Olive Branch will not reach 10-win year
The Olive Branch Conquistadors came into 2010 having finished with double-digit victories for sixth-straight years.
With its 4-4 overall record and three games to go this season, that streak is going to end for Olive Branch.
The Conquistadors, who were 10-3 overall in 2009, are also currently in danger of not taking one of the four playoffs spots in Class 6A, Region 1.
Olive Branch and Tupelo are tied for fourth place in the region with 2-2 marks. That makes the Conquistadors' home game against the Starkville Yellowjackets at 7 p.m. Friday important.
Olive Branch football coach Scott Samsel, who has been with the program since 2006, said there's only one philosophy he stands by in moving forward.
"We are focusing first on ourselves and secondly on our opponent," Samsel told the DeSoto Times Tribune earlier this season. "We're working hard to put a good product on the field. The coaching staff and I are preparing our team with what has worked in the past and we won't vary from it."
As far as the region race, the Conquistadors and Golden Wave haven't played yet. Olive Branch has defeated Horn Lake 42-3 and DeSoto Central 38-0, but dropped decisions to Southaven 20-17 and South Panola 42-7.
The Jackets (5-3 overall, 3-1 region) are one of the teams in front of the Conquistadors.
Olive Branch beefed up the non-conference schedule with games against Cocoa High School, the No. 2 team in Florida, and Brentwood Academy, which has been a part of 10 state championships.
Samsel made the choice, along with his staff, "to stiffen the competition and to play top caliber teams," and admits the outcomes haven't always been pleasant.
"Our team has experienced every emotion you can experience," Samsel said. "It's disappointing to lose, but we are sticking to our decision.
"If you are trying to be the best, you must play the best. The better the competition, the players will rise to the occasion. You find out more about yourself in a loss than in a victory. When you get beat, every mistake is magnified."
Starkville coach Jamie Mitchell, who spent four seasons as the head coach at Olive Branch, understands the Conquistadors have lost to good teams in Cocoa Beach, Brentwood Academy and South Panola.
"Three of those four losses were to top 25 teams in the country," Mitchell said. "They also lost to Southaven in a close one. Don't let the record fool you. They are still the real deal."
Going into the season, Samsel was pleased with the offseason preparation from the weight room to speed development. He also said Olive Branch had more depth than they ever had.
Junior quarterback Todd Mays is one of those players who enjoyed an impressive summer in leading Olive Branch to a win in the Southwest Elite 7 on 7 camp that including teams from all over the south. He threw for over 1,200 yards last season and already has 1,001 yards passing this season.
De Arthur Cowan has caught 17 passes for 337 yards and four touchdowns, while Courtney Gladney has 18 grabs for 218 yards and two scores.
Gladney is the leading rusher for the Conquistadors with 383 yards on 73 carries and five touchdowns. Mays adds 208 yards on the ground on 83 attempts and four scores.