Justin Williams looks to turn the corner for East Oktibbeha against Ethel on Friday night. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
CRAWFORD â€“ The East Oktibbeha High School Titans and the Ethel High School Tigers were teams fighting for their first win in the region this season.
The game was pivotal for the Titans, as this was the home opener of the 2012 football season. East Oktibbeha coach Randy Brooks talked with his players before the game to express the importance of this game.
"This is big," Brooks said. "This is our first game, and we need to start off strong."
The game featured two outstanding quarterbacks on both sides. Ethel signal caller Bobby Potts took over on offense in the first drive after Ethel recovered an onside kick fumbled by East Oktibbeha to open the play. Potts started the game completing his first three passes of the game, including his 17-yard touchdown pass to receiver Markie Johnson to put the Tigers up 6-0 early in the first quarter. The drive was the only drive in the first quarter to end with a score, and the first quarter ended with Ethel leading 6-0.
Turnovers seemed to be an early factor in this game as Ethel forced two turnovers within the first 6 minutes of the game.
Brooks has thoughts about taking advantage of the Ethel miscues.
"We have to capitalize on opportunities when they are presented to us," Brooks said. "We cannot afford to get down on ourselves if we turn the ball over. We have to keep playing."
Early in the second quarter, the Titans proved that they would not be easy to beat at home.
Justin Williams had his own impact on the game behind center for East Oktibbeha in the second quarter to show that Potts was not the only quarterback on the field that could play football. After a long offensive drive, Williams powered through the Ethel defensive line for a 4-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 6-6. Immediately after, the East Oktibbeha defense stepped up in a major way by stripping the ball from Potts and returned the fumble for a 12-yard touchdown by Dion Clanton. After a successful extra point, the Titans found themselves up by seven points with just less than 10 minutes left in the half.
Williams and Potts both scored later in the quarter, putting their respective touchdown numbers at two each. Williams ran a quarterback draw for 11 yards to put the Titans up by a score of 19-6. Soon after, on fourth and 10 from the East Oktibbeha 22-yard line, Potts connected again with Markie Johnson, showing his clutch passing abilities. The score at halftime was 19-12 with East Oktibbeha in the lead.
The lone score in the third quarter was a 5-yard run by Potts, making the score 19-18 in favor of the Titans. However, in the fourth quarter, turnovers yet again presented an issue for East Oktibbeha. The Titans began the fourth quarter by fumbling the ball, their fifth turnover of the night. Ethel then drove down the field, with the drive capped by a 3-yard touchdown run by fullback Taâ€™Boris Kimbrough. With 10 minutes left in the game, East Oktibbeha was losing for the first time since early in the second quarter.
The clock ticked down, and both teams were shut down on their next drives. Just when the Titan sideline was beginning to put their heads down, Williams showed why he is the leader of his team. He completed a 35-yard pass to receiver Juwan Roberts with just under 6 minutes to go in the game.
On defense, Lanathan Bell shut down the Ethel offense, forcing the Tigers to turn the ball over on downs with just over 4 minutes left in the game.
With a 25-24 lead, the Titans put away the Ethel High Tigers with an 11-yard touchdown run, his third rushing touchdown of the evening. After a successful two-point conversion, the game ended with a 33-24 victory for the Titans, improving their region record to 1-1.
Wide receiver Jermaine Gillespie had his own remarks on the win.
â€śIt was a big game and we wanted to win,â€ť said Gillespie.
The quarterback battle ended with a victory for East Oktibbeha. In regards to the win, quarterback Williams had simple thoughts.
â€śIâ€™m speechless," Williams said. "This was a great win.â€ť
The Titans play their rival, Lowndes County on the road next Friday. The Titans have played the first four games on the road, and will end their season playing four out of their last seven games at home.
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