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The Hatley Tigers break it down at the end of their second day of practice.

When asked the strength of his team, Hatley coach Ken Adams can’t pinpoint a specific position.

That’s because he has experience coming back in every spot with 18 seniors, many of whom have started the last three seasons.

“Our strength has to be that we have kids that have experience. We’re not installing the offense this year or installing the defense,” Adams said. “You want our strength to be experience and that the guys have been in it.”

Adams said he’s asking his senior class to continue to step up in leadership roles and leave a legacy behind.

“We’re asking our guys to be that guy. We talked to them about getting eye to eye with your teammates, whether it’s another senior or an underclassmen or somebody in the hallway, and expecting that person to give their best effort in whatever it is that they’re doing,” Adams said. “That’s the expectation I am putting on this senior class because after these guys leave, what are they leaving behind? Then as they transition out and someone else transitions in, there’s an expectation and a standard. That’s what we’re challenging those guys to do.”

Adams said he thinks this team has the chance to accomplish something special – it’s been since 2014 that the Tigers have reached the playoffs, and they have been just barely on the outside of that final postseason spot the last two seasons.

“This year is going to be about what are they willing to give each day. If they’re willing to come out and sacrifice and give for each other, then these guys can do something special. That’s what I’ve been trying to teach and tell them,” Adams said. “You have to put it all in to get anything out of it, and you can’t just stick your toe in or step in there for one play. If you just open the door to see how cold it is and then shut it, it isn’t going to matter because you’re never going to go out there.”

Hatley loses South Pontotoc and Nettleton as challenging division rivals, but they bring in Noxubee County, which drops down from Class 4A.

“Noxubee is a good football team, but Houston and South Pontotoc and the teams we have been playing are really good as well. Our division has always been really tough,” Adams said. “Choctaw County, Noxubee and Houston will be solid and strong. Noxubee will be athletic, but you don’t know about them with (Tyrone) Shorter leaving. We’ll be fighting it out with Aberdeen, and we did last year too. They made a play in that one, and we didn’t make a play, and they deserved it.”

The first few games of the regular season are against county rivals, and Adams said he’s focused on winning those first and foremost. The Tigers open up the season hosting Hamilton, then travel to Smithville, before coming back home against Nettleton.

“Those three games get you to a point of where you want to be,” Adams said. “We talked about where we have to be at a point where we win the county first because those games have to matter. Once you do that, then you have to prepare for division.”

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