By David Wheeler
Special to the Daily Journal
The simple part of the equation for the Itawamba Indians is that they travel to play the East Mississippi Lions today for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
The winner is the North Division champion and will host Gulf Coast in a first-round playoff game next week. The loser is the North second seed, and will play at Jones County.
The hard part of the equation for the Indians is that they travel to face the No. 2 nationally ranked Lions, who average 66.3 points per game on offense and allow only 2.5 points per game on defense.
Not so simple.
“The whole operation this season has been remarkable,” Itawamba head coach Jon Williams said. “Best team I’ve ever seen play in this league.”
The Indians (6-2, 4-1) are coming off a heart-stopping 36-33 victory over rival Northeast last week, while East (8-0, 5-0) downed Northwest 79-7. A season ago, Itawamba stopped a 20-game winning steak by East, defeating them 24-23.
“I think the staple of that team is their front seven on defense,” Williams said. “They apply so much pressure, it forces the quarterback to make bad decisions.
“If anyone is challenged for this game, it is our offensive line.”
Against Northeast, Mooreville sophomore quarterback Griff Loftis threw for 331 yards, while running back Tobias Lofton added 102 yards rushing.
The Northeast Tigers (3-5, 3-2) conclude their 2013 season today, hosting the Mississippi Delta Trojans for a 6:30 p.m. kickoff.
“It has been an uphill battle getting ready this week,” Northeast head coach Ricky Smither said. “We’re playing for pride.”
Northeast could also potentially tie for second place in the North with a win, though they lose all tie-breakers.
Delta (2-6, 2-3) comes in after defeating Coahoma 20-7 last week, their second win in three weeks.
Against Itawamba, Nettleton running back Corbin White bulled his way to 229 yards rushing, with quarterback Jerrard Randell adding 131 yards on the ground.