The East Central football team has handled a pair of Class 6A opponents to begin the season, but their toughest test yet may await this Friday night in Class 3A Jefferson Davis County.
The Class 4A Hornets (2-0) will host the Jaguars (3-0) at 7 p.m. Friday night in a battle of two teams that are expected to contend for state championships in their respective classifications.
Jefferson Davis County is in its first season following the merger of a pair of Class 2A programs, Prentiss and small school powerhouse Bassfield.
Bassfield won five Class 2A state championships from 2009-15 and East Central head coach Seth Smith believes this year’s Jefferson Davis squad is even better.
“I guess the only difference to me would be their depth. That’s a positive for them,” Smith said. “In the past, numbers have been an issue being a class 2A school. To me, they are the best Class 3A team in the state. They’re as good as anybody we’ll face.”
Jeff Davis, which topped Harrison Central 25-10 in the opener, is coming off an impressive 48-34 victory at Wayne County.
Jeff Davis coach Lance Mancuso, who built Bassfield into a juggernaut, saw last week’s win over Wayne County as a significant step forward for his group.
“They believe in one another,” he said. “We feel like those young men have confidence in each other on the football field. We’ve still got a long, long way to go. This group has come together and it showed at a place like Wayne County. They really had to fight together and play together. It shows there’s no animosity on the team.”
Bassfield was always one of the fastest programs in the state regardless of classification and it will be a challenge for the Hornets to keep pace with the Jaguars on Friday night.
“We just have to do what we do,” Smith said. “We’re not really going to change anything. We’ll just try to enhance who we are every day and keep getting better at what we do. We’ll have to eliminate turnovers, penalties and keep playing defense.”
Mancuso also sees a significant challenge ahead for his team in East Central.
“They’ve got a really, really good football team, Mancuso said. “Seth Smith and those coaches have done a great job. Those young men play extremely hard for them. They’re by far the most physical football team we’ve seen in a long time. It’s going to be a huge challenge for us Friday night to go on the road down there and be successful.”
Senior running back Tony Brown again leads the way on offense for East Central with 51 carries for 497 yards and four touchdowns.
East Central is coming off a 45-12 win at George County, but Smith thinks his team has yet to play its best game on offense.
“I can definitely say we haven’t had (a breakout game on offense),” Smith said. “For example Friday night, we didn’t get in a rhythm until the third quarter. That was a little bit my fault. Play-calling is important to help kids get a rhythm.
“I don’t think we’ve come close to reaching our full potential offensively. That’s encouraging for us because we can keep getting better. We have a chance to have a pretty good year.”
The defense has been just as strong as the offense so far for East Central with senior safety Andrew Seward, senior linebacker Cade Miles and junior Avery White leading the way.
“Up to this point at East Central, this is the best defense we’ve had,” Smith said. “If we’re blessed to stay healthy and be fortunate enough to get better every day, our defense is good enough to carry us to a great season.”
Who: Jefferson Davis County vs. East Central
When: 7 p.m., Friday