Purvis travels to Mendenhall Friday

By CAMAL PETRO,

MENDENHALL – The 1-2 start isn’t unfamiliar territory for the Purvis Tornadoes.

In 2015, a season when Purvis won the district championship, it started 1-4 with losses to North Pike, Bassfield, Mendenhall and East Central. After the slow start, Purvis ripped off six straight wins before losing in the second round of the 4A playoffs. Last season, the Tornadoes lost their first two games of the season, then won six straight.

Purvis coach Perry Wheat said it all comes down to the fundamentals like tackling and blocking.

“I think all of our goals are still out in front of us, but we have to improve,” Wheat said. “I told the kids, we’re just making a lot of mistakes. Our team, as a whole, is very inexperienced, so we have to learn how to play, corrects mistakes and get better each week. That’s got to be our thing. It’s an 11-man effort at all times. I feel good that we’re going to improve, get better and be a pretty good football team.”

Purvis and Mendenhall met last season, which ended in a 22-point Purvis win, but the Tigers advanced as far as the 4A South State championship, beating St. Stanislaus in the second round of the playoffs.

Tigers’ quarterback Christian Allen isn’t a stranger to the position. He played both receiver and quarterback last season, albeit, the latter sparingly. As the starter this season, he’s helped lead Mendenhall to a 2-1 record, which includes two blowout wins over Raymond and Magee.

“The Allen kid at quarterback is a very good athlete,” Wheat said. “He was a very good wide receiver, so we know how athletic he is. They always have long, fast guys on their team who can run and make plays. You can go back 70 years, and they’ve been good at football. They’re always athletic and tough, and we know it’s going to be a tough ballgame. We have to prepare for it.”

Wheat calls Mendenhall’s offense a modern take on what Georgia Southern is known for running, which is a flex bone, double-wing formation. The Tigers will run a lot of veer option stuff and counters, and when you combine that style of offense with two receivers out wide, it stretches the defense across the field.

“It’s just a pistol under center, but it’s a very difficult offense to defend,” Wheat said. “You have to defend the entire field, because they have two wide outs, then they have four backs who can run the football. It’s an offense designed around speed, and they have a lot of speed, so it’s going to be a challenge.”

The Mendenhall defense has just 13 points per game, pitching a shutout over Raymond in Week 2, allowing just 12 points to Magee last week while Florence scored 28 points to beat the Tigers in the season opener. Wheat said the Tigers have fast players on that side of the ball who run downhill really well, adding this might be one of the better defenses his team plays this season.