CATEGORY: FOL High School Football

AUTHOR: TALBER

HED:Tail of two Wildcats: Independence, Calhoun City in Lee County

By Mike Talbert

Daily Journal

Independence coach Roy Bolden says he and his players are big Romaro Miller fans.

"He is one of the best players in the nation; his stats prove that," Bolden said. "My team recognizes his talent and ability. But we want to beat him."

The Wildcats (6-4) will get their opportunity at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Shannon (8-2) in the first round of the Class 3A playoffs. Six miles down the road, the Nettleton Tigers (7-2) will host the Calhoun City Wildcats (8-2) the third year in a row the two teams have faced each other in the Class 2A playoffs.

Miller comes into the game with the state career offense record (10,819 yards) and a host of receivers whose stats are nearly as impressive as his own.

Miller said for him and the Red Raiders (8-2), the records are only something to read in the papers. For the Red Raiders, the reality is the playoffs, and for Shannon, this is not the first week.

"Really, we have been in the playoffs since we lost to Amory (30-28, five games into the season)," Miller said. "We have had to pick it up every game. We have just got to keep it up now that the real thing starts this week."

The Independence coach is familiar with what Shannon has done. He is aware that no one has stopped the Shannon offense.

One of his problems is how to prepare for Miller. He feels his sophomore quarterback Roderick Wilson is the athletic equal to Miller, but said it is hard to duplicate Miller's decision-making ability in practice.

"We are going to have to find some way to contain him and do our best to cover his receivers," Bolden said.

Independence, like Shannon, uses a one-back formation. However, the Wildcats don't pass much. They use double wings and misdirection to generate a running attack. The Wildcats alternate two quarterbacks Destin Todd and Wilson while three running backs carry the bulk of the load. Fullback Nick Johnson has 710 yards, with wingbacks Roderick Jones and Marco Whitelaw gaining 849 and 451 yards, respectively.

Shannon coach Mike Scott said while one team runs and the other passes, they have the same goal in similar formations.

"We try to put people on an island and they try to do the same thing," he said, adding, "if we go out and execute, we are going to be tough to stop."

Calhoun City at Nettleton

Calhoun City coach Mike Ray and Nettleton coach Doug Vanlandingham agree on one thing: Calhoun City is a lot better team than the 22-0 loss at Bruce last week indicates.

Plus, the Wildcats have a four-game winning streak over Nettleton in the past three years.

"It gets pretty disheartening when they whip you each time they play you," Vanlandingham said.

He said the difference in the two clubs is that Nettleton, with a large offensive line, has to grind out long drives, "and it only takes them 16 seconds to score."

Calhoun City, behind quarterback Anthony Moore, who has passed for 1,151 yards and run for 737 more, is a much smaller team than in the past two years, when the Wildcats finished second in the state to Taylorsville.

"We are not a big-play offense like we were last year when we had Santo Armstrong in the backfield," Ray said. "We are a lot smaller and quicker on the line."

That will be a problem for the Wildcats, Ray said, "if Nettleton lines up and comes right at us as they have in the past."

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