Tornado brings focus for East Webster

HOUSTON – If there’s any good to come out of last week’s tornado, it’s that the storm may have rejuvenated the East Webster High baseball players’ focus.
“We have really been playing well towards the end of the season,” Wolverines coach Wes Johnson said on Wednesday afternoon as his 19-6 team was preparing for their MHSAA Class 2A quarterfinals series with Mantachie. “We haven’t played that well all year, but we’re really playing well towards the end of the season.
“And that’s what it takes: who can hold out to the end, because it gets to be an endurance-type thing and who can stay focused.
“And this bunch right here – and I’m not sure if that tornado might have had something to do with it – but we seem to be really focused right now.”
That’s truly impressive considering that a tornado last Wednesday morning left them temporarily homeless in terms of having a school to attend and a field to practice and play on.
“I didn’t have any idea until about 5 o’clock in the morning (last Wednesday) that the school had gotten blown away,” Johnson said exactly one week after the storm rocked Webster County. “I knew there was some damage, but I didn’t have any idea it was that kind of damage.”
Tuesday was the first school day back for the East Webster students since last Wednesday’s early morning storm – and it happened to be at an old junior college in Mathiston that had been closed down.
“We had no idea where we were going to go to school until about Friday,” Johnson said.
As far as his team’s practices, the Wolverines have been working out in Ackerman, Houston and “pretty much wherever we can,” added the East Webster coach.
The Wolverines used Houston High’s field for Game 2 of their second-round series with Strayhorn and will play there again when they host Mantachie on Saturday for Game 2 of their quarterfinals series.
On Wednesday afternoon, the East Webster squad took a bus to Houston – a good 20 minutes away from East Webster High School – to practice.
“Everybody has been so generous in offering their facilities – our friends and cross-county rivals at Eupora, Coach (Danny) Carlisle at Starkville and even Coach (Sid) Burt at Bruce,” Johnson said.

Very fortunate
In the wee hours of last Wednesday morning, an EF-3 tornado touched down in Maben, the town in Webster County where East Webster is located.
“It did no damage to my house, but my phone started ringing at about 3 o’clock in the morning,” Johnson said. “Ty Hendrix, one of my pitchers and players, called me and asked me if we were OK and said that they had some trees come through their roof.”
Added Johnson, “We have quite a few players who had damage to their homes. We had nobody who lost their home.
“We had one of our players who was in a wreck during the storm, trying to get away from it. But, really, we’re all safe. We had some close calls, but none of our players were injured.”
Despite not having their own home field to play their second-round playoff series at, the Wolverines swept Strayhorn in two games, outscoring the Mustangs 31-1.
“The backstop, the scoreboard, all the fencing is gone,” Johnson said about the destruction the East Webster field received from last week’s twister.
So as Johnson and company count their blessings that last week’s tornado in Webster County didn’t lead to more losses of life – only one person was killed in the county – they will now focus on playing Mantachie, a successful program since Johnson’s high school playing days in the early ’80s at Cumberland High, which later became known as East Webster.
“I know they’ve got a good program,” Johnson said. “Actually, when I was in high school, we played Mantachie for the North half (title), and their (current) coach was playing for Mantachie.
“Coach (Scott) Collier was playing at Mantachie then. I thought that was kind of interesting.”

Contact John Wilbert at 678-1572 or john.wilbert@journalinc.com

John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal