By Reid Bankston
Following the decision last year by the Mississippi High School Activities Association to move from five to six division classifications last year, Water Valley has moved up to Division Three. This means some of the traditional foes have changed this season.
While the traditional season-opener against Coffeeville will remain an important game in this season’s lineup, division games against Winona and Aberdeen will prove to be a benchmark for the Blue Devils as they compete in Region 2 of Division 3.
Water Valley vs. Coffeeville – 8-28-09
Throw out the records when these two heated rivals get together, as long as these two schools stand 13.85 miles apart, this is a big game. The Blue Devils inched out a 20-12 road victory last season against the Pirates in head coach Brad Embry’s debut, but Water Valley needs a victory even more so in 2009.
For a team looking to take the next step in the progression of the program, simply put, Water Valley doesn’t need a slip up in the season opener. On paper, the Blue Devils should go into this game as favorites, but anything can happen in a rivalry game, and Embry will need to have his squad fully aware of that before they take the field in late August.
Water Valley at Winona – 10-23-09
If all goes to plan, the Blue Devils and Tigers will square off in late October with at least the second seed in the division up for grabs. Without question a road trip to face off with Ken Chandler’s Winona squad, who went 9-4 overall and 5-1 in the division in 2008, will be Water Valley’s toughest road test of the season. If the Blue Devils expect to take home a victory, defense will be the name of the game. Winona averaged nearly 30 points per game in 2008, including two games against Nettleton and South Pontotoc in which the Tiger offense put up 48 and 49 points respectively.
Playoff seeding will for sure be hanging in the balance heading into this encounter, but if either the Tigers or Blue Devils can upset division favorite Aberdeen early in the season, a division title could be up for grabs.
Water Valley vs. Aberdeen – 10-9-09
The state of the Water Valley football program will be put to its truest test in this matchup, as division and north half favorite Aberdeen comes to town in early October. Speed and offense are strengths for the Bulldogs, and they certainly have plenty of it. In a 10-3 2008, the Bulldogs put up 40 or more points seven times, while averaging 37.2 ppg the entire season. Leading arguably 3A’s most explosive offense is running back Jamerson Love and wide receiver Erik Buchanan. Love, who has scholarship offers from Southern Miss, Arkansas State, and Mississippi State, clocked a 4.34 in the 40 yard dash at the Big Dawg Camp in Starkville this summer and is a touchdown waiting to happen. There isn’t a whole lot to lose for Water Valley against Aberdeen, but there certainly is quite a lot to gain.
A win would see the Blue Devils put themselves in pole position to win the division, and also give themselves room for error going into consecutive road trips to division foes South Pontotoc and Winona.