By NEMS Daily Journal
NETTLETON – Kevin Austin had barely begun to enjoy the victory when the bad news came: Mooreville wasn’t going to make the playoffs this season.
The Troopers held off Nettleton on Friday night, 24-20, but they were eliminated from the Class 3A playoffs when Water Valley beat Winona, 31-21. Austin, Mooreville’s fourth-year head coach, heard that score while his players were still celebrating on the field.
“It kind of feels like we lost now,” he said.
Austin didn’t tell his players the news right away, choosing instead to let them enjoy the kind of win they’re not used to getting. It snapped a three-game losing skid.
Last season, Mooreville started 6-1 but lost four consecutive division games to miss the playoffs. This edition has shown a little more resolve.
“Says a lot about our kids,” Austin said. “In the past they’d have just went on and lost out. But they fought hard tonight and got another win.”
Mooreville (7-3, 1-3 Division 2-3A), which won its first six games this season, hasn’t made the playoffs since 2001, and never as a 3A school.
Things took a wrong turn at South Pontotoc three weeks ago, when the Troopers were upset in the division opener.
“If we’d have won that game, we’d be sitting pretty right now,” Austin said.
Against Nettleton (3-7, 0-4), Mooreville was led by junior quarterback Griff Loftis, who was 9 of 21 for 135 yards and three touchdowns. Sophomore running back Josh Johnson gained 126 yards on 27 carries.
Those two and several others will be back next season, and Austin thinks the program is ready to turn a corner.
“I think we’re headed in the right direction.”
Mooreville finishes the season next week by hosting Water Valley while Nettleton hosts Aberdeen.