Rebels get off to fast start to defeat Eagles

Staff Writer

Games aren’t always decided in four quarters. Sometimes, the difference can be just one.

That was the case for Eupora on Friday night when the Eagles welcomed in a stout Scott Central team from Forest. The Rebels were bigger, stronger and faster and they showed it early in the game.

Before the fans could get settled into their seats, Scott Central had taken a three-touchdown lead through one quarter and that was enough. The Eagles fought valiantly for the next three stanzas but couldn’t claw back in it as they had their season end with a 28-14 loss.

“You can’t give a team like that anything,” Eupora head coach Stephen Edwards said. “We got in a hole, but I’m proud of our guys to keep on fighting.”

The Eagles matched up Scott Central from the defensive side as the game wore on, but they could never get their rushing game going against the massive front seven of the Rebels. Scott Central brought the blitz and gave quarterback Edwin Herard no room to run as he carried 16 times and lost 58 yards. The Eagles couldn’t gain positive yards rushing as a team as they had negative 47 yards against the vaunted Rebel defense.

“I’m extremely proud of them. I knew with putting (Herard) at outside backer that good things were going to happen for us,” Edwards said. “All of those guys really stepped up, ran to the football and tackled really well. I thought we did a really good job after the first quarter.”

There were plays to be made in the passing game and Eupora made a few. Herard went 9-of-20 with two interceptions but he also threw two touchdown passes to Cam’Ron Culpepper who had a huge night with four catches for 120 yards and both scores.

The first quarter was a nightmare for the home team. They gave up two long touchdown drives to start things off as the Rebels just imposed their will with a massive offensive line and a bruising backfield that sent them all the way to the 1-yard line on each of the first two drives. They scored touchdowns both times from a yard out and had a quick 14-0 lead.

The back-breaking play came as time expired in the first quarter as Herard was sacked and the football was stripped out of his hands and ran back 20 yards for the 21-0 lead. That was all before Eupora really could settle into the game.

The Eagle defense fought to keep them in the game, however. The running game of Scott Central hit a brick wall from players like Preston Perkins, MJ Thomas and Herard and they kept the team in the game for the most part.

That gave the team an opportunity to cut into the lead as Herard found Culpepper for a 20-yard score on fourth and long to make it 21-7 at the half.

As Eupora began to show life and appeared on the verge of flipping momentum after a punt was downed at the 1-yard-line, the Rebels took the game for good. They broke off a 99-yard touchdown run as they slipped through a couple of tackles and made sure that Eupora had no chance of getting back into the game.

Eupora got one last score in the fourth quarter when Herard found Culpepper again on a wide open touchdown with 7 minutes left. The Eagles threw two interceptions on their final two drives that prevented them from drawing any closer, however.

Ending the season 8-5 and in the third round of the playoffs, it was the best year for Edwards since he arrived back in 2015. It was the first time since 2013 that the Eagles had advanced to the third round, bringing back the pride that has carried the program for so long.

Edwards felt his seniors deserved the credit for fighting back from missing the playoffs as sophomores and giving themselves a chance to compete for a north state crown this season.

“It’s bad losing," Edwards said. "You want to play that last game, but I’m extremely proud of these seniors. We never gave up and I knew that we wouldn’t. We kept fighting (for the seniors).”