By JOEL COLEMAN
Looking at Eupora's 2011 results, you'll see that the Eagles have suffered two losses in the last three games.
That rings true in more ways than one as Eupora heads to Ackerman to renew acquaintances with the rival Indians tonight in a 7 p.m. Class 2A, Region 2 matchup.
On top of recent defeats at the hands of Calhoun City and Hamilton, Eupora has seen starting quarterback Jamal Roby and running back Vandy Smith go down with injuries.
Roby sustained a broken fibula in the Calhoun City game on Sept. 16, while Smith suffered multiple injuries to his knee last week against Hamilton.
Through the adversity however, Eagles head coach Junior Graham refuses to look at things with a negative viewpoint as Eupora (4-3 overall, 1-1 in Class 2A, Region 2) gears up for Ackerman (5-3 overall, 2-0 in Class 2A, Region 2).
Instead, Graham insists all the recent misfortune is simply the difficulties that sometimes come as part of playing football.
"(Injuries) are just the nature of the game," said Graham. "I don't believe in being snake bit. I just believe things happen for a reason. We don't always know what those reasons are for, but I think in the grand scheme of things that'll present itself."
One thing is already certain for the Eagles as they deal with the losses of two key performers – there are now opportunities abound for others to step up.
Freshman Trey Pittman has handled the majority of the snaps at quarterback since Roby went down, and Graham says that Kevon Embry, Lazerick Davis and Javoris Draine will be the individuals charged with maintaining Eupora's rushing attack in Smith's absence.
"Some of these guys that haven't been playing a whole lot of offense, because they've been on defense, are now thrown into the mix of things a little bit," said Graham.
All of the adjustments throw an interesting, perhaps even unpredictable twist into tonight's rivalry game.
Ackerman head coach Adam Dillinger says he hasn't focused too much on Eupora's recent injury problems. In Dillinger's mind, he's seen the Eagles enough to know they'll be ready regardless of who steps on the field.
"Eupora's good," said Dillinger. "They're always going to be good, too. (Graham) and his staff are always going to do a good job, they're always going to be well-coached, and they are always going to be a physical ball team.
"I know they've had some injuries, but they've still got guys that can tote the ball. They're still a good team."
Dillinger's viewpoint, ironically, could also fit the current situation of his Indians as they've also had to battle through a critical injury to a running back in recent weeks.
Ackerman starting tailback K.J. Woods hasn't played in the Indians' last three games after suffering an injury against Bruce on Sept. 16.
While Ackerman won all three of the games Woods has missed, the Indians would love to get their primary runner back in the fold for tonight's game against Eupora.
Dillinger says Woods' status is a game-time decision and that he'll only play if he is unquestionably ready to go.
"(Woods) has been working hard and doing everything he needs to do to rehab and get better," said Dillinger. "We're hoping he gets well, but if he's not ready, he's not ready. We're not going to put him out there if he's not ready to go and can't play in a way that will help us and help the team, and we don't want to put him in a bad position either."
Whether or not Woods joins Roby and Smith as impact players forced to sit out tonight's game, one player who Graham believes could be the key to the outcome of the contest is Ackerman quarterback Dakota Brasher.
"How (Brasher) goes, they go," said Graham. "If you're able to defend him and the option game and take him away, which really nobody we've seen on film has been able to do, you're in good shape.
"He's one of those guys that if you judge him by the way he looks physically, you're not real impressed, but at the end of the day, he's a heck of a football player."
As for finding ways to slow down Eupora, Dillinger says he doesn't believe all of the Eagles' injuries will change the type of team that they are.
"Teams that are well-coached are going to run what they run," said Dillinger. "They'll run their system. They're not going to try to reinvent the wheel and panic. I'm sure there may be a wrinkle or two here or there, but we'll just go with what we see and that's really about all we can do."
Pelahatchie (6-2, 4-1)
at East Oktibbeha (5-2, 3-1)
East Oktibbeha dropped its first division game of the season a week ago on the road to Noxapater.
With that loss in mind, Titans head coach Randy Brooks feels tonight's 7 p.m. district home game against Pelahatchie carries much significance.
"It is very important," said Brooks. "I've been telling the kids all week that the true measure of a man is not how many times he gets knocked down. It's how many times he gets up. With that, we've had some spirit in practice this week."
Brooks hopes a solid week of drills leads to success against the surging Chiefs, who have won four in a row.
East Oktibbeha had won three in a row prior to last week's defeat.
West Lowndes (2-5, 1-3)
at West Oktibbeha (5-2, 3-1)
Since losing to Nanih Waiya on Sept. 16, West Oktibbeha seems to have found new life. The Timberwolves are currently riding a three-game winning streak, outscoring opponents by a total of 128-48 over that span.
West Oktibbeha head coach Adam Lowrey hopes to see his team keep rolling tonight in a 7 p.m. home district game against West Lowndes.
Lowrey says he believes his Timberwolves boast an intangible quality that bodes well for West Oktibbeha tonight against a West Lowndes team that has lost three in a row.
"I feel like we play well together, I feel like the boys love each other and it's just hard to beat a team that's together," said Lowrey. "I believe that's who we are. Of course, when you're talking about 15, 16 or 17-year old kids, they take it week by week and you don't know what you'll get sometimes."
Williams-Sullivan (0-8, 0-2)
at East Webster (4-4, 1-1)
East Webster will try to win back-to-back games for the first time this season tonight at 7 p.m. when they host winless division foe Williams-Sullivan.
Recent trends seem to point in East Webster's favor.
While Williams-Sullivan has struggled all year long, the Yellow Jackets have really scuffled as of late, surrendering at least 54 points in each of their last four games.
Conversely, East Webster is fresh off of its first district win of the year, a 28-0 triumph over J.Z. George last week, providing the Wolverines with high spirits.
"We stressed all week about how we needed to win (the J.Z. George game)," said East Webster head coach Doug Wilson after last week's win. "We got something positive going (last Friday)."