By Jason Avery
When Parkers Chapel and Foreman collide tonight, it will be a contest of the pupil taking on his mentor.
The Trojans (1-1) and Gators (0-1) will square off beginning at 7 p.m. at Foreman.
The Gators, who are the defending 2A state champions, are coached by Mark King.
King guided the Trojans to their first-ever playoff berth in 2009, as well as their lone postseason win in 2010.
Jacob Midyett, now in his second season with the Trojans, was the starting quarterback in King’s debut season in 2009.
In his first game with the Trojans, King guided Parkers Chapel to a 20-6 victory at Strong with Midyett returning a fumble 61 yards for a touchdown while also throwing a touchdown pass in the win.
For Midyett, this is a day he has looked forward to.
“It’s exciting,” Midyett said. “Obviously, playing under him, we know each other very well. I’m sure he knows my personality just as much as I know his. Also with coach (Steven) Bates working under him when he was here, we feel like we have a handle on what he wants to do and how he wants to do it, but it’s different when you actually get to face him. I’m excited to get to do it. I’m excited to get to see him over there and go up against him.”
The Trojans will be sternly tested by one of the state’s top quarterbacks in Kyren Batey, who scored four touchdowns in the Gators’ season-opening loss to Smackover at the Hooten’s Kickoff Classic.
“They’re the defending state champs, so that says enough about them, but then you get to also talk about Kyren Batey, probably one of the best, if not the best 2A player in the state right now,” Midyett said. “Coach King does a good job with them. They’re a physical team, and then you throw in a guy like that and it makes them even better.”
When asked what makes Batey so tough to defend, Midyett said it was his precision of running the Gators’ offense.
“First and foremost, they run it through him,” Midyett said. “He plays quarterback. He runs their offense, and nobody is going to run it faster. He’s very quick. He does a great job of hitting holes, and when he hits them, he’s gone if you don’t have somebody there to stop him.”
After missing the playoffs in 2011 and 2012, the Trojans have reached the postseason in each of the last five years, but have yet to earn the school’s second playoff victory.
With a difficult non-conference schedule that also includes games with Mayflower and Pine Bluff Dollarway, Midyett believes his team will be ready for conference play and beyond should the Trojans make the playoffs for the sixth straight year.
“We’ve done a pretty good job of making the playoffs,” Midyett said. “Once we finally did it in my senior year, we’ve consistently made it, but we still haven’t figured out how to get over that hump, so what we’ve done this year is really put ourselves in a tight situation.
“Playing Fouke, that was a playoff-type game. Foreman and Mayflower will be playoff-type opponents, so we added them to get used to playing those types of games. It won’t do anything but help us when we get to conference.”
With Batey and junior quarterback Caleb Jacobs, there is the possibility of plenty of points being scored.
Last week against Lafayette County, Jacobs threw for four scores and ran for another.
Early on in the young season, Amari Bell has been a favorite target for Jacobs, as the senior has already caught four touchdown passes.
“He’s a big-bodied kid,” Midyett said. “He’s 6-3, 6-4, and one thing he’s done since spring is he’s really worked on is using his size. He’s done a great job of that. He’s been a kid that ever since I got here last spring that has consistently gotten better. Towards the end of last season, he started coming around. Honestly, he really came out in basketball. He was a guy that got extremely physical and was leading the team in rebounds and using his body and it carried over. He’s able to jump up and use his size and his body to keep defenders away and make the catch.”
Defensively, junior Klayton Ballance has emerged as a force up front.
In the Trojans’ come-from-behind win over the Cougars, Ballance racked up 10 tackles.
“He’s done a great job at defensive end for us,” Midyett said. “I don’t know that we’ve ever had a D-lineman lead our team in tackles after two or three games before. We’ve never really had a guy that has done that for us. You look up, and he’s done his job and then he’ll be in on the tackle on the other side of the field. He’s got a good motor. He chases down plays from behind. He does a really good job of being all over the field.”
If the Trojans are to knock off the Gators, Midyett said his team must respond when the Gators make a big play.
“We’ve got to control our emotions first and foremost,” Midyett said. “We know what kind of player Batey is, and he’s going to make a play. He’s that good. We’ve got to be able to bounce back and answer those big plays, control the tempo and be able to move the ball. Defensively, we have to be able to get off the field on third or fourth down.”