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The biggest test for Scott Duley’s squad comes on Friday, as Union County will travel to Ripley.
“They’re fast and very athletic,” Duley said of the Tigers. “They’re by far the best looking team we’ve seen so far this year. They’re not very fancy on offense, and they don’t have to be. They looked very good in the second half against New Albany and last week against Pontotoc. This will be our biggest test to date, and if our kids come out and play hard, we’ll have an opportunity to perform well, but if they don’t, then it’s not going to be good.”
Going into their game against Pontotoc last week, Ripley averaged 33 points per game and 324 yards on the ground, so Duley expects a tough test for his defensive unit.
Coming off their 31-6 loss at Mantachie last week, Duley said his defensive effort was strong, and the focus this week remains on working with the offensive line, despite several kids out due to illness.
“Looking at film, the offensive line needs a lot of work, but I’m very proud of our defense last week,” he said.
“The score is not indicative of how well they really played. Our defense was on the field a lot, and they played hard.”
Duley is also working on not allowing any distractions for his team as they face the 3A Tigers. With area teams (Potts Camp and Benton County) falling in their respective games against bigger schools (Desoto Central and Rosa Fort), the focus is on keeping the morale up and not comparing themselves to the other small and up and coming teams.
“We don’t talk about it. We just have to work on being positive with them and assuring them that they have the best prospects possible, and you don’t want to compare yourself to other teams anyway,” Duley said. “We’re honest with them and we work to keep them in a good frame of mind, but it’s best to avoid those comparisons all together.”
Union County will use this game as a stepping stone in the growth of its program, and they hope to learn a lot about their team and where they stand for the remainder of their first varsity season.
“The only way we’re going to know what that competition is like is to play it,” Duley said of the scheduling of Ripley. “If we’re going to be 5A in two years, we better know what 3A feels like, and this is a good test for us.”
Friday’s game is set for a 7:30 p.m. start at Ripley.