Okolona Chieftains struggle to master execution before division games

By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal

OKOLONA – Similar to Baldwyn, the Okolona High School football team has difficulty scheduling games with schools of similar size.
“We’re playing teams two or three times bigger than us in terms of enrollment,” said Chieftains head coach Calvin Aldridge. “We only have around 100 male students in grades 9-through-12, and 42 of them are playing football. … We’re really a large (Class) 1A trying to play against three large 4As and one 3A.”
To put things into perspective, Okolona has 90-some fewer students than Division 1-2A foe Bruce, according to the reclassification figures released by the MHSAA last November.
Entering Division 1-2A play next week, the Chieftains, ranked third in the Daily Journal’s small school rankings, will have played Class 4A schools Houston, Amory and Itawamba AHS and Class 3A Nettleton through the first six weeks of the regular season.
The Chieftains currently sport a 2-3 record and are on their fourth quarterback. But as ex-NFL coach Bill Parcells would say, “You are what your record says you are,” and Aldridge isn’t necessarily putting the blame for his team’s three losses on playing bigger schools.
“A lot of it has to do with execution,” said the third-year Okolona coach. “We’re not executing well.”
The Chieftains fumbled 10 times in a 33-14 road loss to Houston on Sept. 2.
“We had problems with the center-quarterback exchange,” Aldridge said. “We’ve had problems at quarterback all around.”
Jordan Ivy, the starting QB heading into the 2011 season, has been banged up since the start of the season. His immediate backup was ruled ineligible and the third-string quarterback has since suffered a separated shoulder.
“We’re on our No. 4 guy,” Aldridge said. “We even put (running back) Fred Ward in at quarterback Friday night (against Amory). … These guys aren’t getting many reps. Some of these injuries occur during the week of a game (at practice).
“We have had to put a kid in on a Wednesday and try to rep him, and the consistency is not there.”
The Chieftains, who defeated Houlka and fourth-ranked small school East Webster to begin the season, host 4A Itawamba AHS this week before beginning division play at Hatley next Friday.
Their non-division schedule has certainly taken its toll. Aldridge said the large-school opponents often wear down his team during games.
“Hopefully, we’ll all get healthy before then,” the coach said about the upcoming division slate. “We need to get more consistency before division play starts.
“Hopefully, we’ll get some of this ironed out.”
john.wilbert@journalinc.com