By Jay Tidwell/Special to the Journal
CALHOUN CITY – The team Calhoun City faced Friday wasn’t the same one it defeated earlier in the year.
The Wildcats dominated Eupora when the two played in September, but the Eagles were geared up for the rematch.
Trey Pittman was nearly perfect in passing, completing 10 of 12 for 171 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, to lead Eupora to a 35-13 win in the quarterfinals of the MHSAA Class 2A playoffs.
Calhoun City won their prior meeting (27-6) on Sept. 14, handing Eupora its only setback of the season.
“We thought we were good on Sept. 14, and that’s how we approached it,” Eupora coach Junior Graham said. “That (loss) changed this team’s total outlook. We drew from that loss. If it wasn’t for Sept. 14, we wouldn’t be here tonight.”
All three TD passes by Pittman, a sophomore, were to Derrick Jones, a 6-foot-3 senior who also had an interception on defense.
“We’ve gotten mentally stronger and are coachable,” said Jones, who has verbally committed to play for Ole Miss. “We want to take it to the North half now.”
The Wildcats (9-5) took the lead on the opening drive, capped by a 1-yard quarterback keeper by Chakel Gates. But Eupora (13-1) shut them down from there.
Taking the lead
Jones had a 65-yard scoring catch on the next possession, then gave the Eagles the lead with a 28-yard reception with 10 minutes, 31 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
“We beat them last time, but Eupora played hard and had a good game,” said Gates, a sophomore, who completed 13 of 20 for 110 yards, one TD and an interception. “We didn’t match up, and they came to play.”
Eupora added to its 21-7 halftime lead with a long drive to open the third quarter, going 72 yards and burning seven and a half minutes off the clock. The series was capped by an acrobatic catch by Jones, who pulled down a tipped pass with one hand as he was falling to the turf in the end zone.
The Wildcats added a touchdown midway through the final period on a 12-yard pass from Gates to Brieton Sykes.
“Eupora had improved and played a lot harder,” Calhoun City coach Perry Liles said. “They got touchdowns early from their good receiver, No. 3 (Jones), and they just played better.”