Charg­ers host ri­val in Ea­gles

Starkville Daily News - - SPORTS - By ROB­BIE FAULK sports@starkvilledai­lynews.com

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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