Eupora takes Highway 9 battle over Choctaw County

Staff Writer

A season ago, longtime Ackerman and Choctaw County head coach Adam Dillinger celebrated on Eupora’s field as his Chargers knocked off the Eagles in a thrilling Highway 9 battle.

This year, Dillinger stood on the visiting sideline in Ackerman wearing a different color. Dillinger was coaching offense for the Eupora Eagles and the post game Gatorade bath went to him.

Eupora used a strong game plan on both sides of the football to stymie the Choctaw County offense and wear down its defense as it pulled out a 28-21 win to move to 4-1 this season.

“I coached against him a lot of years doing the defense all those years at Eupora and he was at Ackerman,” Eupora head coach Stephen Edwards said. “He just always had a wrinkle however you lined up to move the ball and get points. I don’t have to worry about the offensive side of the ball. I think it showed (Friday night).”

The Eagles had a well-balanced attack offensively. The team combined for 330 yards of total offense with 183 of those coming on the ground and 147 through the air. Preston Perkins led the way with 20 carries, 82 yards and a touchdown. Most of his production came in the fourth quarter.

Eupora quarterback Tanner Knight had a solid game going 7-for-17 passing for 147 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. His favorite receiver, Al Dumas, had five catches for 110 yards and two scores. Knight also had 10 rushes for 59 yards.  

Choctaw County used its defense early on to help springboard the offense when an interception led to a 25-yard touchdown pass from Austin Telano. Eupora answered right back with Al Dumas’ 22-yard catch and run for the score evening things up at 7-7 through one quarter.

The Chargers used a large chunk of the second quarter to move the football down the field 90 yards and successfully got the football in the end zone when Amerious Brown scored from 6 yards away. After the blocked extra point, Choctaw County was up 13-7 with under 3 minutes left.

That was plenty of time for Tanner Knight and company to go to work. The senior quarterback marched the team into enemy territory and found Dumas again, this time on a 43-yard bomb. The Eagles went for two points and had their first lead of the game at 15-13 heading to halftime.

Eupora added to that lead immediately out of the half. Knight facing third down inside the red zone hit Camron Culpepper on an 11-yard slant. The missed extra point gave the Eagles a 21-13 lead.

Though the Eagles had all the momentum, the Chargers did not go quietly. Choctaw County's option attack led them down inside Eupora territory and Laterrion McBride broke off a 30-yard run for the score. After the two-point attempt was good, it was all tied at 21-21 heading to the final quarter.

That quarter belonged to the Eagle defense.

Eupora in the fourth allowed no first downs forcing a punt, a fumble and a turnover on downs. Preston Perkins, along the way, dealt the final blow with a punishing 20-yard touchdown run to win the game.

“He’s a kid that wasn’t getting the ball at the beginning of the year and coach Dillinger told him to just wait his turn,” Edwards said. “He told him, ‘you keep plugging along and they’re going to get tired of tackling you.’”
Choctaw County put up 188 yards rushing in the loss led by Brown, who rushed 12 times for 87 yards and a score.

Charger head coach Ben Ashley was pleased with his team’s effort but not with the lack of execution at times as well as the turnovers they produced.

“In order for us to win football games, we have to take care of the football, run the football and play great pieces," Ashley said. "All of those things didn’t come together for us (Friday night). (Eupora) took that time of possession from us (Friday) and took it to us. I don’t think we matched our energy.”

The Chargers (3-2) get a much-needed bye week next week before starting Class 3A, Region 4 play at home against Houston. The Eagles will host an always-tough Charleston team next week at home.