Ackerman senior running back K.J. Woods (22) is healthy and ready to go in the playoffs. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
By JOEL COLEMAN
The Ackerman football team wrapped up a division championship last Friday night, giving the Indians the right to host a first-round, Class 2A playoff game tonight.
That doesn't mean head coach Adam Dillinger is ready to let his team get complacent however.
Prior to tonight's 7 p.m. contest against O'Bannon, the No. 4 seed from Region 4-2A, Dillinger has given a stern warning to his Region 2-2A champion Indians.
"Somewhere along the line there's going to be a No. 4 that beats a No. 1 this week," Dillinger said. "That means you better come ready to play. There's no do-overs at this point. If you come out, lay an egg and lose, the season's over with."
Such a result would be a less-than-ideal ending for an Ackerman team that rebounded from a 1-10 season in 2010 to go 8-3 this year, including a perfect 5-0 region mark, en route to the division title.
Yet Dillinger says his club understands their solid season means nothing now.
"We preach to the guys that everybody is 0-0 right now," said Dillinger.
While Ackerman's slate is essentially wiped clean, so too is O'Bannon's, who put together a 5-6 overall record in the regular season.
Dillinger said his club can't afford to be fooled by the Green Wave's losing record though, as O'Bannon has the potential to be a dangerous unit.
"They're really athletic," said Dillinger. "They'll be real run-heavy. They're fast on defense and can really run to the ball and tackle. They're a solid team."
Fortunately for the Indians, Ackerman can counter O'Bannon with a senior leader who is seemingly rising up at an ideal time.
In beating Hamilton last week to seal the division championship, Indians running back K.J. Woods, who has battled through injury for most of the season, bounced back to rush 42 times for 207 yards and five touchdowns.
Dillinger hopes Woods can keep things rolling this week and get plenty of help from his Ackerman teammates as well.
"(Woods) is finally getting back healthy and we're thankful for that," said Dillinger. "This is the time of year where your players have all got to step up and play their best and we're hoping, not only he, but everybody can do the same."
at South Delta (10-1)
In his many years of head coaching, Eupora's Junior Graham doesn't experience many firsts anymore.
Yet that's exactly what Graham gets to do tonight at 7 p.m. in Rolling Fork when Eupora faces South Delta in the first round of the Class 2A playoffs.
"I've never gone in (to the playoffs) as a No. 3 seed," said Graham. "When you go in as the No. 3, you better expect to play against a really good football team and that's what we're doing."
Graham says South Delta features an incredibly talented team with an aggressive defensive style.
To counter that, Graham hopes his team can build off of a 35-0 win over county rival East Webster in last week's regular-season finale.
"We played really well against East Webster," said Graham. "Hopefully we can carry a little of that down to Rolling Fork."
If the Eagles can keep things going, they can extend their season for at least another week, something that Graham believes is entirely possible if his team performs at its best.
"I think our kids understand that beyond a shadow of a doubt, we're underdogs the rest of the way," said Graham. "But we know, deep down, we're a pretty good football team as long as we limit our mistakes."
East Webster (5-6)
at West Bolivar (10-1)
East Webster begins its run in the Class 2A playoffs tonight in Rosedale facing West Bolivar at 7 p.m.
As the Wolverines prepare to go up against one of the premier teams in the state, East Webster head coach Doug Wilson says he knows his club has its hands full.
"It's a very big challenge ahead of us," said Wilson. "But our kids are up for it. Our seniors are excited they've got another week to play and we're just going to go down there, do our best and hopefully come out with a surprise."
An East Webster upset wouldn't be totally unprecedented.
In 2009, the Wolverines, as a No. 4 seed, went on the road in the opening round of the playoffs and upset then-Region 3 champion Coahoma County.
Wilson is hoping history can repeat itself.
"A couple years ago, it happened and we're not expecting anything less this time," said Wilson.
at West Oktibbeha (7-3)
Playoff seeding will be on the line tonight in Maben when Pelahatchie and West Oktibbeha meet in the final regular season game for both teams.
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Both squads enter the contest with 5-2 records in Class A, Region 3, meaning the winner will capture the district's No. 3 seed while the loser will settle for No. 4.
"Obviously you want to be the higher seed," said West Oktibbeha head coach Adam Lowrey. "Plus you never want to lose a game, even if it's just a jamboree. We want to win every contest we participate in."
Even with the Timberwolves' desire, Lowrey says defeating Pelahatchie will be a tall task.
"They've got a great running back and quarterback and they run the ball really well," said Lowrey. "Those two are the bulk of their offense and they are really fast."
Tonight's game kicks off at 7 p.m.