Photo/James Pugh

Roger Satcher knows it. And so does his coaching staff. 

The question now, though, is does his players know it. 

So what exactly is this knowledge that must be thoroughly consumed and digested?

Friday night’s game vs. Natchez on the Reservation is a must win. Along with Natchez, North Pike and South Jones are considered “bubble teams,” those seeking – at the very least – a fourth seed spot in Region 3-5A. Satcher says his team understands the importance of Friday nights game. 

“Any chance we have of going to the playoffs, any chance we have at a winning season, we have to win against those three bubble teams,” said the South Jones head football coach. “And to get a higher seed, we have to beat at least one of those teams right above them.”

Those teams include county rival Laurel, West Jones and last year’s Region 3-5A champ Brookhaven. South Jones has yet to play West Jones and Brookhaven.

Natchez is 4-2 with wins over teams with a combined record of 10-16. The four wins from South Jones are against teams with combined records of 4-21. 

While the records for both can be somehow deceiving, South Jones is improving how it wins. It’s 40-8 win vs. Forest Hill last week was how a team beats a team they’re supposed to beat says Satcher. 

“I’ve been here five years, and we’ve almost never done that,” Satcher said. “We beat Sumrall last year as we should have and Richton a couple of years ago, but those were smaller schools. In our division, we’ve never beat an inferior opponent as we should have. Even if we were the better team, we’d struggle till the end of the game. But our win over Forest Hill was big. We need to learn how to keep doing that. We took it to them, and finished it in the first half.”

South Jones’ success thus far is a surprise for most. On both sides of the ball, the Braves had to start with a majority of players lacking true game experience. They’ve managed quite well. 

“That’s big,” Satcher said of his teams four wins to date. “But the only problem is I’m a little disappointed. I think we should have six wins. We took Hancock to overtime and one play here or there, and we might win the ball game. Against Laurel, we had them at halftime. Then in the second half, they had some good answers for us and our kids run out of gas. The hole was there; we couldn’t get through it. So naturally, I’m disappointed in those two losses. I’m not saying on paper that we should have beaten either, but I’m saying that we didn’t take advantages of the opportunities we were given.”

Though hinting at a little disappointment, Satcher also admits things have gone incredibly well. Far better than 

“At the same time, nobody expected us to win [like we have],” said Satcher. “When I applied for the job, people asked me did I really want this because you’re starring at [0-for-something] right in the face. And after the first couple of games, it appeared we were. But these kids were better than that. They’ve worked hard and done everything we’ve asked them to do. We’ve been very fortunate not to have a lot of injuries. Everything is going our way. It’s like the planets are aligning themselves for us. Let’s hope they continue to do so.”

Senior quarterback John Mitchell has been its most notable name on the field, but others have stepped up big, according to Satcher. 

“Our O-line has gelled well and have done a good job,” Satcher said. “We have Chad Moses who came back. He didn’t play last year, but he’s back this year, and defensively he’s made us able to defend people. And he’s a threat to score every time he touches the ball. 

“We also have Vekelion Campbell, who was our defensive end last year and he’s our leading rusher besides our quarterback. And he does a fantastic job. On defense, we only had one starter return from last year, and that was Campbell, but they’ve come into their own, and were able to stop some people.”

Natchez is big and physical. Their identity from years ago hasn’t changed. They set up the run which opens opportunities to throw the ball.

“On paper, they have guys that can beat us,” said Satcher. “But I feel like we’re the better team if we do the little things right. We have to take care of business and to move on we have to win this ball game. This game is important to us.”

The good thing about Friday night is the game’s location. Last year, as in other years past, South Jones had to travel to Natchez – a long drive over the two-hour mark. They beat Natchez in 2017 though, despite the long drive, 42-35. 

“At home against Natchez is an excellent thing,” said Satcher. “Usually when we go to Natchez, its the day before the band contest, so we don’t take a band when we go to Natchez because of the drive. And I understand the band not wanting to go and getting back near 1 a.m. and having to get up early the next morning. 

“But now we play at home, and the excitement will be there. Our kids are the type of kids that the excitement in the stands does something to them.”

Kickoff Friday night on The Reservation vs. Natchez is set for 7 p.m.