Friday night, the 3-3 Charleston High School Tigers travel to Sarah, in Tate County, to play the 2-4 Strayhorn Mustangs, fresh from a 28-7 loss to Coahoma County last week.
The Mustangs have been outscored 105-7 in their last three outings, but Tigers head coach LaDon Taylor said his guys must stay mentally sharp and focused.
“They run the double-wing offense, which is something that if you’re not sound on the defensive side of the ball can hurt you,” he said. “Everybody has to do their assignment to be effective against that type of offense.”
Charleston returns home on Oct. 22 to face M.S. Palmer for homecoming.
— * —
Last week, the Tigers topped the previously unbeaten North Side Gators 26-22.
North Side fell to 5-1.
More importantly, the Tigers grabbed a key advantage against arguably their top challenger in the race for the Region 3-2A championship.
CHS and M.S. Palmer (3-3) sit tied atop the standings with a region mark of 1-0, and Charleston now holds the tiebreaker.
Taylor described his team’s effort in the win as “absolutely wonderful.”
“It was definitely a team effort,” he said. “I’m really proud of the guys for that.”
— * —
North Side had scored an average of 36 points while allowing 5 per game in five previous contests.
The Tigers were able to knock the Gators off-balance and largely contain their usually high-flying offense, allowing that unit just two scores.
“I thought we did a great job of game planning,” said Taylor, who because of an uncharacteristic open date Oct. 1 had two full weeks to prepare for North Side.
“We mixed in a few different coverages that I thought kind of confused them,” he added. “Sometimes, the way that you line up takes away stuff that [the opponent] likes to do, so our alignment was good and was something different that they had not seen.”
Taylor said offensive coordinator Kameron Myers and defensive coordinator Rasheed Berry were “in a good groove” with play-calling, and he lauded the entire coaching staff’s work as “great.”
Taylor also praised the Tigers’ play in the trenches.
"Everything starts with the offensive and defensive lines, and those guys performed really well for us,” he noted.
— * —
Charleston raced out to a 12-0 lead in the first quarter with two passing touchdowns.
Quarterback Rod O’Bannon hit Terrence Marco for a 14-yarder at the 7:20 mark, then connected with Markeviious Prince for a 26-yarder at 5:21. Both conversions failed.
Within a span of 1 minute, 24 seconds, the two teams combined for three second-quarter touchdowns.
North Side’s defense scored on a 60-yard fumble return at 10:11. The 2-point pass play was good.
The Tigers answered moments later when O’Bannon hooked up with Clay Taylor for a 73-yard catch-and-run touchdown. The PAT failed, but Charleston extended the lead to 18-8 with 9:47 in the second period.
The visitors answered a minute later, at 8:47, with a 33-yard touchdown pass and 2-point conversion run that cut the CHS advantage to 2 points, 18-16, a score that would stand through halftime.
The Tigers padded their lead when Prince capped a drive with a 1-yard TD run with 57 seconds left in the third quarter. O’Bannon passed to Maquarious Kimble for the 2-point play that gave Charleston a 26-16 cushion.
North Side scored on a 10-yard run at 9:04 in the fourth period, but CHS stuffed the 2-point conversion run try.
Lightning struck moments later after the Tigers, on the second play of their ensuing drive, fumbled the football and the Gators recovered at the CHS 31 with 8:10 left.
“Our defense could have very easily given up, put their heads down and let them score again,” said Taylor. “But nobody had their head down, and we just went back to work on the other side of the ball to get it back.”
The Gators ran for 6 yards, but with a relentless rush, the Tigers forced two pass incompletions and tackled the quarterback behind the line on fourth-and-4 from the 25.
The Tigers picked up the pieces offensively and mounted a seven-play, 38-yard drive that began with a 19-yard Prince run. He was the workhorse on the drive, carrying four times for all 38 yards. By the time Charleston punted on fourth-and-11 at the North Side 38, they had milked more than 4 minutes of game clock.
North Side took over at the 3:34 mark, but CHS dug in defensively and forced a turnover on downs at the Gators’ 35 with 2:02 showing, then ran out the clock.
— * —
Suffering from a high ankle sprain that has limited him in recent weeks, O’Bannon still completed 7-of-15 passes for 148 yards and three touchdowns and ran six times for 25 yards.
"He wasn't 100% healthy, but he was good enough to get through the game," said Taylor. "We're hoping that we can find some time between now and the first round of the playoffs to give him a little more of a break to get him as close to 100% as we can."
Taylor had two catches for 80 yards, Prince one for 26, Korvel Murry two for 18, Terrence Marco one for 14 and Quinterrius Suggs one for 10.
Corterrius Johnson led CHS runners with 13 carries for 68 yards, followed by Prince with 12 for 28.
Defensively, Quinterrius Goliday posted six solo tackles and two sacks. Mac Kimble had five solos, one assist and one sack. Jamichael Batteast added five individual tackles. Tee Edwards had two solos, two assists and one sack. Ezekiel Davis, Omar Wilson and Prince all tallied three solo tackles in the game.