Chargers host rival in Eagles
Ben Ashley is a first-year head coach at Choctaw County but the Highway 9 rivalry with Eupora and his Chargers is far from new for him.
In fact, one of the first high school rivalries that Ashley experienced was this one. A young assistant, he was in his first coaching job at Eupora after finishing up his college career and he understands just how important the game is to those in Webster and Choctaw counties.
“I got into this rivalry early on and it was a big deal then and is a big deal now,” Ashley said. “What I remember about 1999 is we had Ackerman beat. We weren't very good that year. We had won six games and they were 11-0. Our kids played really well and we were winning late but couldn't hold on. I'll never forget the effort that our kids played with that year.”
What Ashley took away from that game is that when these two programs meet, records and classification are thrown out the door.
Last year, Eupora's Stephen Edwards was feeling the same way about his team as Ashley felt many years prior. The Eagles missed a two-point conversion and later a game-winning field goal that would have given them a victory over Choctaw County. The dust settled and the Chargers reeled off an exciting 35-34 win.
Despite that hard-fought loss last year, Eupora has held the upper hand the last several seasons. Since 2004, Eupora is 8-4 in the rivalry that took two years off in 2013 and 2014 during Choctaw County's consolidation from Ackerman and Weir High school to its current product. That put a hamper on what was once one of the state's best rivalries, but it seems to be on the uptick.
“I think the rivalry is definitely getting back to where it used to be,” Edwards, a Eupora graduate, said. “It's picked up momentum, especially with (former Choctaw County) coach Dillinger moving here (as Athletics Director and assistant coach). It's gone up a notch. Last year it kind of picked up to another level of intensity.”
The Eagles have started off 2017 incredibly focused. They've started the year off 3-1 with the only blemish coming against Class 2A contender Newton in a 24-19 game. The last two weeks have seen them outscore French Camp Academy and West Tallahatchie 73-6.
Ashley said there's much to worry about when watching this team on film, especially on the defensive side of the football.
“They're a pretty good football team. They're a tough group of kids that play the right way and they're coached really well,” Ashley said of the Eagles. “They're pretty dang good on the defensive line and they're the best we've seen. Offensively, they try to spread you out a little bit, but they still run the power. It will take our best effort to win the game.”
What sets this game up to be another one to remember is the fact that the Chargers (3-1) are playing just as well if not better right now. Ashley's team bounced back from an opening-game heart breaker to East Webster by outscoring its last three opponents (Winona, Choctaw Central and Caledonia) 112-21 including six-straight quarters of shutout football the last two weeks.
“The main thing is they know what to do,” Edwards said of the Chargers. “If they buy into the system, it's tough to stop. Each week, you can just see how much better they are.”
The rivalry renews tonight at 7 p.m. at Dale Davidson Field in Ackerman. 7 p.m., WFCA-FM 107.9
Strayhorn at East Webster
It's homecoming week in Cumberland and the Wolverines can't afford to lose their focus after what happened a week ago.
Homecoming often brings distractions and coach Ron Price will likely be preaching against that tonight as East Webster hosts Strayhorn. After a tough 34-24 loss at Starkville Academy, it would be a surprise to see the Wolverines not come out and take care of business.
Strayhorn (2-2) has struggled to score points so far this year losing to Winona 58-0 and an overtime game to Magnolia Heights 6-0 in which
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