By Ruthie Robison The Webster Progress-Times
The Eupora Eagles faced a team that they have not crossed paths with in 29 years that is also in a bigger Class, but none of that seemed to matter to the Eagles as they rolled over the Class 3A Ripley Tigers last Friday night, 28-20.
“That was a big win for us and we thought that we played a full four quarters for the first time this season,” said Eupora head coach Junior Graham.
The first quarter was plagued with turnovers. The Eagles racked up a total of four turnovers while Ripley had two. However, the eagles managed to gain the lead half way through the first quarter capitalizing on one of the Tiger’s fumbles. Deep in Ripley territory, Rusty Johnson returned a fumble from eight yards out. Justin Lewis added the extra point needed for the Eagles to maintain the lead in the first quarter.
Ripley answered back later in the first quarter with a touchdown; however, Eupora continued to lead, 7-6.
The Eagles built up a successful drive in the beginning of the second quarter giving senior running back Vandy Smith the opportunity to dive into the end zone from the one. Quarterback Trey Pittman connected with senior wide receiver Jamall Roby for the extra two points increasing the Eupora lead, 15-6.
But the Tigers came back in the second quarter adding eight points to the board.
By halftime, the Eagles had a one-point lead, 15-14.
Ripley took the lead for the first time during the game with 6:02 left in the third quarter. Wide receiver Isaiah Howard received an 80-yard pass from the Tiger quarterback for a touchdown. Ripley had a 20-15 advantage.
Eupora answered back less than a minute later with their own impressive TD pass. Pittman connected 79 yards through the air with senior wide receiver Derrick Jones.
The Eagles topped off their 28-20 win in the fourth quarter with 7:26 left in the game when Pittman hauled a keeper seven yards for a Eupora touchdown.
The Eagle defense made a strong stand in the fourth quarter shutting down the Tiger’s run game and intercepting twice. Tamoris Draine caught an interception on the Tigers ensuing possession. And with a little over a minute left in the game senior Lazerick Davis caught an interception helping the Eagle clinch the win.
On the offensive side of the ball, Davis had 12 carries for 76 yards. Smith had 19 carries on 72 yards with one touchdown while Savon Daughtery had five carries for 50 yards. Junior running back Javoris Draine had five carries for 13 yards.
Pittman went 11-22 through the air for 249 yards with one touchdown.
Jones had three receptions for 101 yards with one touchdown. Roby had four receptions for 74 yards while Davis had two receptions for 30 yards. Sophomore Will Bowen had two receptions on 20 yards during the game.
Defensively, Vandy Smith had six stops and two assist during the game. Senior linebacker Markelle Elchelberger had six stops, two assists and recovered a fumble. Roby had four stops and five assists with one fumble recovery. Senior Patrick Marshall had five stops, one assist and a sack while Davis had two stops, three assist and two interceptions.
Eupora defense held the Tigers, who entered the game averaging 250 yards of offense per game, at a season low of 77 offensive yards and stacked up 10 tackles-for-loss.
The Eagles hold an overall 5-1 record before starting Class 2A, Region 2 District 4 play. In the final five games of the regular season, Eupora will face J.Z. George (2-4), Hamilton (2-4) in an Eagle Homecoming matchup, neighboring county rival Ackerman (4-2), Williams-Sullivan (2-4), and will finish the regular season against cross county rival East Webster (5-1). Eupora is tied with East Webster for best record before entering district games.
“Now we’re starting district play so every game we play is a big game because they all carry the same amount of weight,” said Graham.
This Friday night the Eagles will hit the road to Carrollton to square off with the J.Z. George Jaguars.
Eupora will see a familiar face across the field in Friday’s showdown. Jaguar head coach is former Eupora assistant coach Joey Tompkins. Tompkins assisted Graham on the sidelines for 12 years before he began leading the J.Z. George squad this season.
“We’re going to be excited about playing and I know they’re going to be excited this game too so it will be a good game,” said Graham.
The Jaguars were recently defeated by Water Valley, 61-6.
This will be the last game of the season with a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.