By Reid Bankston
WATER VALLEY – For Water Valley head coach Brad Embry, four letters summed up the four quarters of offensive efficiency put forth by country rival Coffeeville in the Blue Devils season opener.
“F-A-S-T, that’s what they did effectively. I’ve never seen in a 1A school that many kids with that much speed,” said Embry. “We were in decent position at times, but if you take one bad step they’re on the corner.”
Although the Blue Devils scored in the opening moments of both halves, Water Valley’s possessions in between were marred by turnovers and blown assignments, as they fell 34-25 to the visiting Pirates.
In many sports circles, many believe there is such a thing as scoring too early. However, Embry isn’t an advocate for that, as he quickly dismissed that notion after the game.
“We made too many mistakes; it doesn’t have anything to do with that (scoring early). It has to do with executing your assignment on offense, defense, and special teams,” said Embry. “We’ve got to play sound assignment football. We’ve got some things we’ve got to fix.”
The Pirates were quickly punished for a fumble on the opening kickoff, as senior running back D.C. Logan gave the Blue Devils an early 7-0 lead with a 13 yard touchdown run, with just 1:11 elapsed off the clock.
However, it was the Blue Devils that were in the giving mood in their next two offensive possessions, as emergency Water Valley put the ball on the ground twice, the second of which resulted in a game-tying 45 yard touchdown pass from Coffeeville quarterback Dannie Smith to receiver Rakeenon Nicholson with 5:14 left in the first quarter.
The blown coverage on the Nicholson reception was an ominous sign for the Blue Devil defense. It would prove to be the first of many missed assignments on the night.
“They have a lot of weapons, but I think we had a great game plan. I thought we executed it sometimes and other times we didn’t,” said defensive coordinator Richard Russo. “Breaking in 5 new starters and 6 new players, this was a tough game to do it in”
Water Valley strung together a nine play drive in an attempt to answer the Pirate touchdown, but the fourth Blue Devil fumble of the night (there were seven in total) gave the ball back to Coffeeville at their own 37.
A huge gain on the drive’s first possession by Raphio Nicholson put backfield partner Devonious Turner in position to punish the Blue Devils with a 29 yard touchdown run, giving Coffeeville a 13-7 lead after a failed PAT with 11:37 remaining in the second quarter.
Coffeeville (2-0) extended the next Blue Devil drive with a roughing the kicker penalty on fourth and six. Logan again punished the Pirates just five plays later with a 10 yard touchdown run, tying the game at 13-13 after Water Valley missed the PAT.
Logan finished off the night with 226 all-purpose yards, six tackles, and all four Blue Devil touchdowns. Newcomer Zenty Allen spelled Logan throughout the night, pitching in 68 yards on 15 carries.
“They (Allen and Logan) played well, they ran the ball hard. Obviously we put the ball on the ground too many times, but we’ll get that fixed,” said Embry. “They’re fine and they’re going to be good. I’m excited about feeding them the football.”
Coffeeville took the lead going into the half behind a 10 yard touchdown from Desmond Butler with 2:22 left in the half. If one play summed up the night for Water Valley, it was Dontay Harris two point conversion, scored after he fumbled the PAT snap before scooping and scoring to give the Pirates a 21-13 lead.
As previously mentioned, Water Valley started the second half with a bang as well, as Logan returned the opening kickoff 82 yards for the score. However, the Blue Devils were unable to tie up the game after a failed two point conversion left them trailing 21-19.
Coffeeville scored on two of their next three possessions, one of which was set up by yet another Blue Devil fumble, to extend their lead to 34-19 with 11:39 to go in the fourth quarter, leaving Water Valley with too much ground to makeup.
There are some reasons for that, people where thrust into jobs. But the point is get the job done and get ready to play football,” said Embry. “If we cut out a few mistakes here and there, we’re in business.”
Horton connected with Logan for a 14 yard touchdown pass with 2:29 left to go in the game, but a missed extra point left the Blue Devils still facing a two possession deficit at 34-25.
Although turnovers were the main catalyst in the Blue Devil downfall, Embry believes that there is still work to be done for his Water Valley squad.
“There is no one thing to point at. It’s not one person that can’t get the job done. We put the ball on the ground too many times; we had bust on defense, bust on offense, and bust on special teams. You do that to a good team your fixing to get beat and give up 35 points,” said Embry.
Water Valley (0-1) must now turn their attention to Calhoun City, a team that represented their classification in Jackson last season.
“They (Calhoun City) went to the state championship last year and they lost one or two kids, but they didn’t lose a lot. It’s a good challenge and I know the kids will be ready to play,” said Embry.