GotW | W1: Thunder & Destruction
Week one could provide one us with one of the fiercest defensive match-ups of the regular season in 6A. There’s no question that Tupelo and Meridian both have playmakers at all three levels. The only question is, which defense will have an edge in week one?
That could depend on the challenge in front of them. Both the Wave and Wildcats will be strong on offense, but battling a stout defense in week one isn’t always the easiest test. Timing is often a challenge for offenses in game one of the season, as well, which will only help these two talented defensive units.
Visitor’s first here, lets take a look at Meridian. While this unit is stacked with next-level talent, it starts up front with Deunta Hyman, who hurried quarterback 30 times a season ago, and making good with 19 sacks.
With all that pressure, defensive backs AJ Hopkins and Eli Stringfellow were able to intercept seven and six passes, respectively, last fall.
In fact, the Wildcats were more than proficient at getting the ball back a season ago. They forced 15 fumbles, recovering seven, and picking off 25 passes.
Up front, pass rushers Deuntra Hyman and Jamond Gordon are sure to create plenty of havoc. Xavier Curry and Juleon Selvie will combine well to lead the linebackers. Stringfellow can dominate receivers on his island, and Hopkins is a great all-around talent in the defensive secondary. All in all, the Wildcats are ferocious and balanced. The back seven was really good at getting their hands to the ball in 2016, so their interceptions could be in line to increase this fall.
The stout Golden Wave defense allowed less than seven points per game in six regular season home games last year.
Jett Johnson, Peter Gray and Tay Standifer will again headline a strong defensive unit this fall. Gray has added solid weight to his frame this offseason and should be even more dangerous to quarterbacks this season. Johnson has tallied well over 100 tackles each of the last two seasons, with five interceptions. Standifer, a junior, has been a starter in the secondary since his freshman season.
Like the Wildcats, though, Tupelo’s defensive depth is more impressive than their star quality on that side.
Standifer is joined by another veteran, Clay Cox, at safety. With two veterans at that spot, the Wave can afford to work less experienced guys into their roles at corner.
Keaton Cager, Tabias Morris, Jake Morris and others are expected to contribute at linebacker alongside Johnson. That group loses Diesel Howell from a year ago, but should be extremely athletic this fall.
Gray will lead the defensive line group. He is bigger, stronger, more athletic and versatile enough to build on his 87 tackles and five sacks from a season ago.
Gray, Johnson and Standifer each recorded interceptions in 2016. So the Wave can create turnovers, but their physicality will be what really grinds their opponents down this season.
**Photo courtesy of MHS Wildcat Football