Tony Stanford isn”t sure if one week will be enough.
The Columbus High School football coach will get a chance to see just how much a week off has helped his team when it takes on New Hope at 7:30 tonight.
Stanford said Columbus (1-1), which had an off week last week, will be without junior quarterback Cedrick Jackson and junior running back Damian Baker for at least another week. He said the Falcons also will be without sophomore running back/defensive back Quan Latham, sophomore linebacker Gemriah Williams, and senior defensive lineman/tight end Ian Williams. The players are out with an assortment of ankle or foot injuries.
The veteran coach, who is in his first season as head coach at Columbus, said he doesn”t think he has seen this many ankle injuries in more than 30 years of coaching.
Still, he said injuries are part of the game and Columbus will have to answer the challenge of playing a Lowndes County rival.
“We”re still trying to recuperate,” Stanford said. “I don”t think the week off has done very much. When it comes to feet we are in bad shape.”
Columbus, which defeated Aberdeen and lost to Noxubee County in its first two games, earned a week off after West Point was forced to cancel their scheduled game for Sept. 3 in Columbus. The Green Wave had to cancel the game because they had 12 regular-season games, one more than the Mississippi High School Activities Association limit, on their schedule.
Columbus and New Hope high schools then worked out an arrangement that capitalized on the fact both schools had an open week this week to resume a rivalry that took a one-year hiatus.
“It is a major challenge for us,” Stanford said. “They”re a playoff team that played for the (Class 5A) North Half last year and got close. We”re sitting here trying to win football games to even have a chance to get to the playoffs.”
Stanford never imagined all of the injuries would impact his team”s depth this early in the season. He said the injuries have put it behind schedule. A poor start this week in practice also worked to put the Falcons in a bad spot.
“This is probably the worst week we have had,” Stanford said Wednesday. “I don”t know if they are going through the motions, if they are down because we don”t have everybody healthy, or if they are scared because we have New Hope (tonight).”
Stanford has watched tapes of New Hope”s games against Tupelo and Amory and said his team will be challenged to control the Trojans” offensive and defensive lines and their stable of players at the skill positions.
“It is going to be a struggle,” Stanford said. “I hope the kids show up and hope that we can hang in there with them. I think we”re about 70 percent with both of our safeties out, our outside linebacker out, our defensive end out. We”re struggling.”
New Hope coach Michael Bradley isn”t sure if his team will be able to capitalize on Columbus” injuries. He said his team hasn”t played to its potential, even after a 37-6 victory last week against Amory.
Despite the margin of victory, Bradley said his team didn”t execute like it is capable.
“We haven”t played to the level we have to play to beat Oxford, Hernando, and to play on the same field as West Point,” said Bradley, referring to three of his district rivals. “I think the potential is there, but we haven”t played like that.”
Bradley said improved play from the offensive line will help get the Trojans closer to their potential. He said the offensive line has done a “great job” as a group in pass protection but has had too many blown assignment in the running game.
“We”re blowing easy assignments and not making the right blocks,” Bradley said. “It seems like they are drawing straws to take turns (making mistakes). It is not one guy, but it is not like they”re not trying. Maybe they”re pushing too hard. Hopefully we”ll get it worked out this week.”
Bradley said his team is OK injury wise and doesn”t have any serious issues. He also said junior linebacker/tight end JoJo Reeves, who missed the Amory game serving a one game suspension after he was ejected from the Tupelo game, will be in the lineup.
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.