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McKenzie keeping it simple in Week 6

A horde of McKenzie defenders swarm a Barbour County player during the Tigers’ win over the Jaguars Friday.  The McKenzie defense has limited opponents to just 16 in the past two weeks.

A horde of McKenzie defenders swarm a Barbour County player during the Tigers’ win over the Jaguars Friday. The McKenzie defense has limited opponents to just 16 in the past two weeks.

The McKenzie Tigers have hit their stride.

In the past two weeks, McKenzie have outscored opponents 102-16.

McKenzie head football coach Tony Norris said that, rather than a dumbing-down of the Tigers defense, the team’s success stems from a streamlining of responsibility.

“We’ve made some adjustments with our defensive personnel, and that was able to help us a little bit,” Norris said.

“And also the kids understand what we’re trying to do a little bit better since we’ve made those adjustments in our defense.  That’s the biggest thing—as long as you can get the kids to understand what we’re trying to accomplish, it makes our job a whole lot easier.  The less confusion, the better.”

The Tigers’ 2016 performance is made all the more impressive considering McKenzie’s modest roster size, even by Class 1A standards.  Class 1A is notorious for producing teams of hardy players, yet teams overall remain more susceptible to injury.

“Other than the usual sprained ankle here and there, that’s about it,” Norris said. “It’s one of those things where you take it week because at the level we play at–whether its us or anyone else in Class 1A or 2A–if one person gets hurt, you might be in trouble.”

The Tigers will be facing a Kinston offense who has struggled to move the ball effectively in the first half of the season.

In five games, the Bulldogs have only mounted 7.2 points per game, while coughing up 45.6 points per game.

Norris said that a strong coaching staff, as well as a constant desire for self-improvement, are strong wards against complacency.

“Luckily, I’ve got a really good defensive staff here at McKenzie in coaches Matt Coghlan and Greg Hennis,” Norris said.

“The biggest thing is, defensively or offensively, it’s about us from week to week.  It’s about the guys that we put out there.  Kinston’s up next, but we’ve got some things obviously that we’ve got to carry over and get better at.  There’s always things to work on, and if you’re not making improvements, you’re going to be susceptible to bad things happening.”

Though Kinston provides its own challenge, the looming showdown between McKenzie and Georgiana next week is impossible to ignore.

Both teams could enter as the two only undefeated teams in Class 1A Region 2, making the stakes higher than any previous meeting between the two in recent memory.

But the Tigers are still taking it one week at a time.

“I tell the kids all the time that the most important game of the season is the next one, so we’re not taking Kinston lightly,” Norris said. “Coach Mitchell has done a lot of good things with the team, and you can get beaten any given Friday.

“After we get done with Kinston, we’ll start looking at Georgiana the next week and what comes with that. But even this week, it’s a good thing that you’ve got two county schools that—at least right now, as things are set up in the region—as the two undefeated teams.  And whether it’s putting McKenzie or Georgiana out of it, it’s a good thing for the county.”

The Tigers will travel to Kinston Friday in search of their fourth region win.  Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.