By DANNY P. SMITH
CRAWFORD – The East Oktibbeha Titans knew what they were capable of doing on offense.
For six quarters, it just wasn't happening.
After being shut out by North Pontotoc last week and in the first two quarters against Sebastopol Friday night, East Oktibbeha coach Randy Brooks knew he had to try something different.
The Titans hit the visiting Bobcats with two big plays in the second half and earned a 20-9 victory in the Class A, Region 3, District 4 opener.
"We did some adjusting at halftime and saw some things that helped us out," Brooks said. "We knew we could run the ball. We switched Kortland Petty to running back."
Petty, who finished the night with 83 yards rushing on six carries, took a snap in punt formation, then took off after bobbling the football. He ended up out-running the Sebastopol unit 54 yards for the score with 7:45 left in the third quarter. A two-point conversion pass from quarterback Davalyn Bell to Terence Rice gave East Oktibbeha an 8-2 lead.
Brooks knew what kind of athlete he had in Petty and it was just a matter of putting him in the right place.
"He's just too good of an athlete not to have the ball in his hands," Brooks said. "He's fast enough to be running track in Australia all summer so I told coach we've got to figure out a way to get the ball in Petty's hands because we're wasting that speed out there at receiver."
The Bobcats regained the advantage at 9-8 on a 5-yard run by Jake Loper with 8:49 left in the third quarter, but it didn't last long as the Titans struck quickly on an 80-yard pass from Bell to Rice.
Rice, who is a cousin to Pro Football Hall of Famer Jerry Rice, showed some of his relative's speed on the scoring play.
"He runs a legitimate 4.3 or 4.4 in the 40," Brooks said of Rice, "He's got right now speed and if people play off of him, we can run the hitch. Tonight, I guess they thought he wasn't going to go deep.
"I knew eventually (Rice) was going to catch one. I tell him all the time that we're not going to stop throwing to you. One out of 50 and even a blind hog can find an acorn every once in a while."
East Oktibbeha got the lead back at 14-9 and added a Petty 7-yard touchdown run with 58 seconds remaining to clinch the division win.
The only score of the first half came when Bell was chased out of the end zone by Sebastopol's Chase Marshall for a safety.
The Titans were able to overcome a big rushing night out of Loper, who had 96 yards on 19 carries for the Bobcats.
"He could play for us," Brooks said.
East Oktibbeha will hit the road for the first time this season next Friday at Ethel.