October 24, 2012 10:42:00 PM
Scott Walters - firstname.lastname@example.org
When Adam Lowrey took over as head football coach at West Oktibbeha County High School, he promised the Timberwolves would play in big games.
One such big game is on the docket Friday night. The Timberwolves face Noxapater in a battle of Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 1A, Region 3 unbeatens.
Kickoff for West Oktibbeha's senior night is set for 7 p.m. in Maben.
West Oktibbeha enters the contest at 8-1 overall and 6-0 in region play. Noxapater is 7-2 overall and 6-0.
Each team has secured a playoff berth. Neither has secured a first-round playoff game at home. The top two teams in the region earn those. Pelahatchie is waiting in the wings at 8-2 overall and 6-1 in region play.
"This is why you play the game for nights like this," Lowrey said. "I think the kids are very excited about the opportunity that is in front of us."
A year ago, the high-octane West Oktibbeha offense burst onto the scenes. The Timberwolves scored a bunch of points but gave up a bunch of points as well.
West Oktibbeha did win seven games and qualified for the playoffs as the fourth seed from Region 3-1A.
The Timberwolves managed five region wins but were unable to run with the region's elite, as the squad lost badly to Nanih Waiya (50-14) and Noxapater (41-6) and also lost to Pelahatchie (42-40).
The playoff run lasted one round as West Oktibbeha was bounced 43-8 to Cathedral.
Now being a year older and year wiser, the Timberwolves are ready to close the gap against the region's elite.
"I think the kids learned a lot from last season," Lowrey said. "The focus on detail has been better. We have a bunch of seniors, so they know this is their chance to really leave their mark on this program."
West Oktibbeha has won six straight games since a 41-10 loss to Eupora. The win streak moved to six with last Friday's 34-6 region win over arch-rival East Oktibbeha County.
"The team really came out focused against East," Lowrey said. "Sometimes coaches worry about looking ahead, but I thought we came out ready to play and responded to the challenge."
Tiberias Lampkin rushed for three touchdowns in the win. Lampkin has now rushed for 1,668 yards and 29 touchdowns.
Still, the Timberwolves have become a state title contender with improved defense.
A year ago, West Oktibbeha allowed 31 points per game. This year, the number is 15. East Oktibbeha was held to 77 yards of offense.
"We had to become a lot better on defense if we wanted a chance to beat the best teams in the state," Lampkin said.
East Oktibbeha (2-7, 1-5)
at Nanih Waiya (5-4, 4-2)
East Oktibbeha looks to break a four-game losing streak when the Titans travel to Nanih Waiya for another Region 3-1A contest.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. in Louisville.
The Titans dropped a 34-6 decision to county rival West Oktibbeha in their last outing. The recent slide has knocked the Titans from consideration for the Class 1A playoffs.
The East Oktibbeha touchdown was a third-quarter 40-yard pass from Jermaine Gillespie to Curtis Randal.
Nanih Waiya enters the contest on a five-game win streak. The Warriors nailed down the fourth playoff spot in the region with last Friday's 28-14 win over West Lowndes.
Nanih Waiya won last season's meeting, 47-6.
Presbyterian Christian (8-2, 4-1)
at Starkville Academy (5-5, 2-3)
Starkville Academy will be fighting for a winning regular season when Presbyterian Christian comes to town.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at J.E. Logan Field.
The Volunteers have already nailed down the second spot in Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class AAA, District 2, Division II. With this berth, the Volunteers will travel Nov. 2 for a first-round playoff game.
Starkville Academy dropped a 34-29 decision to East Rankin Academy last Friday night in a head-to-head battle for the district title.
The Volunteers battled back from a 28-7 deficit and actually grabbed a lead with 1:10 left in regulation time. East Rankin answered with a score of its own to steal the district title.
Colby Runnels led Starkville Academy with 25 rushes for 133 yards, with three touchdowns. Quarterback Drew Pellum rushed for 67 yards and added a score.
Presbyterian Christian can secure a Division I playoff berth with a win Friday night and a Jackson Prep win over Parklane Academy. The Bobcats have won three straight after a 24-7 loss at Jackson Prep.
PCS won last season's meeting, 21-3.
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter