Jacob Cooper and Section take on Ider in an important Class 2A Region 7 contest Friday night.

The Section football team finds itself in a tough spot this week.

After starting the season with a pair of non-region wins, Section (2-2, 0-2) has suffered back-to-back losses to Class 2A Region 7 foes Tanner 20-14 and North Sand Mountain 42-34.

Now with a region game with Ider (2-2, 1-1) on deck, Section head coach Chris Hammon said the magnitude of the game is obvious.

“This is a very pivotal game for us,” he said. “If we lose, as far as the playoff picture goes, it’s going to be a have to win those final three (region games) and hope you get in. So it’s very crucial.”

The Lions and Hornets face off Friday night at 7 p.m. at Section High School, which is also celebrating Homecoming this week.

It’s the 39th all-time meeting between the teams in a series Ider leads 24-14. Section has won the last two meetings, including last season when the Hornets had to forfeit to Section because of COVID-19 issues. The Lions won the teams’ last on-field matchup back in 2019, a 12-0 win that was Hammon’s first career victory as Section head coach.

Like Section, Ider is coming off a tough loss in Week 3. The Hornets, who have wins over Woodville 53-0 and NSM 13-7 and a 28-14 loss to Class 3A No. 4 Plainview, could not hold a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit during a 20-17 loss to visiting Tanner.

Ider is under the direction of new head coach Chad Grant, an Ider alum who was the offensive coordinator at Buckhorn before coming to Ider. He is also a former assistant coach at NSM and Pisgah.

Grant’s son Dylan is the Hornets’ starting quarterback, and the Ider backfield features an experienced running back tandem of Hunter Robinson and Matthew Norman.

“They like to run the football,” Hammon said of the Hornets. “Most of their guys were sophomores when we played two years ago and now they’re senior heavy. They’ve got a good football team.”

Hammon said his team, which has suffered some injuries the past few weeks, must match Ider’s physical style and just play better fundamentally in order to win.

“We’ve just got to get better at the fundamentals of the game, toughness and grit, tackle better and block better and coach better,” Hammon said. 

Along with rushing for 231 yards against NSM, Section got its passing game going last week as senior first-year quarterback Jacob Cooper was 6-of-12 through the air for 202 yards, including touchdown passes for 36 yards to Drake McCutchen and 72 and 61 yards to Dominik Blair.

Hammon said the development of the passing game would be a huge asset to a Lions offense that has scored 34 points in three of its four games this season.

“I thought Friday night was the first time that I could see Coop and Dom really comfortable (in the passing game),” Hammon said. “I think that gave them a lot of confidence.”

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