Old rivalry renewed

Published 9:24 pm Wednesday, August 27, 2008

It’s tough to instill confidence in a team that has seen little success in recent years.

Stumbling out of the gate against an archrival makes the task even more difficult.

Selma and Southside renew their annual rivalry on Friday at Memorial Stadium at 7 p.m.

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Both teams break in new coaches and hope to reverse fortunes of mediocrity.

Lemuel Jones takes over the Southside Panthers after retiring from Keith High in 1998. Foster Davis is the new head man at Selma, filling a position vacated by former head coach Brian Montgomery.

“I don’t think you have to say anything to get your team ready for this game,” said Davis. “Selma-Southside — that says it all right there.”

Selma enters the game with advantages in numbers, experience and conditioning. Several experienced players return from last season’s 5-5 team, most of who participated in rigorous summer conditioning drills.

Meanwhile, most Southside players did not show up until school resumed. Only 12 veterans return from a team that went 3-7 in 2007.

“They’re going to have the numbers on us, size on us, speed on us, coaching on us, uniforms on us and anything else you want to name on us,” said Jones.

Still, Jones feels confident in his team’s progress.

“We have improved 100 percent from where we were three weeks ago,” said Jones. “We’re more than happy with the progress and where we are.”

Both sides enter the contest not knowing what to expect.

Saints coaches have so little information about Southside’s game planning that they use the only visual tool at their disposal — decade-old video of Jones’ Keith teams.

Jones doesn’t know how his players will react to the game’s atmosphere.

“Our veterans know what to expect, and I hope our young kids won’t be scared to death,” said Jones. “You never know how kids that have never played are going to react. I think if we can get them to settle down, we’ll be able to compete.”

On offense, Jones expects the Saints’ offense to spread and throw 20 to 30 times. The Panthers will match up with a 50-front.

With his team’s inexperience, Jones hopes his veterans can lead the younger players.

Tipping the scales further in the Saints’ favor is the Southside’s loss of sophomore quarterback DeMarcus Smith. He suffered a sprain in practice last Thursday and has not practiced all week.

If he can’t play, freshman Jamal Dudley will play in his stead.

Despite the advantages, the Saints are not overlooking the Panthers.

“I just we get this first win,” said Davis, “it would be a big momentum builder for us.”