Ashley hopes Chargers will continue to respond positively

Staff Writer

There was a question in Ben Ashley’s mind following a tough start to the Class 3A, Region 4 schedule when Houston trounced Choctaw County 54-21 two weeks ago.

Last season, it was clear how the Chargers responded as they finished the season with seven-straight wins and took home the regular season district championship. There would be no perfect district mark this season after that loss against Houston, so the second-year coach was curious how his team would recover after getting hit in the mouth first.

The Chargers recovered just fine with a big 26-18 road win over Aberdeen and moved to 5-3 this season and 1-1 in district play. Ashley said that the team came back exactly how he wanted them to following the tough defeat.

“It was really big for our kids because we took a loss and it was pretty handily," Ashley said. "We were minus several kids in that game and you’re not sure how they’ll respond. They came back with a great week of practice and won a tough game. It was very good to see and fun to be a part of.”

The Chargers now press on in district play hosting two of the final three games beginning with Nettleton Friday night at Dale Davidson Field.

While a district title could be out of the picture as long as Houston takes care of business on its end, Choctaw County does still have a chance for a first round host, which is a major advantage in the playoffs.

Ashley likes the trajectory of his team. The Chargers have been plagued with injuries at key positions but those players are beginning to get healthy and return. One of them is starting tight end and defensive end Tabias Merritt, who will be back Friday night.

The returning players should help Choctaw County continue to build out of that Wing-T offense where it has rushed for 1,778 yards and 25 touchdowns this season. A total of 14 players have carried the football this season with nine of those scoring touchdowns led by Rakeim Ashford and freshman Dicenzo Miller Jr., who each have rushed for over 400 yards for the year and a combined 11 scores.

If the team continues to get better, Ashley said there’s nothing that will stop the Chargers from reaching their goals.

“We’ve got to continue to get better every week and focus in on these last three football games," Ashley said. "If we win them, we’re playing a home football game in the first round. Nettleton is very much improved from last year and they’re way better on defense than they were a year ago. We beat up on them last year pretty good, but if I’m Nettleton, that’s a driving factor for me. I know they’re going to come in fired up and ready to play. We’ve got to match that.”

Ray Brooks at East Webster

Among the most improved teams in the area regardless of classification is East Webster.

The Wolverines were put out to pasture by some after a 51-0 blowout to Starkville Academy that took its record to 1-3. Since that time, they have won three of their last four games and are a win against Leflore County from finishing at least second in Class 2A, Region 2.

East Webster has two weeks to prime for that game on the road against the Tigers and it will finish off the home schedule with a couple of dangerous Class A teams. The first of which is a contender in the North.

Ray Brooks is making a two-week trip of Webster County and looking to pump itself up before a big division showdown with the apparently unbeatable Simmons. Ray Brooks is 6-1 and already 4-0 in its region play and the only loss on its schedule to this point was to Choctaw County in a 53-26 game.

For the season, the Tigers have outscored their opponents 254-81 and they will be no pushover for the Wolverines tonight. East Webster is hoping that its defense continues to play at a high level as it was impressive against Eupora and followed that up with two and a half strong quarters at Calhoun City last week before tiring out. Wins the next two weeks against quality teams will prepare the Wolverines for the final district outing and for a potential playoff run, but it won’t be easy.

French Camp at Ethel

The Panthers went through their annual Winston County gauntlet with losses to Nanih Waiya and Noxapater in two of three weeks and the pressure is on from here to finish strong.

Sitting at 2-2 in Class A, Region 3, French Camp has already gotten the top two teams out of the way and only Leake County has a winning record left on the schedule. The Ethel game comes at an opportune time as the Tigers are just 1-6 and 1-4 in district play coming into Friday night’s game.

The Panthers are hoping to get back to .500 and bring into focus where they could end up in the playoffs with Hamilton, Sebastopol and Leake County remaining on the schedule. They’ll continue to rely heavily on quarterback Holman Edwards, who has done it all for the Panthers with 695 yards passing and three interceptions on defense.