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War Dawgs hunting for a championship

Hinds AHS freshman Tyrone Heard focuses during an agility drill on Tuesday under the watchful eyes of coach Michael Fields, left. The War Dawgs will battle Loyd Star at 7:30 Friday night with the Region 6-2A championship on the line in Utica. (Jenny SevcikThe Vicksburg Post)

[10/23/03]UTICA Region championships and Hinds AHS rarely get mentioned in the same sentence, unless talking basketball or one of the War Dawgs’ opponents.

That will change Friday night when the War Dawgs (7-1, 3-0 Region 6-2A) host undefeated and fifth-ranked Loyd Star (8-0, 3-0). Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.

“We just want to play good and win a championship,” said sophomore running back Albert Williams, who enters the game 40 yards shy of 1,000 for the season. “I really don’t have much to say except we are ready to play.”

Hinds AHS reached the playoffs a season ago in coach Michael Fields’ first season at the Utica school. The team was beaten in the first round of the playoffs by Lumberton.

“I’ll tell you what, they are awfully impressive,” Loyd Star coach Lindsey Wheatley said. “They are big, fast and athletic and defensively they are very aggressive. This will be a test, certainly.”

No matter the outcome of Friday’s game, the War Dawgs are in the postseason, but can guarantee a home opener with a win.

“We’re taking this one like all the rest, one step at a time,” said Fields, whose team has notched wins over Class 3A schools Port Gibson and Raymond. “We’ve played tough games all year long, this one is no different.”

Well, some could argue.

A win would give the War Dawgs their first region championship in school history and put to rest the lingering feeling of a 13-game losing streak that ended soon after Fields arrived.

“When we had those 13 losses going on, we had a lot of older guys on this team who were not coachable,” said linebacker Chris Wright, a member of the team during the lean years. “They just did things for themselves.

“But with the young guys we have now, they are really coachable. That’s where the majority of our success comes from, being able to be coached.”

Wright, who leads the team with 74 tackles, is the stalwart on a defense that will face its toughest challenge of the season.

Loyd Star boasts three running backs that are on pace to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards.

Josh Townsend, who leads the team with 15 touchdowns, and Juron Collins will line up as the wingbacks in the double-wing set. Fullback Matthew Delaughter is one of 16 returning starters and also stars at linebacker.

“We know they’ll come out and play us hard,” Wright said. “They are a mirror image of McLaurin and it took us a couple minutes to figure them out.”

The War Dawgs trailed McLaurin 21-8 at the end of the first half, but came back to win going away 42-17.

Behind Williams, the area’s leading rusher, running back Brandon Harris and all-purpose back Austin Divinity, the War Dawgs will pressure the Hornets’ 4-3 defense.

“They remind me a lot of Bassfield,” said Wheatley, whose team beat Bassfield 20-12. “They have a lot of threats on offense.”

Fields said he expects an overflow crowd for one of the biggest games in the history of the school.

Players, who in the preseason predicted an undefeated season, are optimistic about Friday’s game.

“I think we’ll come out ready to play and hopefully come away with the championship,” said Divinity, a defensive back who has a team-high seven interceptions on the season. “This team has some very high expectations. We are looking forward to it.”