After a fly-by-the-seat-of-your pants football schedule last year, Winona football coach Joey Tompkins hopes this season is somewhat more stable.
Tompkins said there are some new faces on the schedule this season and plenty of tests in the non-division schedule.
“It’s a good schedule,” Tompkins said. “Our first six games are pretty good ones. We try to play teams that are closer to us but some of those teams that we normally play didn’t want to play this season. But I really wanted to make sure that we had 10 games on the schedule.”
After a jamboree on Aug. 20 at Oxford against Senatobia, the Tigers will host Choctaw County in week 1. The Chargers were 3A last season but moved down to 2A and are considered one of the favorites to make the championship game.
“They are going to be one of the best teams in 2A this year,” Tompkins said. “They got moved down in class but our numbers are very similar. They might have more kids than we do. They will be really good and we will have our hands full.”
In week two, the Tigers will travel to Kosciusko and take on the Whippets, a team they beat 49-39 last season.
“They have their quarterback back which means a lot,” Tompkins said. “Anytime you return an experienced quarterback, it’s a big deal. We have played them in 7-on-7 and they have really good athletes. I don’t know what their line looks like but they have really good skill people.”
On Sept. 10, the Tigers will host rival J.Z. George, a team they beat 41-20 last year.
“They have a really good senior group,” Tompkins said. “Anytime we play J.Z., you can throw out the records. This group beat us up pretty good in junior high. They have a quarterback and receiver that have been playing for a couple of years that will be good players. If you look back at the scores the last few years, they don’t look that close but they have all been tight games going into the fourth quarter.”
Another new team on the schedule will be Philadelphia on Sept. 17 as the Tigers take on the Tornadoes at historic Harpole Stadium.
“I honestly don’t know much about them,” Tompkins said. “All I know is they produce college athletes every year and always have really good skill people. I don’t know what they have coming back but I expect them to have good athletes.”
On Sept. 24, the Tigers will host Water Valley, a team they beat 36-14 last year.
“I don’t think they lost anybody from last year’s team,” Tompkins said. “They are always going to be good. They are just two years away from a state championship. They are well coached and are going to be a good team.”
Perhaps the strongest test of the season will come on a Thursday night when the Tiger host Alexandria, La. The Trojans went 7-1 last year and lost 35-34 in the Class 5A state championship game.
“They will be comparable to Madison Central,” Tompkins said. “I looked for two months for somebody to put on that date and finally put it on the MHSAA web site. They called and said they would come to us. They have over 1,000 kids in high school and we have 315. I know they will be good and will help get us prepared for division play. Losing a non-division game is not detrimental to your program. We have to have games and to play a 10-game schedule, that’s who we got.”
On Oct. 8, the Tigers will be division play with Yazoo County, a team they beat 41-34 last year in a non-division contest.
“We played them last year but they weren’t in our division,” Tompkins said. “They are another team that is just a few years removed from a state championship. They do a good job and have some good players. I know our division got a lot better when they came in the division.”
On Oct. 15, Winona will host Humphreys County, a team they beat 32-8 last year.
“I thought they were probably the most improved team I have seen from one year to the next last year,” Tompkins said. “They are one of the few Delta schools that actually played a full schedule. It was a game until the fourth quarter and we pulled away. They will give us all we want, that’s for sure.”
The Tigers will finish the regular season with back-to-back road games at Amanda Elzy on Oct. 22 and at Ruleville Central on Oct. 29.
“We have only played Elzy once since I’ve been here and they beat us,” Tompkins said. “They didn’t play last year so I don’t really know what they have. Ruleville didn’t play either. They were working out and the school board decided not to play. They will probably be the most athletic team that we play in the division. I look for it to be really tough over there. We haven’t played well on the road the last couple of years and I hope that we can change that.”