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Hornets to face Akron, former head coach

The teams may have a combined overall record of 4-12, but Friday’s contest between John Essex and Akron still carries with it plenty of intrigue. For Akron, the game offers the Rams what could be its final chance to pick up a region win. Ever.

“This possibly could be the last chance that these guys get to play together,” Akron defensive coordinator Fentress Means said. “I don’t know where they might go next year if this school doesn’t stay open.”

The expectation is that the Rams will cease to exist following this academic year. The Hale County school has long been rumored to be on its way toward K-12 status in a move that would scatter the remaining high school athletes next year.

On the other side of the field will be a John Essex team hungry four its fourth win of the year, a victory that would surpass in a single season what the Hornets achieved in each of their previous two seasons combined.

“Every coach wants to make the playoffs. Every coach wants to win the championship,” first year JEHS head man Lenoise Richey said. “But all the great coaches understand that it is a process. You try to get a little better than you were the year before.”

Rounding out the intrigue for the match-up is the presence of Means. Now an Akron assistant, Means was the head coach for the Hornets in 2007 and 2008. Friday’s game puts him back face-to-face with the players he came to know exceptionally well over two years and Richey, the man who replaced him last summer.

“I’m not taking the game personally. I’m glad the kids won a few ball games,” Means said. “(Richey is) not doing any more than I did the previous two years. When you’ve got a small amount of kids, it is going to be difficult to win because of the numbers you have. When we play the John Essex, the Akron, the J.F. Shields, yeah, we believe in those games (that) we can win those gams. But when we play the Lindens, the Sweet Waters and the Maplesvilles, it’s different. It’s not like they haven’t been together long enough. Don’t make excuses. Just go out and play with the hand that you are dealt. My biggest thing we changing the mindset of those kids at John Essex High School.”

For Richey, the game is less about facing his predecessor and more about rebounding from a 64-0 rout at the hands of Linden last week.

“I actually think we’re going to rebound quite well. I told them that Linden hasn’t always been where they are. At this point in time, they are better than us. But we are still better than what we used to be,” Richey said. “I try everything I can not to let (the familiarity with Means) to bring anything at all to the game. I never speak against him. Every time we step on the field, it’s just business. We are playing the 11 players Akron puts on the field Friday night.”

For Means, Friday night is also about business.

“I’m really proud of the kids. I really and truly want (Essex players) Jamie (Daniels) and Domonique (Williams) to get a scholarship to play college ball because the talent and the effort are there. But at the same time, they are playing us Friday night and the Rams are hungry.”