Eupora running back Vandy Smith tries to break a tackle against East Webster Friday night. (Photo by Richard Love, For Starkville Daily News)
MABEN â€“ The Eupora Eagles were far from winning a district title at the end of the 2011 season.
Friday night that all changed.
The Eagles beat the homestanding East Webster Wolverines 37-7 to win the Class 2A, Region 2, District 4 championship.
"It means a lot considering this team is coming off a 6-5 season last year," Eupora head coach Junior Graham said. "To be at this point, it's exciting. I'm proud for our seniors. We had some underclassman step up (Friday night) and play really big games. Anytime you can win a championship â€“ you better enjoy it â€“ because they are not guaranteed."
Coming into the game, there were a lot of different scenarios in play due to the fact that Eupora (10-1, 5-0), East Webster (8-3, 3-2) and Ackerman (8-3, 4-1) all had a shot at winning the title.
"We knew we had to win," Graham said. "It was no bones about it. If we lost by more than three points, Ackerman was going to be the division champion. If we lost by 11, we would go all the way to third. We had a great week of practice. Our kids were focused and they wanted this game."
Ackerman takes second place, while East Webster will be the third place team from the district.
Entering the second half, the Eagles held a 14-0 lead and were getting the football back. They took advantage of it.
On its opening second half drive, Eupora put it in the end zone. Quarterback Trey Pittman found Derrick Jones for a 28-yard passing score with 10:39 to go in the third quarter. A Justin Lewis extra point made it 21-0.
"The first drive after the half we knew if we didn't stop them, we were going to be in trouble," East Webster head coach Doug Wilson said. "We didn't. We worked on some things at halftime, but it didn't work."
East Webster didn't get much in its first possession of the third quarter and were forced to punt.
The Eagles got great field position and on the first play, Pittman went back to Jones, this time for a 29-yard passing strike to make it 28-0 with 8:12 to go in the third quarter.
Lewis connected on a 28-yard field goal and Javoris Draine ran it in from 11 yards to cap the Eagle scoring in the third quarter.
"It's the best quarter we played all year," Graham said. "We come out and we got the kickoff to start the second half. We were expecting an onside kick because they kicked into the wind. They kicked the ball deep and we got decent field position. We put together a drive, stopped them and then scored quick again."
Pittman was pulled after the third quarter due to a problem with his back, but they wouldn't need him.
"Trey was down on his back the entire ballgame," Graham said. "He gutted it through for almost three quarters. He played a whale of a ballgame."
Eupora struck early in the game with a Vandy Smith 7-yard score in the first quarter and a Lamontae Salley 12-yard dash in the second quarter.
The Wolverines got on the board late when Deangelo Liggins rushed it in from 7 yards out with 7:12 remaining in the game.
The Eagles have had a good regular season and Graham credits it to not having many injuries.
"We stayed healthy," Graham said. "The past two years we have been decimated by injuries. This year we have been healthy to this point. Our seniors have been focused. We have been solid in the kicking game."
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Eupora will be at home next week to open the Class 2A playoffs. East Webster will travel to kick off the postseason.