Coverage Breakdown: Bruce @ Vardaman
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Trent Hall—Trent Hall is in his first season as the Trojan quarterback but has had an eventful career at Bruce, including sealing a Trojan win over Okolona last season with two late interceptions as a defensive back. That Bruce win sent the Trojans to the postseason. Hall may only have one start as a signal-caller under his belt, but he appears poised to lead this team. He has yet to throw a touchdown on the season but will be gunning for one tonight.
Quin Davis—The Trojan wide receiver has made some noise for his new quarterback so far this season. Davis hauled in multiple passes from Trent Hall last week, but the Trojans did not score through the air. Davis, however, has the hands and agility to make defenders pay, and will be a favorite target of Hall’s again tonight. Keep an eye on Mr. Davis as he tries to find the end zone for his quarterback's first career touchdown pass.
Dee Cullins—The Bruce tailback is both powerful and fast. A sophomore, Cullins is gaining valuable experience for the rest of his career this season as he gets touches for the Trojans in numerous situations throughout the game. His powerful, downhill style of running can come in handy in short-yardage situations, and he is a dangerous threat to score in the red zone.
Trae Owen—The Vardaman quarterback (along with the Rams’ offense as a whole) struggled some last Thursday night. Owen threw two interceptions and no touchdowns, although the interceptions were thrown in desperate situations late in the ballgame. Owen is the senior leader of this Vardaman offense and will look to help his team defeat their county rivals for the second season in a row.
Patrick Pratt—Patrick Pratt hauled in his fifteenth career interception last week against South Pontotoc and rushed for his first touchdown of the season. Pratt’s speed and agility make him dangerous on both sides of the ball. Pratt will also be a target of Trae Owen in the passing game and will be a threat to the Trojan defense throughout the evening.
Tanner Havens—Tanner Havens has been called on to play an increased role in the Rams’ passing game this season. This is Havens’ first season as a starting receiver, but he is already making his presence felt on the field. Last week, Havens dragged his toes on a sideline catch before falling out of bounds, showing great awareness for being relatively new to the position. Owen will look to find Havens through the air tonight, and some connections between the two could lead to scores.
KEYS TO THE GAME:
This game will be a doozy. Both teams are coming off opening-season losses to larger schools and are looking for their first win of the season, but that is probably not the biggest motivator in both locker rooms. Vardaman and Bruce are separated by approximately 15 miles and are in the same county and school district. Last season, Vardaman defeated Bruce for the first time since 2010, and the Trojans definitely have revenge on the brain coming into Tater Towntonight. With that being said, it is important that Bruce does not get too far ahead of themselves. They will have to overcome their emotions and play fundamentally-sound football to knock off the Rams.
The same can be said for Vardaman. The Rams’ win over Bruce last season is quite possibly the biggest win for the program since Larry Gann returned to Vardaman as the head coach in 2013. Vardaman wants to repeat last season’s performance and experience the same thrill that comes with defeating a rival. Once again, however, the excitement of the game cannot be a distraction for the Rams if they want to win. Sometimes big stages can bring about mistakes, and both teams will have to make sure that they can overcome their own emotions if they want to win.
Perhaps the biggest key to keep an eye on is quarterback play. We know that both teams have talented running backs, but the quarterback progression will be interesting to watch. Trent Hall is still learning the ins-and-outs of being a field general, and how he reacts after a loss will be very important. The same can be said for the veteran Trae Owen. Owen has been a quarterback for a long time but now has to lead his team into battle against another tough opponent after losing last week. Neither quarterback should have a problem motivating their team for a game such as this, but how they respond individually to a tough first week could set the tone for the rest of the season.
Quin Davis and Patrick Pratt
These two speedy players will be difficult to contain tonight. Both could get touches in the rushing and passing games and can score in the blink of an eye. Keep an eye on these two opposing athletes and see what show they can put on.
**Photo from last year's Bruce-Vardaman game. Courtesy of Sherry Williams