Choctaw County seeks to keep the edge in Class 3A, Region 4

Staff Writer

Choctaw County sits in the captain's seat atop Class 3A, Region 4 with three weeks to go.

The Chargers are 2-0 in the division and 5-2 overall thanks, in large part, to a resilient grind to overcome some early adversities against East Webster and Eupora. Choctaw County followed up a season-opening loss to the Wolverines with three-straight wins and then a loss to the Eagles with back-to-back home triumphs to start division play over Houston and Aberdeen the last two weeks.

Now, the real challenge begins. Two road games are on the way starting Friday night when the Chargers go to Nettleton (3-4, 1-1) and next week at South Pontotoc (7-1, 1-1).

Choctaw County coach Ben Ashley will find out a great amount about his team this week, but the preparation leading up to the game tonight has him feeling better.

“We had a good week,” Ashley said. “There was a lot of energy at practice and I attribute that to winning. When you win, everybody is in a better mood. The key is to reign in on that, but I was really excited about our week.” 
The Tigers of Nettleton might be hard to figure out to the naked eye. They started 2-0 before losing four-straight games to Booneville, Baldwyn, Amory and Aberdeen. Last week, however, they bounced back in a big way as Ken Topps’ team knocked off previously unbeaten South Pontotoc in a 43-42 thriller.

Nettleton does it with an explosive offense capable of big plays at any moment. As a coach that hangs his hat on winning on the defensive side of the football, Ashley has keyed in on Topps’ unit.

“You look at Nettleton’s season and they started off pretty hot and then lost a couple of games but they’re hot again after their win over South Pontotoc,” Ashley said. “They’ve got a frightening offense with big, athletic kids at skilled positions. We’re going to have our hands full.”

Ashley has no worries about his team if everyone plays fundamentally sound. The defense is second in the conference in scoring and has been sound all season. The offense has come on of late and become tough to deal with as running back Amerious Brown has emerged as a potential every-down back racking up 11 yards per carry and is fresh off of a near-200-yard performance last week.

“The key for us to win is simple," Ashley said. "We have to play great defense and take care of the football. If we do those things, we’ll give ourselves a chance to win. The games we’ve lost we’ve played good defense. (We) just haven’t taken care of the football.”

Most importantly, Ashley is hoping that his team is mentally prepared to handle the next three weeks and a potential playoff run. The Chargers have used an underdog mentality all season under Ashley and that mindset won’t change, but the reality is they are now the hunted.

With three weeks to go, Choctaw County can lock up the division with wins in each of the next two games. Ashley wants his team to have a business-like attitude the rest of the way.

“It’s part of the process in building a program," Ashley said of handling success. "That’s the next step that we have to take. We’re going to continue to play with a chip on our shoulder. This is a program that’s 5-years-old and relatively new to those around 3A so we’re trying to make our mark.”