Kris Pickle didn’t know what to expect in his first season as the new football coach at New Hope High School.
Coming from Morton High, Pickle, a former assistant coach at Aberdeen High, knew of New Hope, but he didn’t know the team he was inheriting from Shawn Gregory or the amount of fight the Trojans had in them.
Consider Pickle pleasantly surprised through four games because New Hope has run through its non-region schedule with a 4-0 record. But Pickle knows that success won’t mean much Friday night when his team plays plays host to Clarksdale in its Class 5A, Region 1 opener.
“It brings a different level of intensity because you know that it starts counting then,” Pickle said. “You start out 4-0. Now you’re 0-0. Everybody is 0-0, so every team you play from here on out is going to be a good team.”
New Hope is coming off a 34-13 victory against Amory. He said the Trojans have put each of their first four victories in perspective and that they realize they have to get even better to make the fast start mean something.
Pickle said the Clarksdale game is one of several key region games that will help determine which teams from the region advance to the playoffs.
“They got whipped by this team pretty good physically last year,” Pickle said. “Like I told the kids Monday, we are a different football team. We’re a different offense. We’re a different defense. We’re a different special teams. We’re a different coaching staff. We’re a different group of players, and I expect different results.”
Pickle said confidence is the biggest part of his team’s success. He said he feels his players believe they can take on any challenge, starting with the game against Clarksdale.
Pickle acknowledged there was a lot of uncertainty surrounding the start of the season. He said he has been proud of the team’s intensity, focus, and execution in practice.
“I think we are ready to start division play,” Pickle said. “We have to have an even level of intensity throughout the whole ballgame.”
Pickle said playing four quarters will be even more important against tougher competition. He said his goal is to see the Trojans develop a better killer instinct in situations that call for immediate resolution. He said an inability to put teams away by letting them back into the game highlighted the fact that defense is still ahead of where the offense needs to be.
“We’re going to rely on our defense to get us the ball back and try not to turn the ball over on offense,” Pickle said. “We’re not a team that can throw it 55 times a game and be real successful doing that. But we can limit our turnovers, like when the defense gets a stop, and we’re able to push it in.”
Now that Pickle has seen his players through the first third of the season, he hopes the Trojans will be able to build on the confidence gained from the first four weeks.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.