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Horn Lake football coach John Cooley said the best thing to happen for his team so far this season is getting South Panola out of the way.
After suffering a 62-7 loss to the defending Class 6A champion to open the Region 1 schedule, Cooley's Eagles bounced back to defeat neighborhood rival DeSoto Central 24-17 to even their region record at 1-1.
Horn Lake's next challenge will be a home game Friday night against the Starkville Yellowjackets. Kickoff for the third region game of the season is set for 7 p.m.
Cooley knows for a struggling program that's 1-5 overall this season, any win is a good win.
"We're down some and had some people hurt, but the kids have come out and played hard," Cooley said. "That's about all you can ask."
With schools like DeSoto Central, Southaven, Hernando and Lake Cormorant located near Horn Lake, the talent pool is evenly distributed throughout the region which makes it difficult for the Eagles to compete on a consistent basis.
"Every time we line up against somebody, especially in our league, it's difficult to match up with them," Cooley said. "The schools that have been good for years continue to get pretty good talent, but those of us who have struggled, it seems we don't get as much talent.
"A lot of our good athletes went to Lake Cormorant when they opened that school and we've got Hernando real close. That's where we are so you've got to play with what you've got and do the best you can with them."
Cooley points to several players who are vital for Horn Lake to experience success, starting with his son, Mac Cooley, at quarterback. He has completed 84 of 168 pass attempts for 734 yards with three touchdowns and four interceptions.
The main target of Cooley's passes has been wide receiver Theo Summers has 28 catches for 232 yards, but Michael Adams caught two touchdown passes against DeSoto Central.
Coach Cooley said Nick Hopkins has done a good job anchoring the offensive line and has returned from an injury suffered against South Panola, while on defense, middle linebacker Manny Layva averages 13 tackles per game.
"We've got some athletes, but just not enough of them," coach Cooley said.
When it comes to playing Starkville, Cooley can see why the Jackets are 4-2 overall and 2-0 in the region.
"They have an outstanding football team," Cooley said. "They are very athletic and very aggressive with great team speed and good size. It's going to be interesting to see the top four teams in our league because there are some good football teams in our district this year."