ALBANY – Mike Janis’ message heading into the start of District 8-3A play isn’t complicated.
“I think the emphasis now is to carry the momentum,” said the Albany High football coach. “We have established our potential. We’ve put it out there, 'This is what we are capable of’ in last Friday’s game, and we don’t want to take a step back. No matter what happens (Thursday) night, we want to be able to say this was a step forward and not backward, so that’s what we’ll be working on.”
Albany (3-2) heads into Thursday’s 7 p.m. home game with Bogalusa coming off a 39-23 win over Pearl River in which the Hornets shut the Rebels out in the second half.
“Big improvement in defensive play from Week 4 to Week 5,” Janis said. “(It) was about as bad as we could play there at DeQuincy (46-42 loss), and just a complete turnaround. We saw some mistakes in the first half offensively and defensively. We went into halftime, got those cleaned up, and our kids came out and just played with a lot of effort and intensity there in the second half and secured the win for us.”
Pearl River’s Corey Warren rushed for 248 yards and scored three touchdowns, but Janis said he was pleased with his team’s recognition of the Rebels’ schemes, which helped the team record seven sacks.
“I saw a better understanding of what was going on on the field,” Janis said. “The kids seemed to really know what Pearl River was trying to do and not just ‘No. 7’s (Warren) trying to run the ball.’ (They) understood the blocking schemes and how to play them, and then we did a great job in coverage there as well.
“A lot of those sacks were off of scrambles,” Janis continued. “That was because our kids did a really good job not getting too far upfield. They were able to get penetration without pushing that pocket too deep and then move their feet and get in position to make a tackle.”
Quarterback J.J. Doherty passed for 301 yards and a school-record five touchdowns, Janis said. Rhett Wolfe caught two of those TD passes with two going to Dae Dae Doherty and one to Trey Yelverton – with the Hornets overcoming a 23-22 halftime deficit.
“That was the game plan going into the week was just keep it simple,” Janis said. “We knew we were going to have some opportunities to throw some quick game, and we just needed to go out and execute. That was concerning after the week of practice that we had … By far, (it was) our most efficient night passing the football this season.
“I think what we saw Friday night is finally what we’re trying to do – kind of come together in a big picture – and you saw that it was really simple if we execute,” Janis said.
Janis also said playing the Rebels could help the Hornets heading into Thursday’s game.
“We knew Pearl River was going to be an extremely tough opponent, and to this point, judging by the consistent success they’ve had this season and over the course of last season and the talent they have over there (we) thought (they were) possibly one of the toughest, if not the toughest opponent on our schedule going into that game,” Janis said. “We had talked to our kids about that and made sure they understood. To get that win I think kind of proves to our team that we have a lot more potential and ability that what some think.”
Bogalusa is coming off a 13-6 win over Varnado, but Janis said last season’s 48-14 road loss to the Lumberjacks is something his coaching staff learned from, saying the Lumberjacks had some personnel and showed some different looks schematically than the Hornets saw on film last season.
“It won’t happen again,” Janis said. “We know what they’re about. We know what potential they have and abilities they have. We’re working on stopping that this week.”
Bogalusa (3-2) is paced by quarterback Josh Taylor and receivers Raheem Roberts and Tajdryn Forbes. Roberts caught the game-winning touchdown in last week’s game.
Janis said Taylor gave the Hornets problems last season.
“He was the main culprit last year in our demise,” Janis said. “He does a great job scrambling around the pocket. If you don’t get on him, he will move around and just buy time until somebody gets open and drop the ball down field. In the coverage we were running last year, it was the constant battle of ‘Do I stay in coverage (or) do I come up and tackle him?’ If it was come up and tackle him, he’d throw the ball over your head. You stay in coverage, he takes off running, so we need to go into this week with a better game plan of how to contain him and what to do if we lose that containment, because last year, that was one of the things that they hadn’t shown on film is their ability to do that.”
Bogalusa also has wins over Istrouma (26-13) and Franklinton (35-30) and losses to Pine (50-31) and East Marion, MS. (48-44), but Janis said the final score of the Bogalusa-Varnado game shows the Lumberjacks can be slowed on offense.
“Obviously, there’s an answer somewhere,” Janis said. “We’ve just got to be able to put it together for our kids.”
Janis said the Lumberjacks have good size on the defensive front, which could present some problems in the passing game.
“Even though we were throwing some short, simple stuff, we were able to break off some big plays in that scheme Friday night, and I think Bogalusa’s going to be pretty gifted in their athletic ability in the secondary and the way they move around at linebacker, so our ability to throw for those big plays may be a little bit less this week,” Janis said. “We’ll have to find ways to create some space there in the passing game.
“Obviously, they’ve got some things they can do defensively to slow people down,” Janis continued. “It’s going to be a challenge for us, because I imagine they’re going to look to put a little more pressure on us and be a little more physical on our receivers.”