EUPORA – The Eupora Eagles defeated the Noxapater Tigers Friday night 37-12 to improve to 2-0 for the season in a game riddled with penalties and what was a defensive struggle early.
The game opened with a score by the Eagles when after only two plays from scrimmage, scored on a quick slant pass from sophomore quarterback Trey Pittman to senior wide receiver Derrick Jones that went for 55 yards and gave the Eagles an early 7-0 lead with 11:04 to play in the first quarter.
"I know he is going to run (Jones) route hard every time, run it hard," Pittman said. "I just got to look for him, make my read and he is there, I got to throw it up to him and he'll be there I know."
Noxapater went on to answer with a touchdown of its own when running back Trey Barber ran up the middle for 17 yards for the score but the extra point was blocked to make the score 7-6 with 6:57 left in the first quarter.
Following a score by both teams in the opening quarter, the remainder of the half was full of penalties by both sides and each of the teams' defenses buckled down to keep the score 7-6 at halftime.
Eupora ended with a total of nine penalties that totaled 65 yards and Noxapater did not fair too much better with a total of six penalties totaling at 60 yards in the half.
Eagles head coach Junior Graham said that it was very frustrating to see many drives stall because of the amount of penalties but took responsibility for the lack of discipline from his players.
"Frustrating, frustrating, frustrating," Graham said. "You know when you can't line-up right and jumping offsides, that's just self discipline and that's reflection of the coach to be honest with you."
However, in the second half, penalties were not an issue and Eupora was able to sustain offensive possession. Following a score by the Tigers halfway through the third quarter and obtaining their first lead of the game 12-7, the Eagles regained control on the ensuing kickoff. Sophomore Rusty Johnson caught a seam up the middle and took it to the house for 85 yards to give Eupora the lead for good 14-12.
According to Graham, the kickoff return was the turning point of the game along with the defense not allowing another first down for the remainder of the game.
"If ever one play changed the game, the kickoff return changed the game and then our defense just built on the momentum," he said.
The score was 21-12 in the fourth quarter following a 2-yard run by senior running back Vandy Smith when Pittman found Jones for a second touchdown pass connection for over 50 yards to blow the game wide open 28-12 following a three and out by the Tigers.
The Eagles followed with their final two scores in the fourth quarter after a snap went over the head of the Tigers' punter out the back of the end zone for a safety and a 3-yard touchdown run by running back Lamonte Salley.
Eupora travels to Winona next Friday night at 7:30 p.m. and Jones is looking forward to playing the Tigers considering he is from Winona.
"That's where I'm from and when we go down there, I want to win honestly," Jones said.