Monday Morning Quarterback: Choctaw County 20, Caledonia 6

Joel Coleman

Staff Writer

Choctaw County head football coach Ben Ashley didn’t mince his words on Friday night.

Yes, Ashley’s Chargers had just dispatched of Caledonia by a score of 20-6, but Choctaw County’s leader wasn’t pleased with his team’s lack of focus early on in the contest that allowed Caledonia to hang tight.

In the end though, the Chargers had done what they’ve done pretty frequently since Ashley took over prior to last season. They won. The Ben Ashley era isn’t even two seasons old in Ackerman just yet. However thus far it can’t be classified as anything other than a roaring success. The even better news for Charger fans might be that this run might be only in its infancy.

Friday night was a perfect example of where Ashley has already taken the Chargers. Ashley’s post-game assessment seemed to be spot on. Choctaw County was sloppy early. There were penalties. There were turnovers. There were slip-ups on special teams. As it turned out, it didn’t matter. Even on a night where the Chargers weren’t crisp, they still downed a larger, Class 4A school by two scores. Ashley has built his team to a point where they can win, even on nights where everything doesn’t go right.

Choctaw County’s rise back to relevancy has been a pretty amazing thing to watch. Before Ashley’s arrival, the Chargers endured back-to-back losing seasons. Choctaw County went just 9-14 combined over the 2015 and 2016 seasons. It’s no slight at all to previous Chargers coach Adam Dillinger, who as head coach at Ackerman – then Choctaw County after the consolidation with Weir – led the school to frequent playoff appearances and even a state title game back in 2009. However Choctaw County had hit a bit of a rut.

Ashley has quickly pulled the Chargers out. Choctaw County won a division championship last year in Ashley’s first season. The Chargers then got all the way to the third round of the Class 3A playoffs before ending the year with a 10-3 record.

All Choctaw County has done to follow that up is start this season at 3-1. The lone loss is to a Winona program that was the state runner-up in Class 3A a year ago and is a perfect 4-0 to begin this season.

This isn’t to say you can go ahead and hand the Chargers another division title this year. Choctaw County hasn’t even played a district game yet, but it’s almost a certainty that under Ashley’s tutelage, the Chargers are surely about to have a chance to go back-to-back.

The most exciting thing for the Chargers is the future looks just as bright as the present. Choctaw County got a small glimpse of that a couple weeks ago. As the Chargers were dismantling Choctaw Central, Ashley put in many of his junior varsity players. The group showed out. In the second half, with the youngsters handling most of the action, Choctaw County still outscored Choctaw Central 23-14 over the third and fourth quarters of that game.

Many of those young guys experienced quite a bit of winning in their junior high days. It appears they are going to have a fantastic chance to keep experiencing success as they move into larger roles on the varsity scene in the years ahead.

Now I don’t want to make any bold predictions here. I’ve been around long enough to know that in sports, particularly on the high school scene where teams turn over so frequently, there are no certainties. What I will claim though is it’s undeniable Ashley has Choctaw County on an upward trend, and if the first year and a half of Ashley’s tenure is any indication, there is no ceiling as to how high the Chargers can get.

Joel Coleman is a sports writer for The Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are Coleman's and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SDN or its staff.