CRAWFORD – To kick off division play, East Oktibbeha and West Oktibbeha decided to give the fans in Crawford a show.
The game started as a blowout, turned into a shootout, and ended in a defensive struggle with West Oktibbeha coming out on top 29-20.
Timberwolves sophomore quarterback Von Smith led the charge for West Oktibbeha with four touchdown passes.
"I just want to thank the Lord and my offensive linemen," said Smith. "If it wasn't for them, I couldn't do what I do."
Smith was able to lead his team to a 17-0 halftime advantage in the cross-county rivalry game.
West Oktibbeha (2-1, 1-0) notched the evening's first points on an 80-yard completion from Smith to Dwight Quinn moments after the opening kickoff.
Before the quarter was over, Smith hit Josh Poe on a 30-yard strike to make it 14-0.
Pavious Lawrence added a 35-yard field goal early in the second quarter.
Down by 17, East Oktibbeha head coach Randy Brooks knew his Titans were in trouble.
"We're not designed to come from behind," said Brooks. "What I want to do is grind. I want to line up in our veer formation and just run right at people and grind and wear them down because we've got a big team. Having to go to a spread, we just don't have the talent to throw the ball around and have people catch the ball. We're just too thin for that."
Despite Brooks' feelings, the Titans clawed back into things in a high-octane third quarter.
East Oktibbeha (0-3, 0-1) opened the period with a 9-play, 76-yard drive, capped off with a 4-yard touchdown run from quarterback Chris Hunter.
After the two-point conversion made it 17-8, it took Smith just a minute and a half to lead the Timberwolves back to the end zone, this time hitting Quinn on a 21-yard pass.
The back-and-forth scoring continued throughout the period as Smith and Hunter's offenses dueled.
"One of the major adjustments we made to get back in the game was putting Monte Horsely at fullback," said Brooks. "If you can put a 268-pounder at fullback, that'll open up the passes for you because then they'll start crowding the line of scrimmage which is what they did."
West Oktibbeha head coach Adam Lowrey said he felt his team played much better defensively than in last week's loss to East Webster, but felt his defensive backs were the reason the Titans were able to put up such a fight.
"The (defensive backs) don't understand what the concept of man coverage is," said Lowrey. "They had tight ends in man and would let them go right past them and that's something we'll have to address in practice.
Despite the deficiencies in the West Oktibbeha secondary, East Oktibbeha never could quite get over the hump.
"The main thing I liked about it was when (East Oktibbeha) scored, I just thought to myself 'we're just going to go right back and score on them'," said Lowrey.
Neither team scored in the fourth quarter.
Brooks relied heavily on his ground attack to try and get the Titans in the end zone, but was unsuccessful.
After the loss, Brooks reiterated that he felt East Oktibbeha's best chance to win was running the ball.
"If I could find four receivers that we can throw the ball to, I'd love to do it," said Brooks. "But we just don't have that level of talent here yet. We're working on it."
Both West Oktibbeha and East Oktibbeha host games next week.
The Titans will play South Leake.
The Timberwolves, playing at home for the first time, battle Noxapater.
Lowrey says through his team's three games, he is still seeing plenty of room for improvement but says that's how it should be.
"I think if you play your best game middle season, it's not good for you," said Lowrey. "I think you need to improve each game. Tonight, we used what we learned last week to improve at the defensive end position. Next week, we'll improve the secondary position. We'll be fine."