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Hornets seek sting

John Essex (0-4) seeks its first victory Friday night when it faces Sunshine; marking the fifth straight 2007 playoff team the Hornets have faced this season.

“It’s a big game because both of the teams are 0-4 and both of them are hungry for a win,” senior fullback Lamar Bates said. “This should set the tone for the rest of the games. The opportunity is there. We just have to seize it.”

“Our record really doesn’t indicate our effort, our talent,” JEHS head coach Fentress Means said.

According to Means, the biggest struggle for the Hornets has been their inability to maintain focus after surrendering a big play.

“That’s a problem I’m trying to change here,” Means said. “Last year we had five ball games within 8-10 points. I see no reason we can’t be there right now.”

One thing working against the Hornets has been a realignment that has the team facing annual dates with Billingsley, Maplesville, Holy Spirit, A.L. Johnson and Linden. While Means’ team has already contended with four of the toughest squads in its region, it now must turn its attention to a Sunshine unit that has hit the same roadblocks.

“They’ve got some size,” Means said of the Tigers. “We’ve just got to outwork them.”

If the Hornets are able to do impart their offensive will, the battle will begin in the trenches where both squads have had struggles this year.

“We basically want to establish our running game,” Means said. “We have a dynamic back in Letrell Griffin. We’re really going to have to contain their guys up front.”

Griffin, who started the season as the team’s quarterback, shifted to the tailback position, giving way to Antonio Bennett at the signal-caller position.

Another major concern for the Hornets has come in the kicking game where JEHS has scarcely forced opponents to begin drives on the other side of the 50-yard line. When the team faced Holy Spirit, the Titans began every drive in John Essex territory. That has placed undue pressure on a defense whose core plays on both sides of the ball.

“We’re going to play hard with what we’ve got,” Means said. “These kids have heart. They just have to believe in themselves.”