Pillow Academy football

With protection from senior lineman Michael Jefcoat (72), PA quarterback Nelson Hodges (10) drops back to pass during his first start last week against Indianola Academy.

Pillow Academy’s defense could have its hands full on Friday when two-sport standout Dakota Jordan and Canton Academy visit the new-look Mustangs at Bill Davis Field.

On paper, the Panthers  don’t seem intimidating, mustering just 13 total points during two lopsided losses to start the season. But PA coach Tripp McCarty says the tape tells a different tale about his Week 3 opponent.

“They’re a little like us: They’ve been in their own way a bit,” McCarty said. “Bad snaps, bad punts — they haven’t been able to get anything going yet. If they ever do, they’re going to be dang good because they got some really good playmakers and some nice size.”

The Mustangs’ defense figures to be focused on Jordan, a 6-foot, 200-pound baseball star who can also line up virtually anywhere on the gridiron. The highly-touted junior committed to Mississippi State’s baseball program in the spring and has since received SEC football offers from Ole Miss and MSU.

“He’s the real deal,” McCarty said of Jordan. “They can stick him at quarterback or tailback or receiver. Last week, Hartfield had a true SEC receiver (MSU commit Brandon Buckhaulter) and (Jordan) matched him athletically.

“They got three more just like him,” McCarty added. “Some really good skill guys and some nice size up front. They’re going to look the part, for sure.”

Canton Academy may look the part, but the Mustangs actually played the part last week when they rushed for nearly 300 yards in a 27-16 victory over Indianola Academy. Senior linebacker Lawes McCool (game-high 10 tackles) and defensive ends Jackson Hodges and Britt Reichle helped hold the Colonels scoreless for the last three quarters.

“Jackson Hodges and Britt Reichle make us go,” McCarty said. “Those guys play with a lot of speed and a high motor. We’ve really built this defense around those two.”

On offense, PA has traded last year’s aerial attack for a ground-and-pound approach which aims to take advantage of the team’s speed. The Mustangs can beat opponents on the outside with explosive senior running back Gavin Lessley, bulldoze between the tackles with senior fullback Alex Tanksley or dig even deeper into their stable of ball carriers. McCarty estimates eight different guys touched the football last week in the first half alone.

“This year, we just got more guys who are better at breaking tackles than they are running routes,” McCarty said. “It’s just a little different way of getting them the football. We don’t want to be stuck and have to throw the football to get it to them.

“It’s a fast team, it’s a gritty team and this is one of the toughest teams I’ve had since I’ve been here. They like to be physical.”

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