EUPORA – Calhoun City’s last trip to a Webster County foe ended their season last year but this bus ride home was a little bit more enjoyable.
The passing attack of the Tigers athletic quarterback J.R. Jennings would prove too difficult for Eupora’s defense to handle as he led the third-ranked team in Class 2A to a 35-14 road victory.
“He’s a real special player there’s no doubt about it,” Calhoun City head coach Perry Liles said. “We felt like if we gave him time, he could make some plays back there.”
Nearly every time the host Eagles would send a blitz, Jennings would scramble out of the pressure and find wide open receivers downfield.
“It just a matter of them having experienced players with confidence and that’s it,” Eupora head coach Junior Graham said.
Calhoun City was knocked out of the Class 2A playoffs last year with a 28-14 loss at East Webster in the second round.
Jennings, who is getting recruited heavily by both Southern Mississippi and Arkansas State, got the evening started on the Tigers second drive when he rolled right and fired a 35-yard touchdown pass to Tavion Primer in the back of the end zone.
Jennings, who would end the first 24 minutes with 190 total yards in the first half, would contribute on Calhoun City’s final two scores of the half by finding a wide-open Dematrius Howard for a 36-yard score and completing a 5-yard run to give the Tigers (5-0) a seven-point lead. Neither drive took longer than three plays to carve out a score on the Eagles defense.
Jennings ended the game with 223 total yards (192 passing, 31 rushing) to give his team their fifth consecutive victory of the 2010 season.
Eupora (3-2) tried to match the speed and athleticism of the Tigers offense with their classic running attack led by tailback Deshawn Starks.
After being held in check in the first drive, Starks gave Eupora a 14-7 lead on a pair of touchdown runs of 45 and 47 yards.
On the first run, Starks took the handoff and broke two tackles on his way to the end zone. On the next drive, Eupora head coach Junior Graham simplified the gameplan to only include handoffs to Sparks and on the third play of the possession his workhorse back scored again. Sparks took the football on a toss play toward the near sideline and broke the run back to the middle of the field to avoid three Calhoun City tackles for a 47-yard scamper.
“Deshawn made some great runs for us tonight but the fact is they’re just so physical and big up front and that bothered us all night,” Graham said.
Sparks would finish the evening with 167 rushing (141 in the first half) on 19 carries and the pair of scores.
Jennings would put the game away after Calhoun City recovered a fumble deep in Eupora territory. Three plays after receiving the turnover, the senior quarterback launched a fade pass off his back foot to Howard that just avoided the fingertips of an Eagles defensive back for a 17-yard touchdown pass to give Calhoun City a 27-14 lead with eight minutes left in the game.
“I told the boys at halftime that if they didn’t score anymore all night they couldn’t win and that was the goal for the second half,” Liles said. “My defense did a great job of getting this victory.”
Eupora’s passing game struggled again as the Tigers defense forced Eagles sophomore quarterback Jamall Roby into three interceptions on the evening. Calhoun City’s final score of the night summarized Eupora’s problems as Calhoun City recovered a incomplete backwards pass and returned it 50 yards by senior defensive back Aaron Thompson for a touchdown.
Eupora will be off next Friday before opening up region play at East Webster in the rivalry game for Webster County bragging rights in two weeks.