DSA football

Delta Streets quarterback A.J. McGhee drops back to pass during the Lions’ first-round playoff win against Hebron Christian.

With a spot in the semifinals of the Class 2A playoffs on the line, Delta Streets Academy travels to Coushatta, Louisiana, to face the Rebels of Riverdale Academy in a second-round contest.

The Lions are 7-4 overall after knocking off Hebron Christian 40-0 last week in the first round. Riverdale, which is the overall No. 3 seed, is 8-3 overall. The Rebels, who went 2-0 in District 4, have outscored their opponents 441-201 this season.

“We have basically been focusing on them the last two weeks,” said DSA head coach Travis Upshaw. “We feel like we match up with them well with the guys we have in the secondary. We’ve put DJ (Dequarionne Jones) at safety, and Dekari (Johnson) is able to cover one-on-one at corner. We also have Jalyn (Lewis) back at 100%, and he gives us good coverage at outside linebacker.

“Riverdale likes to go three or four wide at receiver. Sometimes, they will run a trip set with a single receiver on one side. Their quarterback (Witt Almond) is good. He throws the ball well, and No. 2 (Parker Almond)  is their best receiver. They will also run the ball. I feel like we'll match up with them athletically. We just have to go out and play our best game. It’s that simple.”

Witt Almond is a senior for the Rebels. He has thrown for 1,079 yards on 49-of-104 attempts with 16 touchdowns and six interceptions. Parker Almond, also a senior, has 29 receptions for 721 yards and 11 scores.

The ground game for Riverdale is led by senior Paul Messenger, who has 977 yards and 12 touchdowns on 122 carries. Junior Jake Messenger is second in rushing with 483 yards and six TDs on 44 carries. He also has 14 catches for 275 yards and five touchdowns.

“I’ve watched several films on them,” Upshaw said. “I saw where Briarfield shut them down with a good game plan on defense. Coach (Grant) Simms, our defensive coordinator, has the guys playing extremely well on that side of the ball. If we can get pressure on their quarterback, and our guys in the secondary play well, I like our chances.”

The Lions’ defense is led by senior linebacker La’Andre Pittman, who has racked up 109 total tackles with four for loss. He also has two fumble recoveries and two interceptions to his credit.

Senior lineman Edgar Swims is second on the team with 52 tackles (nine for loss). He has five quarterback sacks, one fumble recovery and two caused fumbles. Senior cornerback Jimmy Gibbs is tied for the team lead in interceptions with five. He also has two sacks and a fumble recovery.

Johnson, a junior, also has five picks and is third in total tackles with 42. He has one fumble recovery. As a defensive unit, DSA has 17 interceptions on the season.

Johnson, whose nickname is Turbo, leads the team on offense with 1,105 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns on 101 carries. He also has thrown for 174 yards on 10-of-18 passing with one touchdown, and he has 11 receptions for 202 yards and five touchdowns.

Lewis, who also plays running back, is second on the team in rushing with 820 yards and six scores on 74 carries. Pittman, who doubles at fullback, has gained 353 yards and scored three times on 40 carries.

“Some of these guys we have who have playoff experience are reminding our other players that we still have a lot of football to play,” Upshaw added. “DJ, Edgar, La’Andre and Dekari were in the playoffs last year.  They know what it’s going to take for us to keep playing.”

The winner of Friday’s game moves on to play the Delta-Marvell winner on Nov. 13 in the semifinals. The 2A championship game is Nov. 19 at 3 p.m. at Jackson Academy.

Contact Calvin Stevens at 581-7234 or cstevens@gwcommonwealth.com.

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