Purvis meets Lawrence County Friday

By CAMAL PETRO,

If Purvis coach Perry Wheat had a do-over in last Friday’s loss at Greene County, he would have gone for a 2-point conversion sometime during the four-overtime contest. Believe it or not, in his 40-plus years as a head coach, that was the first time he coached in a game that went to four overtimes.

So, how will the Tornadoes bounce back after such a dejecting loss? Wheat admitted Greene County was the better the team, but every other loss, besides Week 1 to Oak Grove, came down to just one play. Last Friday’s loss did, too, and Wheat wants his team to remember that.

“If you’re not careful, it can take the edge off of you because you keep fighting and fighting and come up a little short,” he said. “But, I believe our kids will respond and I think they understand that we’ll have an opportunity to win if we can just get a little bit better.”

The Cougars (3-5, 0-2 in Region 7-4A) are coming off a 34-20 loss to Sumrall where they only tallied 173 total yards of offense with 167 of those yards coming on the ground on 32 carries. Lawrence County ran 39 total plays and 32 of those were rushing attempts.

Purvis and Lawrence County were Region 7 foes three years ago before Sumrall moved up to 4A and pushed the Cougars to Region 6. Now it’s back in the same region, and the last time these teams met was Halloween night in 2014, which was a 36-20 Purvis win. The Cougars are just two years removed from a 13-2 season and a 4A South State Championship appearance.

“We’ve played them a number of times, and they’re always athletic,” Wheat said. “They’re athletic and they’ve had a lot of bad luck this year. They lost their quarterback earlier in the year, but they still have physical kids and they can run.”

The Lawrence County offense has been struggling to find another quarterback since the starter went down in Week 4. Jermone Dudley played in three of those first four games, leading his team to a 2-2 record and a 2-1 record in games he played in before his injury. Since then, the Cougars have focused nearly 100 percent of their plays on running the ball.

Sophomore Kylan Cooper, who has been plugged in at quarterback, leads the team with 377 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 72 carries. As a team, Lawrence County has rushed the ball 243 times for 1,436 yards and 14 touchdowns, and it averages 180 yards on the ground per game.

“They’re multiple on offense,” Wheat said. “They get under center some, they spread it some and they have two or three guys who are playmakers, and I think the quarterback is one. He can score from anywhere, so it’s going to be a challenge to defend him.”

Defensively, opponents are averaging nearly 31 points per game, as five opponents have scored more than 30 points this season. In the last three games against Collins, Forrest County AHS and Sumrall, the Cougars have allowed 30 or more points in each contest.

Through seven games this season, Wheat still isn’t happy with his team’s busted assignments on offense, though.

“Defensively, they’re athletic as well,” Wheat said. “They have some good-looking defensive linemen. We’re going to have to work really hard. I think offensively, we’re going to have to be able to go out there and play a game and not have any busts. We have too many busts in our assignments, and at this point in the year, that shouldn’t be happening.”