WEBB — With a win here Thursday night, the West Tallahatchie High School Choctaws will lock up a berth in the state playoffs.
The Choctaws will play host to the Coffeeville High School Pirates, with kickoff scheduled for 7.
“To be in this position, with a chance to go to the playoffs, we’re real proud of that,” said Choctaws head coach Shane Hargett, whose team got a late start practicing for the season and had to forfeit the first two games due to COVID, placing the program at a distinct disadvantage.
Still, in games they have actually played, the Choctaws have a 4-3 winning record and have put themselves in a place that the coach said he could not have imagined when the season began.
“When we started, if you told me then that we would be in this position the last game of the season, it would be outstanding,” Hargett said.
In Region 2-1A standings, Simmons (6-0 in the region) is champion, McEvans (5-1) is the runner-up and South Delta (4-2) is in third place.
The top four teams in each region earn a playoff spot.
Both West Tally and Coffeeville are 3-3 in regional standings, meaning that the winner of this week’s tilt between the Tallahatchie and Yalobusha county squads will claim the fourth and final postseason golden ticket.
The two teams also are 4-5 overall on the season, and the similarities don’t end there.
“Coffeeville and us are, basically, cookie-cutter teams,” said Hargett. “We do a lot of the same stuff, and they’re young like we are.”
With those shared traits in mind, the coach predicted, “Whoever has the least amount of turnovers and mistakes is going to win.”
Hargett said Thursday night’s game will be recognized as the annual Raphael S. Davis Memorial Classic, in memory of the former Choctaw athlete and Army National Guard specialist who was killed while serving his country in Iraq in 2003. Davis was from Tutwiler.
“It’s just become a tradition that we take pride in,” he said.
The regular-season finale Thursday also will be senior night, he added.
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In order to make this week’s game meaningful from a playoff perspective, the Choctaws first had to take care of business and defeat regional foe, the McAdams Bulldogs, in Attala County last Friday.
West Tally jumped out to a 22-0 second-quarter lead. It would have been 30-0, but a touchdown pass from Roddarius Moss to Ja’Quarius McGee was called back when a flag was thrown for an illegal lineman downfield.
McAdams clawed back, scoring just before the half and again in the fourth quarter, but the Choctaws held on for a 22-16 victory.
“Everybody did a good job, but we got a little tired and made some mistakes on defense, and I think we had a couple of turnovers on offense in the second half,” said Hargett.
The tone of the game was set from the start, as ninth-grader Issac Day took the opening kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown. Moss ran in the two-point conversion.
“Issac had a phenomenal game,” noted Hargett. “After taking the opening kickoff to the house, I think he had about 190 yards rushing. He carried us Friday night. It was his best game yet.”
Later in the first quarter, Day scored again, this time on a 25-yard run. McGee ran in the conversion.
The Choctaws found the end zone again in the second quarter to go up 22-0 before McAdams also scored to cut their deficit to 22-8 at the half.
The final points of the night were scored by the Bulldogs in the fourth quarter on a fumble return for a touchdown, followed by a two-point play.
“We had several great drives and turned it over inside their territory,” said Hargett.