By Austin Bishop
The Choctaw Plaindealer
JACKSON — As French Camp Academy head coach Nathan Wright, who also serves as defensive coordinator, was working up his team’s defensive game plan for Smithville there were a few numbers that stood out — 1,975, 1,157, 883 and 4,510.
The first three numbers were the individual rushing numbers for Smithville’s Tyler Hood, Drew Lann and Dee Moore heading into Friday’s MHSAA Class 1A State Championship match-up with FCA, while the fourth was the total number of yards the Seminoles had amassed in their first 14 games.
“I’ll be honest, we were worried about their run game,” Wright said. “They had some solid guys up front and we had seen them against Shaw and some other teams and that little 44 (Hood) would just find seams and open places. We felt like that even though we may play pretty good, if we gave them a seam we were going to be in trouble.”
If there were seams to be found in the FCA defense on Friday, Smithville certainly couldn’t locate them as the Panthers rolled to a 27-6 win to pick up their first state football championship, limiting the Seminoles to just 43 rushing yards and 102 yards of total offense.
“There wasn’t any doubt in my mind that our front line would hold them,” said FCA senior defensive end Daniel Hughes.
That FCA defense took on a personality of its own during the Panthers’ seven-game winning streak to close out the season. “It’s just amazing how everything just seemed to change,” Wright said. “It was like they just took it to another level.”
Hood had rushed for 1,975 yards on 245 attempts going into the title game, but was held to just 18 yards on eight carries by FCA. Lann, who ran for 1,157 yards on 171 carries over the first 14 games of the year, lost 12 yards on 12 carries against the Panthers.
In fact other than Smithville’s lone scoring drive, which saw the Seminoles rip off plays of 31, 31 and 13 yards, the Panthers held them to just 27 yards of total offense.
“We did a great job of minimizing him (Hood) and it forced them to do some other stuff and we were able to capitalize on them,” Wright said.
“We were just trying to keep 44 in the pocket and we were able to shut the quarterback (Lann) down,” said defensive end Cortez Johnson. “That worked out good of us.”
The entire FCA defense was stout throughout the day but the Panthers’ front seven was absolutely brutal against the run. Johnson and Daniel Hughes manned the ends, while Douglas Hughes and Jevante McAdory were at the tackles. Hosket plays middle linebacker, while Nyang Wek and Cole Henson are on the outside.
“You are just not going to find many high school defensive lines any better than they are,” Wright said. “I’ve been telling some of these junior college coaches they really need to look at those guys (he said of his defensive unit). They are something special.”
They certainly were on Friday, something Smithville would willingly confirm.