EUPORA – The Eupora Eagles can move one step closer to their goal of a state championship tonight as the face off with the Bruce Trojans for the Class 2A North State championship.
Kickoff at Eupora High School is set for 7 p.m., and is sure to be a toughly-fought game on both sides.
“We know we have our hands full,” Eupora coach Junior Graham said. “Our kids have a lot of respect for them, their players and their coaches so (today) should be a big challenge for us.”
Defensively, Graham calls Bruce one of the most athletic teams that his squad has faced all year. Knowing the Trojans defensive strength, the coach says that it will be the key for the Eagles to “get on blocks” and to “sustain our blocks,” but Graham also knows for every defensive strength Bruce has an offensive one to go right along with it.
“Offensively, they are high octane,” Graham said. “It all starts with their quarterback. He does a good job of throwing intermediate passes and can get the ball down the field. They’ve got a tall receiver that looks a lot like Derrick (Jones) that they can incorporate into the vertical passing game. They present us a lot of problems, but those are things you expect to see at this time of year.”
Eupora’s quarterback Trey Pittman also knows the importance of this game and how hard the team had to work to prepare.
“(We've) got to prepare like we did for Calhoun City,” Pittman said. “This is our biggest game of the year right now."
Even though the Eagles are coming off a holiday, Pittman said the focus and preparation have to be there in order to enjoy success.
Graham feels his guys are ready for the competition because they have “bought in this year” and have been “resilient” all season long.
“We’ve been behind at halftime two or three ballgames," Graham said. "We’ve been behind in the third quarter, but they’ve been very resilient and they haven’t panicked and that says a lot about these kids.”
It has been about two years since these two teams faced off, but Eupora is hoping that history will repeat itself. The last time the Eagles and Trojans battled was in a 2010 regular season game that saw Eupora claim a 40-28 victory.
The Eagles enter the contest with a 13-1 record, following a 35-13 victory over Calhoun City, while Bruce takes to the road after a 14-12 win over West Bolivar.
Tonight marks the end of playoffs as the victor will then travel to Mississippi Memorial Stadium in Jackson to face the winner of the Bassfield-East Marion game on Nov. 30.
Making it to the state championship game is something Graham is familiar with after coaching at Weir, but is something that he wants to bring to the Eagles and the entire community.
“I would like for them to see a squad go to Jackson to compete for a state championship," Graham said. "Our kids need to understand that if you come to work every day, that if you compete every day, that no matter what you look like as a football player at the end of the year, anybody can compete for a state championship."
Shaw at French Camp
FRENCH CAMP – Taking one step closer to a trip to Jackson for the state championship game, the French Camp Panthers will line up to face the Shaw Hawks today for the Class A North State championship.
If history is any indicator, the 7 p.m. showdown at French Camp Academy is sure to be a tough one.
With both opponents competing in Class A, Region 2, the pair faced off in a regular season game that saw the Panthers overtake the Hawks 16-14.
Having faced Shaw earlier, French Camp knows what the team is capable of and also what it will take to be victorious.
The Panthers will also be depending on players like junior quarterback Jesse Hosket who was 5-for-15 last week against St. Joseph for 112 yards and three touchdowns, as well as senior fullback Jaylon Clemons who thus far in the season has 167 carries for 1,311 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Seniors Hagan Box and Ben Hosket will also be looked upon to aide French Camp in its quest for victory. The pair has combined for 26 receptions and six touchdowns, while adding another five touchdowns off 70 carries by Box and 18 rushes by Hosket.
Shaw travels to French Camp following a 28-6 victory over Coffeeville, while the Panthers enter the North State round of the playoffs after a convincing 31-18 win over St. Joseph.
Following completion of action tonight, the victor will travel to Mississippi Memorial Stadium in Jackson to face the winner of the Bogue Chitto-Stringer game in a state championship battle on Nov. 30.