It’s natural for Michael Bradley to enjoy history.
As an American government and economics teacher at New Hope High School, Bradley gives his students valuable lessons on how they can learn from history.
Bradley does the same with the players on the New Hope High football team.
At 7 tonight, Bradley and the Trojans will try not to repeat the mistakes of the past when they play at Hernando (1-5, 0-2 region) in a Class 5A, Region 1 game.
Last season, Hernando defeated New Hope 22-0 at home in week six of the region schedule. At that point, Bradley said Hernando resembled an “animal backed into a corner” and played like it.
“They thrashed us last year,” Bradley said. “They are the best 1-5 team in the state. If there is a better 1-5 team I wouldn’t want to play them, and I certainly don’t want to play this bunch.”
Hernando has lost to Clarksdale (21-14) and West Point (33-22) to open region play. The Mississippi High School Activities Association’s redistricting before the 2011-12 season enabled Hernando a chance to play host to New Hope on consecutive seasons.
Bradley hopes his team will be able to match Hernando’s intensity tonight. Coming off victories against Saltillo and Oxford to open region play, a win would help New Hope (4-2, 2-0) start the region play 3-0 for the first time since 1998. In that season, coach Andy Stevens’ Trojans beat Aberdeen, Tishomingo County, and Itawamba before losing to Houston in Class 4A, District 1, Division 1. New Hope finished 7-5 that season and lost to Louisville 33-0 in the first round of the playoffs.
A third region victory would help New Hope gain even more control of its destiny as it attempts to earn a third-straight trip to the playoffs.
Considering how many injuries the Trojans have overcome and still face, Bradley admits he is surprised his team is still standing.
“I am pleasantly surprised,” Bradley said. “I was glad we were able to get the first two region wins. When you’re replacing as many starters as we did last year, on offense especially, you have no idea what the season is going to be like. I knew we had the potential to do that, but who could predict a 14-year-old freshman (Davis) would play as well as he did.
“If you would have told me in August that we would be 4-2 and we wouldn’t have E.J. Jenkins playing football anymore, that we wouldn’t have “Roc” Carr for any of those games, that we wouldn’t have Darius Petty for any of those games except for the Louisville game, and others missing a lot of action, I would be very surprised.”
Bradley said several key players won’t play tonight. He said players like running back Jameel Johnson and freshman quarterback Brady Davis have stepped into bigger roles to ease the losses due to injuries. Bradley said Davis is handling being thrust into the starting lineup well and is staying humble. He also said Johnson has learned how to focus and is becoming the player he knew he could be.
Bradley credits his players for rising to the challenge and adopting the mind-set of the acronym they wear on their practice shirts: MTPS, which stands for Mentally Tough Physically Strong. It is an offshoot of a similar mantra Bradley saw coaches at Picayune High use.
“We don’t show up and win. We have to show up and play hard to win,” Bradley said. “We don’t have a team of stars. We have a team of blue-collar guys that believes in themselves, believes in their teammates, and believes in their coaches. That’s how we’re able to do things.”
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.