And the rival Northeast Tigers were a distant afterthought.
Time can change the perception and importance of any situation.
With an atmosphere and intensity worthy of any rivalry contest, the Indians shocked the No. 16 nationally ranked Tigers Thursday by grabbing a 28-18 victory.
“Turnovers, special teams, and being physical, were the areas I said we had to win before the game,” Itawamba head coach Jon Williams said. “I think we won those phases, and that’s why we won this game.”
Sure enough, Itawamba (4-4, 4-1) had an edge in all of those areas.
The Indians won the turnover battle 4-1.
On special teams, Itawamba converted one of those turnovers into a touchdown as Dan Huddleston of Fulton recovered a bad snap on a punt in the second quarter.
And from a physical standpoint, Itawamba running back Keon McGaughy slashed to 112 yards rushing against Northeast’s defense.
Itawamba and Northeast (6-2, 4-2) entered the game tied for second place in the North Division with one loss each. Now the Indians control their own playoff fate in their regular-season finale against Northwest (4-3, 2-2) next week.
“I’m not worried about the playoffs right now, I’m just happy to beat our rival,” Williams said.
Northeast certainly had a confident look when on their first possession of the game, as Tres Houston gathered in a pass from Corinth’s Park Frazier across the middle and turned it into a 56-yard touchdown. The second quarter saw Huddleston’s TD for Itawamba, but Northeast led at the half after a 34-yard field goal by Taylor Earhart.
The Indians put consecutive scores together in the third period on a 1-yard score by Canden Dallas from Pontotoc, and a 3-yard run by DeShawn McGaughy.
The Tigers pulled within 21-18 with 5 minutes, 15 seconds to play on a 1-yard run by Jamarcus Goodloe, but a Ryan Thompson interception iced the victory for the Indians.