By JOEL COLEMAN
Throughout the years, there have been countless battles between Eupora and East Webster.
Yet as the two cross-county rivals gear up for their first-round, Class 2A softball playoff series against each other, they do so under unique, not to mention difficult, circumstances.
In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, the powerful storm system that caused widespread damage throughout the Southeast tore through Cumberland, destroying much of the East Webster campus.
While the Region 3 runner-up Wolverines are still slated to be the home team for the opener of the best-of-three series, that contest will now be played in Houston today at 6 p.m.
Though the series will go on, it's been anything but business as usual lately for East Webster and head coach Meleah Brown.
"I'm used to seeing my players everyday after school and I haven't seen them in the past two days," said Brown on Thursday afternoon. "Most of them don't even have power still and they don't have cell phone service so I've been struggling just to get ahold of them."
The Wolverines were scheduled to return to practice later on Thursday. While doing so may have brought back some semblance of normalcy, Brown knows her team could be more than just a bit distracted as they prepare for battle with the Eagles.
"It's going to be tough," said Brown. "This is a tragedy. Most of these girls have been coming to this school since they were young and it's a big deal with them. But I feel like the team will bond and come together more than they ever have just because this has happened."
On the other side of Webster County, Region 4 champion Eupora was a bit more fortunate than their Cumberland counterparts.
While the town received some damage from the same storm system that hit East Webster, it has been a somewhat normal week for head coach Trae Embry and his Eagles, although their hearts remain heavy for everything that happened on the other side of the county.
"They lost their whole campus and of course we all feel sorry for them coming into this," said Embry. "As far as us, I don't think we'll have trouble being focused to play, but it's a hard situation. It'll be an emotional series."
Brown agrees it's a tough time, but with the destruction perhaps comes motivation. Brown said that upon meeting with her team later Thursday, she already knew what her message to them would be.
"When I talk to them, I'm going to tell them how the whole town of Cumberland and Mathiston is down right now," said Brown. "We need to play the best that we can and give everyone something to be proud of."
Following the first game of the series, Eupora will host the second, and possibly third, game of the series on Saturday beginning at noon.
In other Class 2A softball playoff action from the area, Region 4 runner-up Ackerman will host Region 3 champion Hatley tonight at 7:30 p.m.
That series will shift to Hatley on Saturday for the second and, if needed, third game beginning at 2 p.m.