MAIS schools open regular season Friday

After getting their feet wet in last week’s football jamboree, Silliman Institute and Central Private start the season for real as the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools opens its regular season Friday night.

“We showed a lot of heart,” Central Private coach Terry King said about the jamboree. “I saw our young men never give up. We made some mistakes, but they are correctible mistakes. We learned a lot about ourselves heading into the season.”

Central Private travels to Rayville to take on Riverfield Academy, while Silliman travels to Amite to face Oak Forest Academy. Both games are at 7 p.m.

“I feel like we have taken a step in the right direction with the season getting ready to start,” Silliman coach T.J. Davis said. “We still have to learn to play together and learn to gel as a team. A lot of these kids have not played a full game together as a team yet.”

Silliman was the clear winner in last week’s jamboree, posting dominating wins over Bowling Green and host Central Private.

Most coaches don’t put much stock in jamborees as an indictor of regular-season success. However, Davis still took some positives from the games, specifically the play of new starting quarterback Zach Kelly.

In a 19-6 win over Bowling Green School, Kelly threw two touchdown passes, including a 39-yard strike to wide receiver Michael Davidson. Against Central Private, Kelly did most of the damage with his feet, running 34 yards for a TD.

Kelly had a few novice moments, but did more than enough to make Davis confident in his abilities.

“He took some big steps as far as improving his decision making and being able to put the ball where he should put it,” Davis said of his sophomore quarterback. “I was pleased to see that he is capable of the things that we thought he was capable of. Now the question is that if he is going to be consistent.”

Kelly’s first full game under center for Silliman will come against an Oak Forest team with revenge on its mind. Last season, the Wildcats jumped out to a 20-point lead over Oak Forest, only to be held scoreless in the second half of a 20-19 win.

Davis, who said his team needs to play consistently all four quarters if they want to win District 6-2A this season, is hoping for a more comfortable outcome this year.

“They are a big and physical team, so I’m kind of interested to see how our team is going to handle it,” Davis said of Oak Forest. “Our goals are to win district and make a deep playoff run. I like our chances for that if we can come together and play as a team.”

While Davis’ Silliman squad has playoff aspirations, King’s goals are more modest in his first year at Central Private.

“We want to earn respect,” said King who comes to Central Private after having success in 1A with Bayou Academy. “Every time we walk out on that field they need to be respectful of the game, play hard and let the other team know that.”

King said he saw signs of that last week when the Rebels rebounded from their loss to Silliman with an 8-0 win over Baton Rouge Home School.

“We saw the team come together,” said King. “The team rallied and fought hard for each other. A lot of respect was earned.”

Against Riverfield, King expects his secondary to face a tough challenge from the Raiders pass-heavy offense.

“They love to throw the ball,” King said of Riverfield. “They have got some great skill players so it’s going to be challenge, but we have been preparing for it.”

Central Private returns nine defensive starters and four offensive line starters, making for a small but veteran team that will present a tough matchup.

“Our guys now how much effort they need to give on each play,” said King. “We realize that is what it is going to take for us to be special. The kids are ready. and we feel like we have a chance.”