Kris Pickle has a picture in his head that is going to take time to develop.
The New Hope High School football coach doesn’t have all of the pieces to the puzzle to complete that picture, but he believes it has the potential to be a powerful vision once it is finished.
New Hope will offer a glimpse of what it could become at 7 tonight when it travels to Scott County to take on Forest in the season opener for both teams.
New Hope will be without senior running back Tyran Reed, who is recovering from a stress fracture in his foot. Pickle said Reed had the cast removed from his foot Thursday and will be in a boot. Pickle said Reed could miss New Hope’s game against West Lauderdale next week. He said the “worst-case scenario” would be to have Reed back for the team’s game against Houston on Sept. 1.
Without Reed, New Hope showed flashes of explosiveness last week in a 14-7 victory against Amory in the New Hope Jamboree at Mississippi State’s Davis Wade Stadium. Pickle also liked what he saw from his defense in two quarters of varsity action.
“I thought we played more physical on defense than we did last year,” Pickle said. “I don’t know if that is because we are a year older or if we have gotten stronger, but I thought we were a little bit more aggressive.”
A long bubble screen was the only blemish on New Hope’s ledger.
Improved play by a bigger defense will be a key for New Hope, which was reclassified from Class 5A to Class 4A in the latest Mississippi High School Activities Association two-year cycle. Last season, New Hope finished 6-5 last season and failed to make the playoffs out of Class 5A, Region 1. The Trojans scored 365 points, but they allowed 326, including 31 or more in each of their five losses. They surrendered 42 or more points in three of the losses.
This season, Pickle hopes the defense will be improved thanks to more size up front. That size also figures to help New Hope on offense, where Pickle enjoys a balanced attack that relies on a strong running game and a multi-pronged passing attack.
Reed’s absence has prevented the offense from clicking on all cylinders, but Pickle envisions things coming together when Reed returns and gets back up to speed.
“Nothing against the backs we have now, but they are sophomores and they are young and they are small,” Pickle said. “Tyran is 6-foot-1, 220 pounds. That is a load coming at you. Having him prevents teams from loading the box on us, and I don’t think they can load the box on us anyway because of what we can do out wide. It just gives us that punch in the backfield where maybe we don’t block right he can break a tackle. It gives you the added dimension to do that.”
The athleticism and size of senior of 6-foot quarterback Kyree Fields gives the Trojans another weapon to mix in with senior wide receiver Jeremy Tate, who has given a verbal commitment to play football at Memphis.
The Trojans missed connecting with Tate on at least two long passes when he worked behind the secondary, but Tate was targeted nearly 10 times in the two quarters.
Pickle, who is in his fourth season at New Hope, always has tried to have a balanced offense. He said the Trojans won’t be “bull-headed” about trying to get Tate the football, but he added that this year’s offense could be similar to the one he had in 2014, which featured running back Brenton Spann and wide receiver Bryson Ellis. New Hope ran multiple sets and moved players around in an offense that scored 424 points en route to a 10-win season.
This season, Pickle feels the Trojans have multiple weapons that can complement Tate — like senior A.J. Dooley, junior Jaylon Mays, and sophomore Jumarcus Selvie — because he likely will attract attention.
Pickle also hopes the added size up front will give the Trojans more flexibility in the passing game to move people around and to pound people to soften them up for a deep shot or two.
“They are similar type teams, but this year I think we have a better group of receivers,” Pickle said. “That year we had guys out there who didn’t know how to play receiver. These kids have been in the system for four years and they know how to play receiver. We have more talent at receiver as a whole.”
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Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.