest with Hernando had been discussed and was to be used as a litmus test to see just where the Indians were at the start of the season.
The Tigers had the ball first and returned the kick to the Byhalia 33. They picked up a first down at the 21. The Indian defense began swarming to the ball. They were attacking the huge line of Hernando, stopping them cold until a flag for pass interference was dropped. The penalty set the Tigers up with a first on the 9-yard line. They scored on a sweep right by the tailback. The extra point was by kick.
Patrick Malone was the signal caller for Byhalia and his first play was a handoff to Tavaris Neal. Eventually they faced a fourth and two and had lined up to go for it when the coaching staff called a timeout and changed to punt formation.
After the change of possession, the Tigers tried every play in their book but could not get through the Indian defense. Their quarterback was in trouble on a third and 15, but somehow escaped ran for 13 yards. Byhalia stuffed them on the fourth and two and took over on downs.
It was clear that the Hernando coaching staff was shocked by the tenacity of their 4A opponents. Byhalia’s Andre Collins picked up a first; then on a third and 10 after a time out, Malone hit Collins on a fake delay and he took the ball to the Hernando 25. Malone tossed to Kevin Fitzpatrick for a big first. Next came a bad snap which resulted in a Byhalia loss. The next play was broken but Malone scrambled out and raced to the 13. He tried a QB sneak but was stopped at the 3 and the ball went over to the Tigers.
Eli Cannon, the big fullback for Hernando, moved over to quarterback and took the snap deep in his own end zone. He used his considerable frame to move the ball out to the 14. The quarter(which had lasted almost an hour) ended with the Tigers leading 7-0.
Again the stubborn Indians dug in and forced the Tigers to give up the ball. Try as they might, Hernando had a more than formidable task of prying the Indians loose from the ball. Byhalia held the ball for the major portion of the second (and final) quarter which also lasted about an hour. Byhalia was playing as if this was a division game for all the marbles.
Malone went to work and hit Fitzpatrick for a first on their own 38. He and Fitzpatrick teamed up again. Malone unleashed a bomb which was taken by the flanker between two Tiger defenders for a first at the 20. Malone then called a slant with Neal as the target. It went for six. The extra-point try for the tie was a kick which went wide right.
By this time, the Tigers had just about turned over the signal calling duties to their big fullback, Cannon, using their primary, Martin Walsh, as a flanker. Cannon used his size to keep the ball on the ground and away from the Indians. Byhalia got the ball back with 2:08 left. They tried but fell short of punching it into the end zone.
Coach Washington was congratulated by the other team on the Indians’ “toughness.”
He remarked, “They threw everything they had at us. We took it and gave most of it back. We feel that this season is going to be a lot different from the last. We didn’t have a lot of time for preparation last year. This season we do.”
The Indians will try to take that toughness into their next game and season opener this Friday, Aug. 21, at Booker T. Washington in Memphis.
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