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Dawgs host W. Lauderdale

MEADVILLE – Back in 1997, Anthony Hart was a West LauderdaleKnight as was his offensive coordinator Stan McCain. Since then,seven years have passed, Hart has went from coaching WestLauderdale to a Loyd Star Hornet, to directing the Franklin CountyBulldogs to the best record in school history.

As for McCain, he stayed put, and inherited the top Knight jobfrom Hart in 1998. Their careers will come full circle tonight inMeadville, as McCain takes West Lauderdale Knights (10-3) intobattle with Hart’s Dawgs (12-1) for the Mississippi Class 3A SouthState Championship.

Game time is set for 7 p.m. at Louie Mullins MemorialStadium.

“It’s hard facing your friends, but it’s just something you’vegot to do,” said McCain about coaching against his former boss andgood friend. “Me and Anthony know each other well. We both servedas assistants at Wayne County in the mid to early 1990s.”

McCain took over for Hart in 1998. He has since led the Knightsto their best overall season in the school’s history. At 10-3overall, the Knights have defeated Prentiss, 2003 Class 3A statechampion Greene County, and Hazlehurst over the last three rounds.The Knights were the underdog in each game, and will be againstFranklin tonight.

“The thing with them, is that they were picked to get beatduring the last three rounds, but they didn’t lose,” said Hart.”They are a very good team that has found ways to win.”

Against Hazlehurst, the Knights used special teams and defenseto shock the Indians 9-8. The Knights got a blocked punt and threeinterceptions from their senior cornerback Justin Landrum last weekto lead West Lauderdale’s rugged defense. Over the last threegames, the Knights have only allowed 15 points.

“Our kids have played hard all year long,” added McCain. “But,come Friday night, we’re going to have play even harder. FranklinCounty will be the best team we’ve played all season.”

McCain’s Knights finished third in the powerful Region 5-3Aduring the regular season behind Newton County and Forest. Franklinfinished second behind Hazlehurst in the Region 7-3A race.

“They (Franklin) are impressive,” continued McCain. “They aresolid on both sides. Their quarterback (Jasper O’Quinn) has thatlittle wiggle about him. He’s a good runner.”

O’Quinn ran for two touchdowns and 75 yards last week on 17carries in the Bulldogs’ dramatic 28-21 overtime victory atTylertown. Senior running back Deandrea Cameron added 132 yards andtwo scores as well, on 24 attempts. For the year, Cameron hasscored a school-record 25 touchdowns and ran for nearly 1,300yards.

On defense, end Marcus Tillman led the Dawgs with 7 tackles and2 quarterback sacks. Tillman has a Class 3A-leading 16 sacks thisseason.

“We’ve got to have our best game,” said McCain about possiblyupsetting the Dawgs. “We must control the ball and keep them offthe field. We can’t turn it over.”

Hart agrees with McCain’s philosophy.

“We’ve also got to play our best game,” added Hart. “They havethreats also, in the quarterback, running back, and fullback.”

The Knights have a sparkplug at running back in junior DameonBaylor (5-9, 205). Junior Scott Truesdale (5-10, 220) starts atfullback. Sophomore Austin Davis (6-1, 200) mixes it up atquarterback.

For the year, Baylor has rushed for approximately 1,400 yards.He has 14 touchdowns.

On defense, the Knights have a solid core, highlighted by junioroutside linebacker Judd Godwin (5-9, 180) and senior insidelinebacker Caleb Dulaney (5-9, 185). Both have combined to makenearly 200 tackles this season.

“They do really well on defense,” continued Hart. “They swarm tothe ball.”

Although Hart and McCain both agree on one another’s concepts,both also know that the stakes are at the highest point ever foreach other’s coaching career. The winner will cash in a ticket forthe State Championship in Jackson next week. The Class 3A final hasbeen set for Saturday, Dec. 4, beginning at 3:00.

“One of us will be there,” confessed Hart. “One of us.”

Charleston plays Senatobia for the North state titletonight.