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By JOEL COLEMAN
Moments after East Webster was defeated 23-21 in a classic Class 2A playoff game at Calhoun City on Friday, there were plenty of 'what ifs' to go around.
What if the Wolverines hadn't committed a costly second quarter turnover that allowed the Wildcats the opportunity to cut East Webster's 13-point lead to 13-7?
What if Ledrick Patterson's 47-yard touchdown pass to Miguel Graham just before halftime hadn't been called back due to a penalty?
"You've got a chance to put (Calhoun City) away twice in the second quarter," said East Webster head coach Jimmy Carden. "We don't take care of the ball and put it on the ground and they come back and score. Then (the play before half) gets called back and that would have put us up two scores again. That's huge. That's the way the ball bounces I guess."
What ifs aside, there was one certainty as the Wolverines walked off the field Friday.
The magical ride that was the 2010 East Webster football season was now over, just two wins shy of playing for the golden ball in early December.
Instead of 14-0 and moving on, the Wolverines were 13-1 and going home.
"Everybody's hearts hurt right now," said Jimmy Carden. "It's a situation where you have 16 seniors and you don't want to end right here, you want to keep going. You'd be home next week for the North State championship."
Instead, there will be no Thanksgiving week football in Cumberland.
While the circumstances are undoubtedly disappointing, Carden, his staff, and his team, still have plenty to be grateful for.
"The kids had a great season," said Carden. "They did everything they could. They worked hard and just didn't have their best game tonight. Calhoun City had a great game."
The Wildcats had to be at their best to get past the Wolverines.
Up until Friday, none of East Webster's previous 13 opponents had even come close to halting the Wolverine freight train.
In the regular slate, East Webster's closest margin of victory was its 21-point, 35-14 win over South Pontotoc in the season-opener.
The Wolverines' only became more dominant in the ensuing weeks.
The defense paved the way for five shutouts in 2010 as East Webster averaged allowing just over 10 points per game.
Even with strong defensive play, the Wolverines greatest strength was perhaps its offense, led by quarterback Ledrick Patterson, fullback Timakis Bell, and running back Demetrius O'Briant.
Behind the threats of Patterson, Bell, and O'Briant, East Webster scored 557 total points this season, an average of nearly 40 points per contest.
Along the way, the Wolverines cemented themselves as the beasts of Region 2-2A by dominating county rival Eupora and thumping defending district champion Ackerman before clinching the division crown with an easy win over West Lowndes in the regular season finale.
Things didn't get much more difficult in the playoffs as East Webster notched relatively easy first and second round wins at home, getting past Bruce 35-20 and Kennedy 38-12.
That set up the showdown with the Wildcats, a matchup that had been eagerly anticipated for weeks.
"That's all we've been hearing is 'Calhoun City, Calhoun City,'" Patterson said after the Kennedy game.
Bell had heard the rumblings too.
"That's been the talk," said Bell. "You go on Facebook and everybody is talking about East Webster and Calhoun City."
Unfortunately for the Wolverines, they couldn't get over the Wildcat hurdle.
With East Webster trailing 23-21with 55 seconds left, Calhoun City's Tray Pratt hauled in an interception that halted the Wolverines' potentially game-winning drive.
While jubilation quickly turned to deflation for the entire East Webster family, Patterson was still able to find comfort in what he and the Wolverines accomplished since hitting the field in August.
"The only word that can explain (the season) is great," said Patterson. "This is the greatest year we've ever had in (Class 2A). Last year, we finished 7-7, and everybody said we weren't going to be anything. We just came out and showed everybody that we can play in 2A."