Coverage Breakdown: Houston @ North Pontotoc
Players To Watch
Urriah Shephard | QB
There’s nothing Shephard can’t do on a football field. He leads the Toppers with 1,621 yards and 23 scores on the ground this season, and he’s tied for the team lead with three interceptions. His size and speed allow him to make big plays on both sides of the ball. His arm is stout, as well, as he’s thrown for 1,247 yards and seven touchdowns, while averaging 20.8 yards per completion. His production, though, is only half as impressive as his will and leadership.
Quenton May | RB
After missing last season May has emerged as star this fall. He’s averaged 9.2 yards per tote on 133 carries, good enough for 1,217 yards, and scored 13 times this season. He’s hit the 100-yard mark five times this year, including his 303-yard, four-touchdown outburst in the regular season finale win over Nettleton.
Bobby Townsend | ATH
Townsend is an absolute tank, on both sides of the ball. Defensively, he ranks second on the team with 85 tackles. He makes plays sideline to sideline, and delivers bell-ringing shots. On offense he’s tallied 633 yards on just 52 carries, and scored six times. He runs with a low center of gravity and has the ability to barrel through would-be tacklers.
Allen Robertson | ATH
I was impressed when Robertson when I saw him play against South Pontotoc earlier this season. His used his size and speed to get downfield for a 25-yard touchdown grab, as well he used his strength and athleticism to tally two sacks and three quarterback hurries. He’s caught nine passes for 224 yards and three touchdowns this season, to go with six sacks and seven hurries.
Jalen May | ATH
May doesn’t just make plays on offense and defense, he’s also a gamebreaker on special teams. He’s returned two punts and one kickoff for scores this season, averaging 60.7 and 36 yards, respectively. As well, the leading receiver on the team with 15 catches for 344 yards and two scores. Plus, he’s rushed for another 557 yards and four scores, with an eye-popping 21.4 yards per carry average on 26 carries. He’s also tied for the team lead with three interceptions, to go with 64 tackles and 14 pass deflections.
North Pontotoc Vikings
Clark Mills | QB
Mills has blossomed into arguably the state’s best signal caller as a senior. His 3,212 passing yards rank second in the Magnolia state, and he joins Kenneth Gainwell as the only other quarterback in the state to amass 3,000 yards in 2017. His 33 touchdowns - to just five interceptions - are just as impressive. Additionally, he’s been excellent with his feet this season, having rushed for a team-high 807 yards and 17 touchdowns. Like Shephard on the side, Mills’s intangibles are impressive and he sparks this team with his leadership.
Jaquez Berry | WR
With the graduation of Zay Cullens, Berry was cast as the team’s top returning playmaker for this season. And he’s stepped up in a big way, emerging as a pillar for the Vikings’ passing attack. He leads the team with 51 grabs, 993 receiving yards and 13 touchdown catches. The senior has caught a touchdown in 10 of 12 games this season, with three multiple TD games, and on top of that he’s tallied at least 100 receiving yards in six games.
Brendon Fields | WR
It’s unfair to list Fields as a wide receiver because he mostly finds himself lined up inside. Either way, the goal is to get the versatile junior in space so that his speed can take center stage. He clocked a 4.35-second 40-yard dash last spring at the Fortius Project camp at NEMCC. He’s used that speed to produce 37 catches for 824 yards and eight touchdowns this season. By no surprise, he holds the team’s longest reception this season of 80 yards.
Corley Hooper | LB
For the season Hooper is averaging 11.8 tackles per game, and has been in on 142 tackles. You can can kind of assume his role just by seeing those two numbers. He is the man who gets everything organized and together in the middle of the field, and is the most vocal player on the field when the defensive unit is at work. The junior posses all the skills needed to recognize and track down ball carriers sideline-to-sideline.
Joshua Davis | DL
Davis is the enforcer of the defense. In fact, he is kind of like a bouncer standing at the front door. He is able to control the game at the line of scrimmage because of his size, strength and quickness off the ball. Without a plugger like Davis in the defensive front, it’s hard to imagine where this North Pontotoc team would be this season. He can plug holes against the run and get off blocks and chase down quarterbacks against the pass.
Keys To The Game
Both of these teams enter this game on impressive runs, following turning points in their season. For Houston, that point came against division foe Choctaw County. Since then, the Toppers have won five straight, scoring at least 34 points per game during the streak. For North Pontotoc, the winning streak is at eight games, and it was sparked by a 48-41 loss to rival South Pontotoc in the fourth game of the season. With both teams playing their best, something has to give.
Both of these quarterbacks has a case to be the 3A Player of the Year. Both of them have great teams around them, as well, but this game feels like it goes to the quarterback who makes more plays. They both impact the game in many ways, but keep in mind Shephard is also tied for the team lead in interceptions for Houston.
Defense is likely to be key. Both of these teams have proven they can score, but Houston has proven they can slow teams enough. Additionally, the Toppers did it this season against a more challenging schedule. Lastly, there may be a few more playmakers on defensive side wearing maroon tonight. Just look at the way these teams defensed common opponent South Pontotoc. The Vikings couldn’t slow their offensive attack, surrendering 48 points, while Houston allowed just six points and had no trouble slowing them.
Houston’s defensive line. This unit has a big challenge in front of them tonight. Not only will they have their work cut out facing a huge and physically imposing offensive line tonight, but they have to get to Mills. Rish Alford, Colton Foster and Allen Robertson have combined for 35 sacks this season, and I think they get it done in this one. They can make it easier on the secondary by getting to Mills, who can pick you apart if he has time.