By Brandon Speck
Some playoff scenarios are confusing, but this one is not. Calhoun City is at Okolona tonight – winner take all.
“It’s a big week. The kids are excited about it. I’m sure their kids are excited about it,” Okolona first-year coach Jack Clark said. “It’s been a while probably since Okolona has had an opportunity to win this division.”
The winner will win Division 4-2A, arguably the state’s toughest division.
If the Journal’s No. 3-ranked Calhoun City – which will have a home playoff game either way – wins and Eupora beats East Webster, No. 4 Okolona would fall from the top two spots and be on the road to open the playoffs next week.
No one expected Okolona (5-3, 2-1) to be here. But the Chieftains made their mark early, beating East Webster to open division play. After a loss at Eupora, Okolona won at Bruce in overtime.
J.C. Buchanan’s 5-yard run and QB Jacolbi Heard’s two-point run was enough as the defense stopped a tying two-point attempt.
Clark was a late arrival to Okolona. In August, he was still learning whole names. He knew the division was tough but never counted his team out – like most did.
“I knew they had a lot coming back, a lot of underclassmen, not a lot of seniors, but a good group,” Clark said. “I thought there was a shot. The games we’ve had success in is the games we’ve had three or four or five kids make plays in.”
Calhoun City has beaten the Cheiftains three straight times. The Wildcats (6-3, 3-0) haven’t lost in a month. Their only losses have come to larger schools, contenders Water Valley, Ripley and North Panola.
QB Chakel Gates has been a driving force, throwing for 1,057 yards and 11 TDs, and leads the team with 705 yards rushing. End Shaquille Wright and linebacker Steele Liles are the leading tacklers.
“Both teams are probably going to put in a few wrinkles, but this time of year, you go with what got you there,” Clark said.