By Brandon Speck
When Division 4-2A was realigned, the four playoff teams were marked down: East Webster, Eupora, Bruce and Calhoun City.
Okolona? Nobody was talking about the Chieftains, the odd man out in the five-team division, one of the state’s toughest.
“These kids over here now, they expected to win,” first-year coach Jack Clark said. “They expect to compete for it. We haven’t even discussed it. The kids haven’t discussed it. We haven’t discussed it.”
Okolona trailed then-unbeaten, and the Journal’s top-ranked Small School, East Webster, 24-6 at the half before storming back to open division play with a win. The schedule already included wins over Class 4A teams Houston and Shannon.
The Chieftains (4-2) entered this week’s Journal rankings as the No. 4 Small School. Clark credits a lot of the team’s success to a balance on offense and an improved defense.
Senior quarterback Jacolbi Heard has gone from impressive playmaker to impressive playmaker and creator.
Heard had a touchdown through the air and one on the ground Friday. Another consistent weapon, back Dequin Babbit, scored on a run as well.
“We’ve thrown the ball well at times. We’ve run the ball well at times,” Clark said. “I think the balance has helped more than anything. I think people haven’t been able to crowd the box on us.”
All five linebackers returned for a defense that Clark says tackles well – especially one-on-one – and has had good play in the secondary. Also, the coach said, special teams has hit its stride the last three weeks. The defense is allowing 15 points per game.
Okolona has Friday off, before division road games at Eupora and Bruce. Calhoun City visits to close the regular season on Nov. 1.
“We’ve discussed how good every team in our division is and how it’s going to be a dogfight every Friday night,” Clark said, “but as far as where they predicted us, I don’t think our kids expected to finish at the bottom.”