Okolona too much for East Webster

Steven Betts catches a touchdown pass for East Webster against Okolona.

Staff Writer

For about 15 seconds on Friday night, all was well in Cumberland.

On the heels of a lopsided loss to Choctaw County a week ago, East Webster responded on Friday by fighting back from an early deficit against Okolona to take a third quarter lead. One big play from the Chieftains though and the the Wolverines were sent into a spiral in which they couldn’t recover.

Okolona’s Dikinbe Thomas returned a kickoff 60 yards for a touchdown just seconds after East Webster had taken a 20-13 advantage in the third quarter. The Chieftains went on to score 22 unanswered points to send the Wolverines to an eventual 35-26 loss.

“These kids are learning how to win,” East Webster head coach Ron Price said. “They need everything possible to go their way. Any kind of sudden change like (the Okolona kickoff return for a touchdown) puts us in a difficult position. We have kids on the team that we thought could go down and make a tackle on the kickoff. We just have to make that tackle.”

Okolona (2-0) put the game away after the return with a pair of early fourth quarter touchdowns. Deonte Hampton scored on a 10-yard pass from Thomas. Jacorrius Standfield, who found the end zone three times on the ground in the game, put an exclamation point on his night with a 47-yard scoring scamper.

It all spoiled what, for a while, looked to be a positive night for East Webster (0-2).

After looking overmatched at times last week at Choctaw County, the Wolverines came out and were much improved on Friday. Quarterback Gray McCarter made his second start in a row, and though he was haunted a bit by a pair of interceptions and a fumble, had solid moments including a pair of touchdown passes. McCarter had a 10-yard touchdown toss to Hastings Gibson in the first quarter and a 6-yard strike to Steven Betts in the fourth quarter as the Wolverines tried to rally.

McCarter’s efforts weren’t enough, but they did exemplify why East Webster still believes it has plenty of hope as the season continues.

“We don’t quit,” McCarter said. “I love it.

“I think we’re going to just keep getting better as long as we can all stay in the same direction.”

The Wolverines caught glimpses of their potential multiple times on Friday. They led 13-7 late in the first half before McCarter fumbled, Okolona recovered, then scored a game-tying touchdown just a couple of minutes prior to halftime.

East Webster showed resilience when it reclaimed the lead midway through the third quarter on a 3-yard run by Sloan Hillhouse, but it was on the ensuing kickoff when Okolona took it to the house and began its game-altering stretch.

“We took the lead and then gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown,” Price said. “That was one area I thought we’d win was special teams, but we didn’t. Okolona played better on special teams than we did. For this team, for East Webster to win, we have to win all three phases of the game – offense, defense and special teams. We didn’t do that and therefore, we didn’t get the win.”

The best news for East Webster though is that next week is a new week and a new opportunity. The Wolverines return to action next Friday at Smithville.

The Wolverines haven’t gotten positive reinforcement in the form of a win yet this season. However, the group saw enough against Okolona to believe that isn’t too far off.

“We’re getting better every game,” McCarter said. “We’re going to find it here really soon.”