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Quarterbacks: First time starter Tyler Richardson completed almost 48 percent of his passes for 700 yards and four touchdown passes. Richardson connected with nine different Blue Devil targets. Richardson did well in the run game fielding the snaps and handing the ball off and carrying out fakes. Jaden “J-Roc” Morgan did well in his packages, mostly rushing the football and Tre Adams provided excellent relief and spot play that helped the Blue Devils’ cause.
Running Backs: The Running Back Room rushed for almost 1,900 yards and 26 touchdowns thanks to the efforts of the offensive line opening up holes for them. Morgan did the bulk of the workload with 1,300 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns. For his efforts, Morgan was voted by the opposing coaches as “Region 2-2A Most Valuable Offensive Player.” Zae Bradford added 500 rushing yards and five Touchdowns while Freshman Miles Bufford added 70 yards. The H-Backs of Will Embry and Reid Burress provided quality run blocking and 10 receptions as an outlet for Richardson in the passing game.
Offensive Line: The aforementioned offensive line of Jack Woodard, Donalvin Wilson, Hayden Schurr, Ezaryon Riley, and Jake Griffin got better and better under the direction of head football coach Clint Faust. Many times throughout the season, they opened up gaping holes in the opponents’ defenses and provided Richardson with time to get his passes off. Dez Campbell, Jaelyn Rockette, and Ja’Cameron Elmore stepped up when called upon due to injuries.
Wide Receivers: The Wide Receiving Corps provided almost 700 yards receiving. The group was led by Taylen Johnson with a 500-yard receiving senior season and three touchdowns. Dylan Moore got healthy mid-season and came on with 20 receptions. The group did well in run blocking as a unit as well.
Place Kicking: Gabe Butler and his kicking unit had a solid season with 27 total points including 24 PATs and one field goal. Reid Burress provided the long snapping along with Richardson as the holder. Butler also had almost 2,000 yards in kickoff yardage.
Snapping and Punting: Punt Snapping was consistently done by Will Embry. Embry was selected by the Mississippi Association of Coaches as a Statewide All-Star to play in the Bernard Blackwell North versus South Game in December due to his speed and accuracy. Richardson handled the punting duties and accrued 917 yards for a 31.6 average, long of 45 Yards, and four inside the 20-yard line.
Defensive Line: “Mix’s Army” found consistency down the stretch with the defensive line of Dez Campbell, Ezaryon Riley, Donalvin Wilson and Jaelyn Rockette. Wilson led the group with 108 total tackles, 10 sacks, 29 tackles for loss, and three blocked kicks. Parker Turnage and Jack Woodard rotated in and offered support in backup.
Linebackers: Reid Burress and Will Embry offered consistency and leadership to the defensive side of the ball. Burress led all Blue Devils with 114 total tackles. Embry called the defense and any on-the-field-audibles while accruing 82 tackles, eight sacks, and 39 quarterback hurries. Sophomore J.D. Gooch was on track to have an outstanding season before an off-the-field injury sidelined him at 66 tackles mid-season. Morgan and Miles Bufford rotated in at that third linebacking spot for the remainder of the season.
Defensive Backs: Probably the most improved unit on the team from game one to the end of the season. With little to no experience previously, this group took coaching and found a way to improve throughout the season. Ty Pritchard led the group with 68 tackles, two interceptions, and three defensive touchdowns. Jy Williams was not far behind with 63 total stops and one game-sealing interception versus M.S. Palmer. Taylen Johnson added two interceptions of his own, both in the playoffs. Isaiah Webb was on pace to have a solid season of his own with 29 total tackles and five pass breakups before getting injured mid-season at Saltillo. When the opponents had a Number One Receiver, Morgan got the assignment to shut him down and eliminate their “Go To” threat.
Kick Returners: Both Anthony Butler and Morgan accumulated over 300 yards in kick return yardage. Morgan had one return touchdown officially, with two being called by due to penalty.
Coach Speak: Head Coach Clint Faust – I was proud of this first season. I think that even though the win column didn’t show it, we got better each week. We had a very young and inexperienced team this year. We got opportunities to get those guys who came to practice and worked hard some meaningful reps this year, which will be beneficial in the future. We had a tough non-district portion of our schedule where we had to play some teams that were bigger schools than us. Overall though, I thought we competed well against them and even had the opportunity to beat a couple of them, we just didn’t get it done. Ultimately we overcame youth and injuries to earn a number 2 seed and a first round home playoff game.
I appreciate all the work that all the players and coaches put in this past season. Hopefully we are showing the players that hard work does pay off, you’re just not guaranteed when that time will come. I do believe those lessons learned from all the preparation and playing throughout the season will prepare them for a successful future after high school. That’s our ultimate goal, to help mentor young men that hopefully one day become good husbands, fathers, and members of this community. The future looks good for Water Valley and I can’t wait to see these young guys in action next season.