A last-minute scheduling change has Clarksdale High School opening its 2020 football season on the road.
The Wildcats were scheduled to open at home against cross-town rival Coahoma County High School Friday night. However, the Red Panthers struggled to get enough athletes together in time to be ready to play Sept. 4.
Clarksdale will instead be at North Panola at 7 p.m. Friday, while Coahoma County will open its season at Independence Sept. 11.
The Wildcats’ new stadium at Clarksdale High School is still expected to be ready for their home opener against South Panola Sept. 18.
Wildcats coach Henry Johnson did not mind the scheduling change.
“We need to play,” Johnson said. “It doesn’t matter who we play. These kids need to play a game. We’ve got to get on the field and play. That’s just all I can say.”
Johnson said 48 athletes will be on the roster for the 2020 season.
That is less than the past seasons since there will not be a ninth-grade junior varsity team due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve got to stop them from throwing,” said Johnson looking ahead to the game against North Panola Friday. “They’re going to throw it, so we’ve got to defend the pass really good.”
Senior cornerback Jamarius Dorsey, senior free safety Milton James, senior strong safety Matthew Mixon and senior Kevious Grayson — a transfer from Southaven — will be in the secondary with the task of stopping North Panola’s passing game.
Johnson expects to know more about how prepared his team is after the game Friday.
“We haven’t played ball,” Johnson said. “We didn’t have spring ball. We didn’t play a scrimmage last week. We haven’t played since last November. We didn’t have summer workouts. I really don’t know. I hope we can show up. That’s what I am hoping,”
Johnson said North Panola was able to practice all summer and did not have to quarantine the way Clarksdale did.
Just as most of the Wildcats’ starters are returning, North Panola also has an experienced roster.
“They look like they’ve got a good group,” Johnson said. “I have to watch the film on them. They look like they’ve got a solid group.”
Since both rosters are bringing back experience, Johnson said it should be a good ballgame.
Offensive starters are senior running back Sammie Ray, junior running back Leroy Boulton, senior quarterback Tamera Allen, junior left tackle James Walker, senior left guard Almetris Smith, senior center Kendall Mullins, junior right guard DK Harris, senior receiver Josh Hollins, senior receiver DK Bays, senior receiver Quintarius Lester and senior receiver Stephon Washington.
Sophomore center Fred Dumas is a new starter for the Wildcats.
Social distancing has been an adjustment for the players. The team lifts weights outside in an effort to keep all athletes as safe as possible.
“We constantly have to stay on them about that,” Johnson said. “It’s hard to social distance when you get them out here and you practice without social distancing and then you social distance afterward. It’s different, but we’re trying to do the best we can.”
The Wildcats will take four buses to the game with 10 to 15 athletes on each bus. The team will also leave Clarksdale later than usual to get to its away games and leave the opposing stadium immediately following the contest.