Playoff door still open for Enterprise Yellow Jackets

Published 9:57 pm Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Yellow Jackets have stumbled seven times, but they still have the chance to rise up again.

That’s the message Enterprise head coach Brooks Burns is delivering to his football team as they prepare for a home game against an Amite County team that, though under .500 in overall wins, has yet to fall to a district foe. An upset against the commanding Trojans would send Burns’ youngsters — none of whom have ever been to postseason play — into the playoffs, a scenario he’s not quite sure they understand.

And that may not be a bad thing.

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“You need to appreciate the situation and take advantage, but I would hate for them to get uptight and make mistakes,” Burns said. “We are going about practice normally, not changing our routine.”

Burns admits it will be hard to mark down the Jackets’ (1-7, 0-3) first district victory against Amite County (4-5, 3-0), a team he identified as bigger, more physical and older than his own squad. After losing 16 seniors to graduation, Burns’ roster this year is laden with sophomores in starting roles, and every team they’ve battled so far has had the edge in experience.

“They’re having to learn on the job. There’s no training workshop for them,” Burns said. “It’s tough going against 17- and 18-year-olds, but they’re holding their own.”

Burns praised a handful of his young players pulling double duty. Freshman Jordan Stephens is carrying the ball on offense and filling in at linebacker on defense. Freshman Josh Richardson is doing dirty work — lining up at defensive end and offensive line. Chase White, another freshman, is right in the middle of every play at center on offense and inside linebacker on defense.

The average size of Stephens, Richardson and White — 5’8”, 167 pounds.

“We are on the field, most of the time, with people who are bigger and faster than us anyway,” Burns said. “But the physicality of the game hasn’t been any problem for any of our players. They like that.”

Amite County might have the edge on paper, but it hasn’t been all lollipops and group-hugs down in Liberty this season, either. The Trojans have been smacked around a fair bit in 2017, losing five games ­— Crystal Springs and Port Gibson blew them out — and winning their four victories by close margins. Three of their wins were one-possession contests until they doubled up Bogue Chitto 44-22 last week.

And while Amite County may be bigger, faster and older than Enterprise, here at the end of a long losing season filled with hard lessons, the Yellow Jackets’ experience deficit is shortening.

“We’ve played some difficult teams throughout the year. So, we’re used to it,” Burns said.

Should the Yellow Jackets fall to Amite County Friday, the final game of the season against the Bogue Chitto Bobcats (4-4, 0-2) next week will be their last chance to earn a district victory and postseason play.

Story by Adam Northam