Hinds rides defense up poll, South standings

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 28, 2000

The way Gulf Coast coach Steve Wright sees things in the South Division, six teams are fighting for second.

Hinds, in his mind, has already established itself and should win the division title.

The Eagles (4-0, 1-0 South) climbed a notch to No. 3 in the nation this week. The biggest reason for their steady climb in the poll is defense. Four games into the season, the “Brick Wall” defense has already built an impressive resume:

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Hinds has outscored its opponents 136-10 and has given up just one touchdown.

The Eagles have recorded two shutouts in four games and have not allowed a point in six quarters. Northeast kicked a meaningless field goal in a 45-3 whipping.

Teams have averaged a paltry 35.5 yards per game rushing. Most of that can be attributed to a defensive line that sports four Division I signees, including former Vicksburg High standout Jason Myers.

The Eagles are also tops in the state in pass defense, allowing just 65 yards a game. In total defense, Hinds is almost 100 yards better per game than second-place Northwest.

“They are as talented as anyone,” said Wright, who has coached and turned around Gulf Coast (2-2, 1-0 division) for nine years. “The defensive front four are extremely good. Holmes put it on us earlier in the year and they could get nothing against Hinds.”

Asked how the 2000 Eagles’ defense compares to the 1993-94 teams, which are widely considered the best ever at Hinds, Wright said, “They are better.”

Even though the Eagles’ defense has dominated each opponent, including last week’s 25-0 win at Pearl River, Hinds coach Gene Murphy said his team has a long way to go.

“We had about one good practice (this week),” Murphy said. “There is no doubt (Gulf Coast) is the best team we’ve seen and we’ve got our hands full. This is probably the best team they’ve had.”

Hinds is third in the state in total offense, but have yet to generate a consistent running game. Thomas McKnight, a former Vicksburg High star, averages 78 yards per game and has scored three touchdowns.

Hinds quarterback Brad Banks is second in the state in passing yards per game, with 197 and eight touchdowns.

Chauncey Stovall and John Lewis are second and third, respectively, in receptions. Lewis, an Oklahoma State transfer, has 14 catches for 322 yards and five TDs. Stovall, who originally signed with Florida State, has 17 catches for 185 yards and one TD.

The Bulldogs, who were ranked in the preseason Juco Top 15, rank fifth in total offense with 333.3 yards per game, about 50 yards fewer than Hinds.

Defensively, however, the Bulldogs ranknext to last.

“Our problem this year has been turning the ball over,” Wright said. “But we are 1-0 and have shown improvements.”

Kickoff at Joe Renfroe Stadium is scheduled for 7 p.m.