November 15, 2013 11:33:01 AM
Hebron Christian School waited three years for a night like Friday night.
While waiting to gain eligibility to play in the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Eight-Man Playoffs, the Eagles bided their time to get a chance to take part in a playoff game.
After taking advantage of their chance last week, Hebron Christian (8-3) will play an even bigger game at 7 tonight when it faces Sharkey-Issaquena Academy (12-0) in Rolling Fork in a semifinal round game. The winner will play next Saturday in Clinton for the state championship.
"We have a big challenge, but the kids are excited about the opportunity," Hebron Christian coach David Foster said. "We have waited a long time for this chance, so we are going to go and give it our very best."
Hebron Christian began playing Eight-Man football in 2011. The Eagles had to wait two years to become eligible to play in the postseason. This year, Hebron Christian took full advantage of the opportunity, winning a district championship.
In the opening round of the playoffs, Hebron Christian beat Delta Academy 26-20 in overtime in Pheba. It was Hebron Christian's first playoff win since an 11-man playoff win in 2008.
"The thing about this team is never they quit battling," Foster said. "They play hard the entire game every week. That is why good things have happened to them this year. This group has helped set a standard for the program."
Channing Tapley hit Andrew Myatt for a 10-yard touchdown pass in overtime to lift the Eagles to victory. Behind a balanced rushing attack and the passing of Tapley, Hebron Christian erased a 14-0 first-quarter deficit.
"There was a lot of enthusiasm stemming from being back in the playoffs and playing at home," Foster said. "We have a resilient group. They never get too high and they never get too low. It seems like there has always been a player or two step up when we need a play the most."
To secure the district crown, Hebron Christian defeated Kemper Academy in overtime and followed that up with a victory against highly touted Calhoun Academy. Foster has been amazed at his team's ability to make big plays in big games.
"I think we have been battle tested this season because we have faced some really good teams," Foster said. "When you win some games, it builds confidence. You can tell in the fourth quarter of these types of games we have a confidence because we have been there before."
Hebron Christian will need that confidence and big-play ability tonight. Sharkey-Issaquena Academy beat Hebron Christian 44-0 on Sept. 6 in Pheba.
"They have tremendous speed," Foster said. "We will have to maintain possession and do better with containment. They have the most speed of any team we faced this season, so we know it will be a challenge. However, we are looking forward to it."
Follow Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott.
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter
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