WAYNESBORO, Miss. (WDAM) - Neither Kevin Gandy nor Scott Pierson will have to tell their respective football players what week this is.
With its roots in the postseason, the Wayne County High School-West Jones High School rivalry has become a regular-season regular.
“It’s West Jones,” said Gandy, Wayne County’s first-year head coach. "They’ve been our rival since 2001. They beat us twice last year, beat us in the playoffs and ended our season last year in a comeback victory for them. So, it’s a big game.
“I think our kids are up for it. This is a game that we don’t have to get the kids fired up to play.”
The teams, which will kick off at 7 p.m. Friday, come in sporting opposite records after the first week of play.
The Mustangs (1-0) took to the air to wear down Raleigh High School in the second half of a 35-6 victory.
Senior quarterback Alan Follis threw four touchdown passes, two to senior wideout Tajrick Randolph.
“They have some quality football players over there, but they just got tired,” said Pierson, West Jones' long-time coach of Raleigh. “That’s the difference between a team that is two-platooning versus a team that isn’t. Eventually, it just got away from them.”
Wayne County (0-1) committed four first-half turnovers to fall into a deep deficit, trailing 20-7 at halftime and 28-7 with less than six minutes in the third quarter at D’Iberville High School.
The War Eagles scored twice, but came up short in a 28-21 loss.
“That youthfulness, it showed that first half. But they kind of grew up that second half and made it a ballgame,” Gandy said.
Sophomore quarterback Sebastian Chafin went 5-of-13 for 100 yards and a touchdown. He also ran 2 yards for a score and caught a 15-yard touchdown pass.
Senior Shadamien Williamson collected 131 yards rushing and receiving. He also had a touchdown catch and also threw a scoring pass.
Pierson said mistakes, physical and mental, are the norm for this time of year.
“Here’s what I’ve finally realized after so many years,” Pierson said. "You always think you ought to be better than you are. But, ultimately, it’s the first game of the year, and you always have same mistakes that you always have early on. But I’ve also learned over the years, that the first two games are always a learning experience.
“So, was I happy? I was happy we won, but were there a lot of things we could have done better? Of course, and I think we’ll get better as the year goes on.”
Pierson said in many ways, he and his staff still are trying to put players in their proper roles.
“We’ve got some kids that we’ve been repping positions all year and we found out they might be better somewhere else,” Pierson said. "So, you’re trying to put the pieces of the puzzle in the right spots.
“But that’s why you play a (non-region) schedule, and even though it’s the first weekend in September, it’s really the second week of August as far as where you are. The building process never changes. You can’t fast-forward or rewind It is what it is. It’s going to take you about 60 days to get where you want to be.”
Both coaches said they know what kind of game to expect Friday.
“Scott Pierson has done a great job over there for a long time," Gandy said. "“It’s like they clone them. You look up, and the numbers never change and the body types don’t change. They just don’t change.”
Regardless of the outcome Friday, Pierson said both teams will be the better for it.
"I think it’s going to be another good game that’s going to come down to the wire, to be honest with you,' Pierson said. "The sad part is that it’s so early in the year that neither one of us are anywhere near as good as we’re going to be. So, it might be one of those games where the team that makes the fewest mistakes ends up wining. Maybe not the best team, but the team that plays better that night.
“There’s nothing wrong with that. I mean, that’s why you do it. But at the same time, I think both teams, Wayne County and West Jones, in another 30 days, are going to be much better teams than they are right now, simply because we’ve got kids playing who need game-speed reps.”