After a 2007 season of record breaking defensive lows, defensive coaches Richard Russo and Bryant Mix have the Blue Devil playing with tremendous confidence. After defensive efforts almost single handedly secured wins at Coffeeville and Independence, the Blue Devils almost repeated that feat against Senatobia. Russo’s defense surrendered only seven first downs and 156 yards of offense to the Warriors, allowing the Water Valley offense, who managed 410 yards on the night, to outgain Senatobia by 254 yards.
Leading the way for the Water Valley defensive resurgence has been emotional leader J.J. Hardy and fellow defensive lineman Marrico Hayes. Both Hardy and Hayes recorded seven tackles against Senatobia, while senior Dewayne Samuel led the team with 10 tackles on the night.
Led by the consistent and tenacious Blue Devil defense, Russo believes Water Valley is on the verge of putting it all together.
“We’re very close to taking that next step,” said Russo. “The kids are buying into the program and it’s an exciting time to be a Blue Devil.”
As a standout at both running back and safety, D.C. Logan has been a strong presence in the Blue Devils 2-2 start. However, a shoulder injury sidelined Logan against Senatobia, the junior’s status against West Tallahatchie is now in question. Head Coach Brad Embry said he didn’t know the extent of Logan’s injury after Friday night’s game, while Russo said doctors will look at the running back/safety’s shoulder this week. If Logan is ruled out against the Choctaws (2-2), Russo does not expect a slip in performance from the Blue Devils.
“Buckley filled in for him the other night and we didn’t miss a beat,” said Russo.
As for a replacement against West Tallahatchie, Russo said that role will be earned in practice leading up to Friday night’s game.
It’s going to be like every other week,” said Russo. “It’s going to be an open competition, and the best players will play.”
The Blue Devils will attempt to win their first home game of the season, as Water Valley will look to secure a homecoming victory at Bobby Clark Field. The Choctaws narrowly escaped with a 24-18 win over the Blue Devils in 2007, but West Tallahatchie is winless on the road in 2008, falling victim to Hollandale Simmons (30-0) and Charleston (42-6).
Russo expects West Tallahatchie to bring plenty of speed at both the quarterback and running back positions, as the Choctaws prefer a heavy ground game, running nearly ninety percent of the time. Offensively, the first year defensive coordinator expects Johnson to continue to lead the Blue Devils towards a winning record heading into division play.
“It was very exciting to see our offense move the ball, Josh brings another dimension to the offense,” said Russo.
After a tough loss against Senatobia, Russo and the rest of the Blue Devils are determined to focus on advancing the Water Valley program and overcoming their defeat to the Warriors.
“They (Players) realize we should’ve won that game but we didn’t,” said Russo. “They’ll come back this week and work hard. The worst thing we can do is let Senatobia beat us twice.”