By JOEL COLEMAN
MABEN – Lazerick Davis and Vandy Smith, make room in the Eupora backfield. Javoris Draine is ready to carry the football, too.
On a Thursday night in Maben that saw the Eagles head into halftime with just a six-point lead over West Oktibbeha, Draine's breakthrough evening on the ground paved the way for Eupora's 36-16 win over the Timberwolves.
"We gave (Draine) a little work this week because we knew going down the stretch, (Smith and Davis) are going to have to play more defense," said Graham. "We needed another back to at least give us a chance to keep moving the chains. Not only did he give us a chance to do that, he broke several tackles, ran behind his pads well, and protected the ball.
"He had a tremendous second half and we rode his rear end."
Draine finished the night with 124 rushing yards on 16 carries, including two touchdowns.
Draine's scores helped break open what was a tight contest at the intermission, when the Eagles (3-1) took just a 14-8 lead into the locker room.
"I told (my team) if we were in the game come the fourth quarter, we'd be able to pull it out," said West Oktibbeha head coach Adam Lowrey.
Draine and the Eagles offense made sure that didn't happen.
Eupora quarterback Jamal Roby got the Eagles rolling early in the third quarter, scoring on a short-yardage quarterback sneak on the opening drive of the second half, then converting the two-point conversion on a keeper.
After the Eupora defense forced a three-and-out on West Oktibbeha's ensuing possession, Draine polished off a 58-yard, 10-play drive with a 16-yard touchdown run, stretching the Eagles' lead to 29-8 after the extra point.
"We had too many mental mistakes was the biggest thing," said Lowrey. "Eupora was fundamentally sound and we weren't."
Complicating matters for Lowrey's Timberwolves was the inability of quarterback Von Smith to find any semblance of a rhythm.
Smith, normally a prolific passer, ended the night just 8-of-17 through the air for only 95 yards.
"We just worked real hard in the secondary," said Eupora cornerback Derrick Jones. "We knew they were going to come out and try to pass it deep a lot and we just kept working to stop it."
West Oktibbeha (2-1) didn't help themselves either according to Lowrey.
"Both of our opening drives in the third quarter, we were 1st and 20 both times," said Lowrey. "Penalties, that sort of thing. I think sometimes though, people's pride gets hurt and they realize they're not as good as they thought they were. But it's good for them. That's why football is a game of life, because you have your ups and you have your downs."
The positive moments came few and far between for West Oktibbeha most of Thursday night.
Aside from the inconsistent offense for the Timberwolves, running back/linebacker Shun Fair left the game in the second quarter with an ankle injury and never returned.
"It hurt," said Lowrey. "That's a two-way player for us. We lose one, that's like losing four people because they play every special teams play and then play both sides of the ball.
"It hurt, but I just told him we have a lot more ball to play in this season, so don't be a hero and come back (in the second half) and get hurt worse."
With Draine doing his thing, any contributions Fair could have given the Timberwolves might not have mattered.
Draine pushed across his second score with just over 3 minutes remaining to put the Eagles up 36-8.
West Oktibbeha capped the scoring with 1:29 to play when Smith hit Dwight Quinn on a 20-yard pass.
All of this came after a first half dominated by defense.
Eupora scored the night's first points when Roby found Jones on a 22-yard pass, then the Eagles stretched the lead to 14-0 in the second quarter on a 5-yard run from Davis.
Tiberias Lampkin scored on a 1-yard run for West Oktibbeha just before halftime to narrow the Timberwolves' deficit.
West Oktibbeha never found a way to get any closer however, as Class 2A Eupora put away its second Class A opponent this season.
The Eagles lost to French Camp in the season opener before defeating Noxapater in the following week.
Jones says, he's now learned there is plenty of tough football in Class A and he was proud to leave Maben with a win.
"(Class A schools) practice just like we do," said Jones. "We can't underestimate nobody."