Eagles take momentum on road

Staff Writer

Teams want to be playing their best ball of the season at the end of the year and into the playoffs and that’s exactly what Eupora is doing right now.

The Eagles could have gone the other way after a devastating and embarrassing Maroon Bowl loss to East Webster on September 28. The 7-6 loss was a wakeup call for all involved as they felt like they left several different scores out on the field and it cost them the game.

Since that rough evening in Cumberland, the Eagles have bounced back winning three of their last four games with the only loss being a heartbreaking 10-9 defeat to Calhoun City for the Class 2A, Region 2 championship. Eupora head coach Stephen Edwards believes that his Eagles took the bad from the East Webster game and turned it into a positive for the rest of the season.

“It was a tough loss for all of us, but I think the guys responded well,” Edwards said of the East Webster loss. “Last week against Coahoma County we had four or five takeaways and didn’t turn the ball over. For whatever reason, we’ve really focused on protecting the football.”

The 47-0 blowout win over Coahoma County in the first round of the Class 2A playoffs was exactly what Edwards wanted out of his team to show the rest of the classification that they’re ready to contend.

Eupora (7-4) now enters round two of the playoffs and the opponents get tougher from here. The Lake Hornets are next on the schedule with an identical record and they’re fresh off of a 27-0 shutout over East Union in round one.

Lake is coached by former Nanih Waiya coach Tate Hanna who began to put the Warriors on the map in Class A. Back in Winston County, Hanna coached for seven years with a record of 63-27 with no losing seasons. He’s continued that at Lake his first two years with eight wins last season and a potential of getting number eight again this season with a win over Eupora.

“I just think coach Hanna does a good job," Edwards said. "He was successful at Nanih Waiya for a long time and then took a year off from football and he’s back in it. They have some good players with a good defense and they run the ball on offense. It’s a different challenge that we haven’t had in a couple of weeks.”

Friday night is big in many ways for Edwards. There has been a proverbial wall he’s been trying to break through at his alma mater over the last four years as head coach. Junior Graham and Lance Pogue had combined for seven seasons of 10 or more wins in 11 years with the Eagles and routinely contended for north state championships.

Most of the players on the team today haven’t experienced the winning tradition on that level at Eupora as it hasn't made it to the third round since 2012 when the Eagles won the north state title and played for the state championship.

Eupora has a chance to have its most wins in a season Friday since 2014 and become a legitimate threat for the state title with a victory. Edwards will rely heavily on his seniors to take hold of the rope.

“I think the seniors have definitely stepped their game up,” Edwards said. “They understand the tradition at Eupora. This is the first playoff win we’ve had since they’ve been here, but we have signs up everywhere with all of our playoff appearances and district championships so they see that and understand the expectation.”