September 4, 2009 8:57:00 AM
David Boykin admits his football team doesn''t have anything to gain tonight.
If the Class 4A Caledonia High School Confederates beat the Class 2A West Lowndes Panthers, no one will raise an eyebrow because it is what is expected.
But if the Panthers travel to Caledonia and earn the victory, people will be surprised.
Boykin hopes his players will be ready to prevent that from happening.
"I feel like we prepared and I hope we got the first-game bugs out," Boykin said referring to a 49-6 season-opening loss to Saltillo last Thursday. "We didn''t have an opportunity to play a classic game, and that was Saltillo''s second game, to get the kinks out. Hopefully we have got that taken care of and we will be able to come out and perform to our ability. If we do that I think we will be in good shape."
Caledonia scored on its opening drive against Saltillo and then struggled to move the football.
After the game, Boykin said he wasn''t pleased with his team''s effort. He said he expects the team to score every time and that he will hold his players accountable to play with that kind of effort and intensity.
Boykin didn''t see the Confederates play with that mind-set as a team last week, and he made sure to spend plenty of time this week addressing that issue.
"We probably talked about that more than our adjustments," Boykin said. "We want to give a great effort, and we want to be excited about it. I want the kids to play hard, to play fast, and to play physical and to give me their all. I just believe a kid who gives great effort won''t be denied and when you don''t give great effort it is easy to be denied."
Boykin said he will continue to stress to his players if they''re not getting better, they''re getting worse. He said it is crucial for them to understand the urgency of playing hard and giving it their all every play.
If that doesn''t happen, Boykin said he will find players who will give him that kind of effort.
"We''re working on giving great effort in practice and going wide open the whole time," Boykin said. "I expect a lot out of them, and that''s the way I am going to coach those guys. When they understand that we''ll start winning. I have to hold these kids to high standards because when they start executing they will feel good about themselves and times are going to change.
Coach Bobby Berry''s team comes into the game 2-0 after a 26-0 victory last week against rival East Oktibbeha.
Berry said the Panthers have improved through the first two weeks of the season, but he knows tonight''s test will be his squad''s toughest to date.
"I don''t know how much we improved this week because the flu got us this week," Berry said. "Most of them have been in and out. We have had two or three out a day, and they have been key people. I don''t know how well we''ll play (tonight). We''re just going to go out and do our best." Berry said it has been six or eight years since West Lowndes has played Caledonia. But he said he knows Boykin well enough to realize the Confederates are going to try to spread the field and get the ball to their playmakers.
Berry said Caledonia has plenty of speed and athletes who can make the Panthers pay if they''re not careful.
Inexperience might play a role in West Lowndes'' ability to be in the right places on defense.
Berry said the illnesses that hit the team this week forced him to use inexperienced backups in practice. He said the Panthers got quite a bit of work done this week, but he isn''t sure how some of those players will respond to assuming larger roles.
Berry also said conditioning could play a factor tonight, especially since his team isn''t as deep or as large as Caledonia.
"Our conditioning wasn''t there this week. We''re probably a little weak," Berry said. "It means those kids we have put in this week are going to have to put in some time. They seemed to have caught on to what we''re trying to do, but until they get tested I don''t really know (how they will respond)."
Boykin, who was hired in May to replace Jason Forrester as coach, didn''t schedule West Lowndes. He said he likes the aspect that the teams are rekindling a county rivalry, and he accepts the expectations his team will face tonight.
"They have a bunch of great athletes, but a Class 2A school is not supposed to beat a Class 4A school," Boykin said. "We have got a lot riding on this game. We''re not going to take anything for granted. Just because we''re a Class 4A school doesn''t mean we''re going to beat them."
n Boykin said senior lineman Coty Seabrooks, who hyperextended his keen in the Saltillo game and had to be helped from the field, is expected to play tonight. He said Seabrooks'' desire to get back on the field helped motivate him after he was able to get a full range of motion back in his knee.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.