By Ruthie Robison The Webster Progress-Times
There is a difference between a good high school football season and a great one. The great season ends at Mississippi Memorial Stadium in Jackson. With the district championship under their belts, the Eupora Eagles are aiming for a great season.
Eupora’s 37-7 victory over the East Webster Wolverines last Friday night clinched the Class 2A, Region 2, District 4 title.
“It’s special anytime you win a championship. And you better enjoy it, because they’re not guaranteed,” said Eagle head coach Junior Graham. “It means a lot considering this team is coming off a 6-5 season last year and to be at this point, it’s exciting.”
The Eagles took the field knowing that this game had more riding on it than just county bragging rights. There were four possible scenarios that could have played out with Ackerman, East Webster and Eupora all having a chance at winning the district championship.
“We knew we had to win. It was no bones about it,” said Graham. “We had a great week of practice; our kids were focused and wanted this game.”
Eupora jumped on the board early in the first quarter with a 10-yard touchdown run by senior running back Vandy Smith. Justin Lewis accompanied Smith’s run to the end zone with the extra point.
Senior wide receiver, defensive back and Ole Miss verbal commit Derrick Jones made a big play on the defensive side of the ball. Jones stopped a Wolverine drive from building on East Webster’s next possession with an interception giving Eupora the ball deep in Wolverine territory.
Eupora would not score again until the second quarter after forcing an East Webster turnover on downs. With the ball on the Eagle 35, Eupora began a trek down the field. Sophomore running back Lamontae Salley punched it in from the 12-yard line. Lewis added the extra point, and Eupora had a 14-0 advantage over the Wolverines that would carry into to halftime.
After the half, a spark was lit and the Eagle offense exploded scoring 23 points to cap their win. “It was the best quarter we have played all year,” Graham said.
The Eagles returned the kickoff to the Wolverine 45-yard line. Then Smith rumbled down the field to the 28-yard line. On the next play, sophomore quarterback Trey Pittman found Jones with a 28-yard pass.
After forcing the Wolverines to punt, Eupora was back in East Webster territory with another opportunity to score. Pittman connected with Jones on 29-yard touchdown pass.
Lewis added both extra points increasing the Eupora lead, 28-0.
Shortly after, Jones put the ball back in Eagle hands with his second interception during the game. Lewis made a successful 28-yard field to top off the Eupora possession.
However, another chance would quickly occur for the Eagles to score when Rusty Johnson recovered a Wolverine fumble. Junior running back Javoris Draine finished the Eupora scoring after an 11-yard dash to the end zone with .55 remaining in the third quarter.
East Webster managed to add points in the fourth quarter with a seven- yard run by Deangelo Liggins preventing an Eagle shutout win.
“I’m proud for our seniors. And we had some underclassmen step up tonight and play really big games,” said Graham.
Smith led the rushing attack with seven carries for 83 yards with one touchdown. Draine followed with four carries for 19 yards with one touchdown while Salley had three carries for 12 yards with one touchdown.
Pittman was 5-7 through the air for 82 yards with two touchdowns.
Jones had two receptions for 61 yards with two touchdowns while Jamall Roby had three receptions for 21 yards.
The Eupora defense held East Webster to only 131 offensive yards.
Senior linebacker Markelle Eichelberger led on the defensive side of the ball with 11 stops. Patrick Marshall followed with 10 while Tamoris Draine had nine stops.
The Eagles finished their schedule with a 10-1 overall record and remained undefeated in district matchups.
“We stayed healthy,” Graham said. “The past two years we have been decimated by injuries. This year we have been healthy to this point. Our seniors have been focused. We have been solid in the kicking game. And [Pittman] has been steady at quarterback and protected the ball.”
This Friday Eupora plays host to the Coahoma County Panthers (2-7, 2-3). The Panthers are the No. 4 seed team from Class 2A, Region 3, District 3. Coahoma County is entering the match after an open week and was recently defeated by Strayhorn, 29-0.
All first, second, third and fourth round playoff games have a 7:00 p.m. kickoff set by the Mississippi High School Activities Association.