October 28, 2010 12:22:00 PM
MABEN -- With a second-place region finish on the line Friday, West Oktibbeha High School football coach Adam Lowrey has provided the first piece of motivation material.
When asked how a loss to South Leake, which will visit Maben at 7 p.m. Friday, would affect the Timberwolves'' playoff chances, Lowrey responded: "It won''t. We won''t lose."
South Leake (7-2, 6-1 Class 1A, Region 3) will feel slighted by Lowrey''s exclamation, but the Timberwolves'' third-year coach always has displayed similar flair and confidence.
He has seen his team grow from one win in 2008 to this year, when at 6-3 and 5-2 in the region it controls it playoff destiny. But the Timberwolves have lost two of their last three games, including one to region leader Nanih Waiya and an eight-point loss to Weir.
After winning four straight league games, Lowrey said the team''s dip in form was minor in the two defeats.
"We still got a lot of kids on the team who are just coming into who they are," Lowrey said. "It''s a good molding process for them, teaching them how life really is. Sometimes things don''t happen the way you want them to. You gotta bounce back, regroup, and play harder. I think we''re playing much better."
Quarterback Von Smith has lit up 1A competition in Lowrey''s spread offense, leading the classification with 2,556 passing yards and 27 touchdowns. Timberwolves receivers average 18.31 yards per catch, and junior Dwight Quinn leads the group with 929 yards on 36 catches.
West Oktibbeha proved it could adjust when teams take away the pass, as it rushed for more than 200 yards against Nanih Waiya. Lowrey lauds the in-game response to adversity as a sign his young team is ready to make a playoff run.
"The only problem was 80 of them (yards) got called back on two touchdowns (against Nanih Waiya)," Lowrey said. "That''s the difference in the games. If you take away a couple of miscues there, we won. But, like I said, that''s where the growing up process happens."
Team captain Jeremy Brown believes the team''s miscues and slip in fundamentals will be easy to correct ahead of Friday''s game. Coming off a bye week and with the team healthy, Brown said the Timberwolves are focused on paving as good a road through the playoffs as possible. Winning their last two games is the only option, he added.
"It''s very realistic for us to think about Jackson (site of state title game)," Brown said. "To see us go out and dominate offensively all season and play defense the way we did against Nanih Waiya, it just shows me we''re becoming complete. We just got to focus on making everything better. You''re never perfect until you win the state."
Brown, considered the emotional leader of the team, had 19 tackles against Nanih Waiya. He leads the Timberwolves with 92 tackles, four sacks, and a forced fumble.
The Wildcats'' rushing attack accounts for 231.7 yards per game and is led by senior Dimitri Shepard, who has 503 yards and six touchdowns.
South Leake has sole possession of second place in the region but could fall into a three-way tie for second if it loses Friday night.
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