Ruthie Robison The Webster Progress-Times
The Eupora Eagles hosted the 2011 Class 1A State Champion Noxapater Tigers in their home opening game of the season.
Last season, the Eagles defeated the Tigers 41-21. This year Eupora decided to repeat their success overpowering the Tigers 37-12. The Eagles jumped on the scoreboard early for the second straight week in a row when quarterback Trey Pittman connected 55 yards through the air with senior wide receiver Derrick Jones. After the extra point by sophomore kicker Justin Lewis, the Eagles took the lead 7-0 with 11:04 remaining in the first quarter.
In the next four minutes that followed, the Tigers made their way down the field in a 74-yard drive with 30 of those yards due to Eagle penalties. Noxapater senior running back Trey Baber capped off the drive with a 16-yard dash to the end zone. Unable to receive the extra point, Noxapater trailed 7-6 with 6:57 left in the first quarter.
The rest of the first half of the game would be mentally strenuous for the Eagles stacking up nine penalties that totaled 65 yards. Noxapater racked up a decent amount of penalties as well, six that totaled 60 yards, which gave the Eagles the edge they needed to contain the Tiger offense during the rest of the first quarter and throughout the second quarter of the game.
“The first half were strictly mental errors,” head coach Junior Graham said. “We got a personal foul face mask penalty on their first drive, then we drive down into the red zone and we line up off sides. Those are frustrating.”
Penalties were not a problem in the second half of the game. The Eagles came back to field ready to protect their lead over the Tigers.
During the middle of the third quarter, Noxapater took the lead for the first and last time during the game. With 5:07 left in the third quarter, Tyrell Carter connected with Baber in the end zone to gain a 12-7 lead over the Eagles. This is the last time the Eagle defense allowed the Tigers to score.
On the ensuing kickoff, Eupora regained their lead when Rusty Johnson broke out through the middle to return the kickoff 80 yards for the touchdown. Lewis added the extra point and the Eagles were ahead 14-12.
The strength of the Eupora defense stepped up stopping the Tigers from reaching a first down for the remainder of the game.
In the fourth quarter, the Eagle offense came alive after senior running back Vandy Smith pushed through Tiger defenders two-yards for the touchdown. After the extra point, the Eagles led 21-12 with 9:04 remaining in the game.
Less than two minutes later, with the Eagles in possession, Pittman found Jones again in the end zone on a 52-yard touchdown pass. Eupora advanced their lead 28-12.
The Eagles scored again on a safety after a snap went over the Noxapater punter’s head to the back of the end zone. Lamonte Salley capped off the scoring for the night after making a three-yard touchdown run ensuring the Eagles a 37-12 win over their opponent.
Salley led the Eupora rushing attack with 11 carries on 53 yards with one touchdown, while Smith had 11 carries on 50 yards with a touchdown. Lazerick Davis had seven carries on 33 yards and received two passes on 30 yards. Jones had one carry on 15 yards and received three passes on 129 yards with two touchdowns.
Pittman was 6-13 through the air on 166 yards with two passing touchdowns.
The Eagle defense was led by senior Markelle Elchelberger who stacked up nine stops, while Jamall Roby and Tamoris Draine racked up five stops each.
This week the Eagles (2-0) will try to tame the Tigers from a different neck of the woods. Eupora will travel to Winona (1-1) to face off with the Class 3A Tigers.
“We’ll work hard and hopefully get a good plan going,” said Graham. “We’re going to get a good effort out of Winona.” Winona was recently defeated by the Ackerman Indians 19-16.