Game of the Week: Choctaw County at Winona

Staff Writer

It was a relatively easy first week for defending region champions Choctaw County and Winona, but now the two will clash in an early-season battle.

Winona is up a classification in Class 3A after consolidating with Montgomery County this year. Joey Thomkins’ squad is coming off of an 11-4 season and a Region 2 championship that led it all the way to Oxford for the state championship. The Tigers lost the title to Taylorsville, but it was clear they were ready to compete.

Choctaw County experienced some of that same success in Class 3A as the Chargers went 10-3 and made it to within a game of the North State championship. These two teams will now be competing for a North title this season and get a chance to test itself early on this year at Winona Friday night.

“This game is a big measuring stick game for us,” Charger senior athlete Rakeim Ashford said. “Winona played for a state championship last year, so we know that they’re going to be a good team. They return a lot of players from last year and we expect to get their A game.”

While the Chargers dispatched East Webster 42-13 last weekend, Winona handled Strayhorn similarly with the 41-3 blowout. The Tigers lost a major piece of the offense with quarterback Jatyler Moore, who had over 2,700 yards of total offense.

The offense wasn’t quite as explosive it seems during game one with just over 175 yards of total offense. The team, as a whole, is much younger and cutting their teeth in a new classification.

Choctaw County head coach Ben Ashley isn’t fooled by all of that, though, and he expects a team that will be skilled at most positions.

“They’re very, very good," Ashley said. "They have an outstanding football team with a lot of speed and skill. It will be a challenge to contain them."

Even with the challenges that face them in this game, Ashley and his Chargers are ready for the challenge of a tough opponent early in the year. His team feels it has speed and skill as well and the depth up front could be a factor Choctaw County has in its favor.

It won’t be a game that will make or break the season, Ashley said. He does think it’s one that could give his Chargers a good amount of confidence as they move along this year.

“We’re super excited about it,” Ashley said of the contest. “It’s a game that we get to go and play ball and have fun. If we win, it’s great, but if we don’t it’s not a game that counts against us in the district. We’re just looking forward to getting better as a team and hope we come out with a win.”

Eupora at Newton

The Webster County schools have to pick itself up after tough week ones and it starts with Eupora.

The Eagles came out flat and were blown out 34-8 at Water Valley last Friday. Though its opponent plays in Class 3A, Eupora had been able to come out victorious in that series to kick off the year each of the last three seasons, but it was humbled last week.

The numbers might not be as high for the Eagles with 38 players on the roster, but the talent is there for a good year. Gone are Al Dumas and Tanner Knight on offense and special teams, but they might have a deeper talent pool to choose from this season. Newton has traditionally been a tough foe for Eupora and will need to play really well to win this game Friday.

A victory has the Eagles right back on track to get things going this year. A loss would be something that could hinder this young team moving forward with French Camp Academy coming up next week.

East Webster vs. Okolona

An old division foe continues to stay on the schedule for the Wolverines and this game comes at a great time.

Okolona has struggled to knock off East Webster in recent years with its last win coming in 2013. The Wolverines desperately need some early confidence with such a young and inexperienced group on the field. After losing to Choctaw County last week, East Webster needs to have their home debut go off with a bang.

This is a game that the Wolverines can start to plant their feet a bit and find their identity as a team. They had some good vibes late in the game last Friday as they were able to get a couple of scores against the Chargers and sometimes that’s something that gives a team something to feel good about during the week of practices.

Senior Keevon Patterson is one of the few upperclassmen on offense that has played meaningful snaps and he’s worked at quarterback giving the East Webster a pure athlete at the position. The Wolverines also have a talented running back in sophomore Tyrik Pittman that coach Ron Price believes can be special. Pittman had 11 carries for 76 yards against Choctaw County and he could be a prime candidate for a big game Friday.

Knowing how gutsy the East Webster spirit is across the board, expect it to come out swinging when the lights come Friday night.