D'IBERVILLE, MS (WLOX) - Following a 16-8 win over the improved Gautier Gators in week one and a 38-14 loss to St. Paul's out of Mobile last week, D'Iberville's road ahead is filled with even more challenges.
Head coach Buddy Singleton and the Warriors are preparing to host Picayune's stellar rushing attack this Friday night and then welcome in that stout Pascagoula defense a week later.
"[Picayune is] well coached, blue collar," Singleton said. "They don't have a lot of guys going to college on [football] scholarships but that just shows you that they're well coached and there's a good chance they may win the state championship again."
"We just have to stop Picayune's run," senior defensive lineman and tight end Aaron Anspach said. "That's the best part of their team. We also have to do [well] on offense and move the ball down the field."
Third-year defensive coordinator Jason Hockaday is a part of the Warriors coaching staff that's in charge of preparing their defense for Picayune's methodical offense. The last few years that Hockaday has been with D'Iberville, he has coached the defensive line and linebackers. This year, however, he is also coaching the defensive backs.
"We lost [coach Ryan Lott] and coach Hockaday had to step up," junior athlete Jaquelle Green said. "I think he's doing a good job at it because he's never coached [defensive backs] before in his life but he's a man, he took up for us and he's teaching us how to play."
The Warriors won the region 4-6A regular season championship in 2013 but lost 28-21 to the Petal Panthers in the first round of the playoffs. With only three starters returning on offense and five on defense, Hockaday and the entire D'Iberville coaching staff has had to be more patient at the beginning of this season.
"Every team has a different genetic makeup and you've got to be able to balance that out in order to win some games," Hockaday said. "You have to find what works for your team. Right now, I don't know if we've found it yet. We've got to find it with this group and put it into play this Friday night."
The last time D'Iberville won a state championship was in 2002. Hockaday was a senior linebacker on that team before joining the Mississippi Gulf Coast Bulldogs from 2003-04 where he played both football and baseball. He then transferred to the University of Tennessee at Martin and was a dual-sport star once again.
Hockaday played for five different coaches in five years. Louis Smith was the coach during his senior year at D'Iberville High School. His freshman year at MGCCC was Bill Lee's final season as head coach before Steve Campbell took over the top position in Perkinston. After enrolling at UT-Martin, he again played for two different head coaches in two years.
"I had to learn four different defenses going through there," Hockaday said. "It was tough."
The current three-game stretch for D'Iberville is going to be even tougher. After losing to St. Paul's, which is a school that has produced former Alabama and current Cincinnati Bengals quarterback A.J. McCarron and current Alabama quarterback Jake Coker, D'Iberville's next two games are both at home but against the two teams that have been to the 5A south state champions in each of the past three years -- Picayune (2011, 2013) and Pascagoula (2012).