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Eupora head coach Junior Graham comes into tonight's home game against Calhoun City with something he hasn't had all season: a bona fide starting tailback.
Since expected starter Steadman Rice went down to a broken leg in the Eagles' preseason jamboree, Graham has used a running-back-by-committee approach that has featured names like Deshawn Starks, Lazerick Davis, Vandy Smith, and Jeremy Wright.
Then, last week against Bruce, Starks made a huge step forward.
The senior ran for 230 yards and four touchdowns in the Eagles 40-28 win over the Trojans last Friday, and that has made all the difference in the world for Graham and his staff as they prepare to face the Wildcats tonight.
"It's really the first time this season since Steadman went down that we've gone into a Monday practice knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt who our tailback was going to be," said Graham. "We think Deshawn did a good job of solidifying his hold on that position last Friday. That made our practice continuity go together a lot easier than it has been being."
It will be interesting to see how the newfound consistency at the tailback position helps Eupora (3-1) against an intimidating Calhoun City defense.
Graham says the Wildcats' size on the defensive line could make life tough on Starks and the Eupora running game.
"They're really big across their front four," says Graham of the Wildcats. "They are hands down the biggest team we have played all year defensively."
Also on Graham's mind is finding a way to stop the option game employed by Calhoun City (4-0).
"That's always a concern for a coach," said Graham. "It makes your defense have to be a lot more disciplined."
Eupora's defense of Calhoun City's offensive attack will go a long way towards giving the Eagles' own offense more time to show off its newest weapon.
Still, Graham says Starks can't do it all himself.
"(Starks) practiced with a lot of confidence this week and the offense had a lot of confidence when the ball was going to be in his hands," said Graham. "But we've just got to have a couple more guys step up and do some things on that side of the ball. Then you're talking about being a little better diversified offensively."
Tonight's game kicks off at 7:30 p.m.
West Oktibbeha (3-1) at Thomastown (0-3)
Coach Adam Lowery's Timberwolves have proven to be quite the offensive force through the season's first four games, sparking West Oktibbeha to a 3-1 start.
The defense, however, hasn't been as solid, allowing an average of over 30 points per game.
It will be interesting to see how the Timberwolves' defense performs against a Thomastown team that has scored just six points all season, the lowest total in Class A, Region 3.
East Oktibbeha (0-4) at French Camp (1-1)
East Oktibbeha has yet to record a win since Randy Brooks took over just before the 2010 season kicked off. The Titans will get another chance to do so tonight against a French Camp team that East Oktibbeha defeated a year ago.
In last season's meeting, the Titans squeaked by the Panthers in a defensive struggle 6-0.
Defense may take a backseat tonight however, as French Camp averages more points per game (33.5) than any other team in Class A, Region 3.
Bruce (1-3) at East Webster (4-0)
Bruce was unsuccessful on the western side of Webster County last week, falling to Eupora 40-28. The Trojans will try their hand on the other side tonight against East Webster.
If recent history is any indication, Bruce could be in trouble.
The Wolverines have won every game this season by at least 21 points, and the East Webster defense hasn't allowed a point since August 27 against West Oktibbeha.
Winona (4-0) at Ackerman (1-3)
Ackerman looks to avoid its fourth straight loss tonight against the undefeated Class 3A Winona Tigers.
The Indian offense will attempt to keep up their momentum after notching a season-high 19 points in last week's loss to Houston.
Winona, led by former Ackerman assistant Ken Chandler, fell to the Indians 6-3 in overtime last year.