By JOEL COLEMAN
As high school students, West Oktibbeha's football players are used to taking tests.
Tonight at 7:30 p.m., the Timberwolves will have an early-season gridiron exam against tradition-rich Eupora.
"(Eupora) is fundamentally sound and they're physical," said West Oktibbeha head coach Adam Lowrey. "That's been an achilles heel of ours – to be able to go toe to toe for four quarters with a team who is trying to pound us with the ball.
"We're looking forward to the challenge."
Lowrey isn't the only one who sees tonight's contest as potentially difficult.
Just a few miles to the west of Maben off of Highway 82, Eupora head coach Junior Graham, too, believes his Eagles have their work cut out for them.
Making the task even more challenging in Graham's eyes is the game's scheduling.
While West Oktibbeha (2-0) is coming off of a bye week, Eupora (2-1) is just six days removed from a tough 34-27 win over Winona.
"We have a short week to prepare for a totally different offense in West Oktibbeha," said Graham following last Friday's game. "(West Oktibbeha quarterback Von Smith) is a very good football player and it's obvious they have good receivers. Their offensive line must do a pretty good job of protecting. So it's no doubt we've got our hands full.
"We've got to figure out how to keep their offense off the field. They have a quick tempo and make a lot of big plays on the offensive side of the ball. Time of possession doesn't really mean a lot to them where it will mean a lot to us."
As the Eagles do their best to utilize a ground attack to neutralize the high-octane offense of the Timberwolves, Lowrey says Eupora will actually be giving West Oktibbeha just the tune-up it needs for a grueling schedule ahead.
"We'll get practice playing Eupora for Nanih Waiya, Weir, and Sebastopol, who we play all in a row," said Lowrey. "All those teams are very physical. Weir is like a mirror image of Eupora in a (Class A) fashion. Nanih Waiya is just as physical as the best (Class A) and Class 2A teams in the state. Sebastopol, they're in the same category where they are very physical.
"All these teams, they may only run a few plays, but you have to buckle up and stop them."
at East Oktibbeha (2-1)
East Oktibbeha will look for a successful end to its season-opening, four-game homestand by hosting Sebastopol at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.
For things to work out that way however, Titans head coach Randy Brooks knows his team must perform better than they did last Friday in a 55-0 loss to Class 4A North Pontotoc.
"We played one quarter of football," said Brooks after last Friday's defeat. "I'm not happy by any stretch of the imagination."
Brooks hopes for a different story this week against the Bobcats, who are fresh off of a bye week.
Prior to that, Sebastopol began its season by splitting its first two contests – a 21-6 loss to Lake in the opener and a 32-8 win over Clarkdale the following week.
at Ackerman (2-1)
Ackerman will host its 2011 homecoming festivities Friday night in the midst of a tough 7:30 p.m. game against Houston.
The Hilltoppers defeated the Indians 39-19 a year ago in Houston, but through three games, this season's Ackerman team appears to be a much different unit than the one the Hilltoppers downed last year.
Part of the reason for the Indians' current success is tailback K.J. Woods, who ran for 198 yards and four touchdowns last week in a win at French Camp.
Ackerman head coach Adam Dillinger hopes Woods and company can keep up the good work this week.
"K.J. has done a fine job for us," said Dillinger. "But whenever you want to look at rushing stats, you've got to look at the guys up front blocking for him too. They're doing a great job and we've been able to throw enough to keep people out of the box. It's really been a team effort for us."
East Webster (2-1)
at Caledonia (2-1)
Fresh off of a one-point win over Weir, East Webster hits the road Friday for a 7:30 p.m. game at Caledonia.
The Class 4A Confederates enter the contest hoping to rebound from their first loss of the season, a 48-45 loss to Heritage Academy last Friday.
Prior to that, Caledonia won its first two games of the campaign, taking a 29-20 win over Nettleton before beating West Lowndes 29-15.
For the Wolverines to have their best shot at keeping the Confederates from returning to their winning ways, East Webster will rely heavily on a defense that has allowed just over 15 points per game on average through the season's first three weeks.
"We just stick to our assignments well," said Wolverines cornerback Codie Silver earlier this year. "We really play team 'D.'"