Coverage Breakdown: North Pontotoc @ Mooreville
Players to Watch:
Clark Mills: Mills totaled 388 yards last week against Saltillo, and he did it with his arm and his legs. Through the air he connected on 61% of his passes for a total of 346 yards and two scores. He also scored twice on the ground and finished with 42 yards. With Zay Cullens gone, and a new offense in place, Mills is aiming high in his final prep season.
Brendon Fields: After week one Fields is the state’s leading receiver with 211 yards, as he was the only pass catcher to surpass the 200-yard mark. All in all he hauled in eight passes to the tune of 26.4 yards per catch and was on the receiving end of both of Mills’s passing touchdowns. The junior is a difficult matchup for opponents due to his impressive speed.
Joshua Davis: Mooreville’s offensive attack is geared primarily around the running game, which features a trio of capable rushers. That means the hulking Davis, a 330-plus pound junior nose guard, will play a pivotal role in this contest. His size and strength are joined by a tremendous motor and plenty of quickness. He is sure to have an impact on this game by making plays for the talented backers behind him and for himself.
Demarcus Rogers: Rogers possesses the size and athleticism to be a star at linebacker and a threat as a tight end on the offensive side. He flashed plenty of skills on both side in week one against Saltillo. Not only was he in on plenty of plays on the defensive side, but he also hauled in three passes, including a 16-yard grab as he was going to the ground.
Corley Hooper: Another physically impressive linebacker for the Vikings, Hooper can really lay the lumber when he meets the ball carrier. He usually puts himself in the right position, and he lays mean licks when he does. Similar to Rogers, Hoopers size and skills also lend a hand on the offensive side of the ball. He is a reliable and invaluable pass blocker, and that showed big time last Friday.
Mitchell Tharp: Last week Tharp stepped up in a big way in the absence of star rusher Andrew Peugh. With little returning experience, the senior signal caller was able to carve out 147 yards and two scores on the ground. With Peugh back in the fold this week, expect the two to work well with each other and off of each other. It will be the first look at the potential of the duo in 2017.
Andrew Peugh: Sickness held Peugh out in week one versus Booneville. But he showed in 2016 that he can be a big-time, impact playmaker with the ball in his hands. He finished the season with eight total touchdowns, four on the ground, two through the air and two more on punt returns. A few weeks ago at Mooreville’s midnight madness scrimmage he took direct snaps and was effective and elusive on the ground.
John Tyler: First-year head coach Jimmy Young calls Tyler the anchor of the secondary. And with the experience that departed that group from a season ago, Tyler stepping up is exactly what the Troopers needed. He is an explosively athletic corner, with flexible hips and great closing speed.
Watson Tate: Tate is another guy coach Young singled out. One of many sophomores getting significant snaps, Tate is a standout at linebacker. He should prove to be a critical part of the defensive gameplan for the Troopers as they aim to stop a powerful passing attack this week.
Rex Harris: Veterans are scarce on the Mooreville roster this season, and Harris is one of the better ones. In fact, he is one of only nine seniors that returned this fall. He provides emotional leadership at the linebacker position, as well he leads by example with his physical and energetic play.
Keys to the Game:
Perhaps the most interesting angle to follow all night long will be the matchup of the three-headed Trooper rushing attack against the physically impressive front seven of the Vikings.
North Pontotoc’s passing attack is lethal and the Troopers could struggle to defend it. The key to watch will be if Mooreville can create some turnovers. Mills did throw an interception last week, but it hardly slowed his production.
Both of these programs feature first-year head coaches, and both started 0-1 at their new programs. No doubt both of these teams will be well-prepared and hungry to get in the win column. These programs are familiar with each other having been division foes dating back to 2013, but these coaches bring a new element to the rivalry.
Clark Mills. It’s hard to envision the prolific passer won’t be the biggest determining factor in this game. This is a team he’s beaten twice in his career as the starting quarterback for the Vikings. He scored four times last week, I expect his encore to be on par or better than that.