Falkner head football coach Nickey Nance said he enjoys coaching against Calvin Aldridge.
“They have a lot of good kids,” Nance said about Aldridge’s Okolona program. “He does a good job. The kids are doing a good job.”
Tonight’s 7:30 home game for Nance’s Eagles, however, isn’t just another non-division game. Rather, it’s his team’s Division 1-1A opener.
“The first four games are kind of for getting ready for the division,” said Aldridge, whose team is 2-2 on the season entering tonight’s game. “Now it starts.”
Other than playing on the road, Nance’s team perhaps couldn’t have faced a more difficult scenario to open up division play. First, the Eagles have to play an Okolona team that lost only once in the division last year – to Smithville, the team the Chieftains finished second behind – and is coming off a humiliating 61-6 loss to Aberdeen, the Daily Journal’s top-ranked Class 3A team.
“We turned it over too much,” Aldridge said about last week’s loss. “They had short fields for the first few drives. That’s not a way to start a game.
“We got too far behind and our kids started to hang their heads and stopped playing (hard). You always want your kids to play hard regardless of what’s going on. Towards the end of the game, our kids weren’t playing.”
Second, the Eagles will be playing without starting quarterback Kendrick Williams (separated shoulder) and center Caleb Rowell (sprained ankle).
“We’re not as healthy as we would like to be going into this,” Nance said.
The Chieftains do have concerns of their own. Middle linebacker Kasey Gathings (shoulder) will miss his second consecutive game, and the Chieftains will be facing a player that gave them problems last year.
Will Robertson, normally a running back, will play quarterback for the Eagles tonight. He completed 3 of 7 passes for 40 yards and a touchdown, while rushing 19 times for 100 yards, including a 62-yard gain, in last year’s 20-12 loss to the Chieftains. He was picked off once throwing the ball.
“They’re a good football team,” Aldridge said of the 1-3 Eagles. “They’re well-coached. Nickey (Nance) does a good job out there.
“Robertson is a good running back, and he sometimes plays quarterback, too. I know he gave us fits last year.”
On the other hand, the Okolona offense as a whole could give the Eagles some fits.
“They’re pretty good offensively as far as not being too one-dimensional,” Nance said. “They run the ball well and pass the ball well at times. They have a pretty balanced attack.
“Our biggest problem is pass defense, and I’m sure he’ll (Aldridge) go after us. Our run defense has been pretty solid.”
Despite Falkner’s losing record entering tonight’s game, Aldridge is still considering the Eagles a playoff contender.
“They were No. 4 in our division last year,” the Okolona coach said. “They are a playoff team. Our first (division) game, we’re facing a good team.”
Contact John Wilbert at 678-1572
John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal