Charleston, North Side to vie for Class 2A North State title Friday at Coahoma Community College


On the strength of a gutsy 6-3 win over Calhoun City in the Nov. 22 quarterfinals, the Charleston High School Tigers improved to 10-4 and now stand just one win away from a berth in the program’s seventh state title game.

Standing in their way is a familiar foe: the North Side High School Gators, who improved to 13-0 after smashing East Webster 42-8.  East Webster had entered the quarterfinal at Shelby with a record of 11-1.

Charleston and North Side both compete in Region 3-2A, and during an Oct. 11 contest in Tiger Stadium, the visiting Gators snatched a 22-8 win that would ultimately decide the region’s hierarchy.

North Side ran the table to become region champions. Charleston was the runner-up, the Gators having dealt them their only region loss.

To punch their ticket to state, the Tigers must win the Class 2A North State title this week in a game scheduled to be played at James E. Miller Stadium, located on the campus of Coahoma Community College in Clarksdale.

CHS head coach Scott Martin said this opportunity is what his team has been fighting for all season long.

“I told our coaching staff and team, we didn’t care where we had to play, we just wanted to play for the North State,” Martin noted. “It’s been three years since we’ve been in this position, and this is where we wanted to be.”

After winning the program’s first North State title as a Class 3A team in 2005, Charleston did not make it back until 2011. But from 2011-2016, the Tigers appeared in six consecutive North State games. They won all but the 2013 match, winning a state championship in 2011 but losing their last four opportunities at statewide glory.

Martin said he does not view the so-called “rematch” with North Side as anything more than a means to an end.

“Rematch or whatever you want to call it, it’s not a revenge game,” he noted, downplaying a refrain embraced by many fans. “It’s the North State championship, a game you’ve got to play, and the [team] that makes the least mistakes and comes to play football that night is going to win.”

During their October meeting with North Side, Charleston was without two key contributors: senior defensive lineman Alfernee Hankins (who tied for the team lead in tackles last week) and senior outside linebacker Ronquavious Greer (who had a key interception against Calhoun City). Both were injured then but are full speed now. In fact, the Tigers have all hands on deck.

The Tigers gave up some big plays in that outing while managing to score only once themselves. Still, they held North Side to the Gators’ lowest point total of the season, and Charleston’s 8 points tied for the most scored against North Side in any game so far in 2019.

“We didn’t get anything going on offense,” Martin recalled. “I hope we can do better this week.”

Kickoff Friday night is at 7, and Martin said he anticipates a large crowd will be on hand.

“It’s Thanksgiving week and a lot of people are not playing,” he noted. “It ought to be a big crowd, and we need a big crowd of fans there.”

The winner will advance to the Dec. 7 state title game to face the South State winner, be that the Taylorsville Tartars (13-1) or the Scott Central Rebels (11-2). That game will be played at Taylorsville.

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This past week, Charleston escaped with a narrow win, sending Calhoun packing with a final record of 9-4.

“It was a very interesting game — in more ways than one,” Martin said.

Overall, the coach said his team played with grit and determination throughout.

“I thought both sides of the ball played very hard,” he noted.  “Our defense did an extremely good job, as they’ve been doing all year.  Our offense did pretty good.  We scored a few points passing and had one rushing touchdown called back.”

Late in the first quarter and early in the second, Calhoun City mounted a 10-play, 41-yard drive to the Charleston 13. On fourth-and-10, a pass toward the end zone was intercepted by the Tigers’ Markevious Prince, who practically snatched the ball from the intended receiver’s hands at the 1-yard line.

“That was a big play of the ballgame,” Martin said of the cornerback’s INT. “It was Markevious’ fifth pick of the season, and he’s gotten better each week on offense and defense. He definitely made a good play on the goal line.”

Three penalties, including a block in the back call on the interception return, pinned the home team deep in their own territory, where on third-and-6 the ball was fumbled by a runner and recovered by the Wildcats at the CHS 15.

The Charleston defense dug in. Three plays netted Calhoun City just 4 yards, and the visitors settled for a 28-yard field goal at 6:22 in the second quarter.

“Anytime you hold them to a field goal, that’

On the ensuing kickoff, the Wildcats’ kicker hit a short one that was taken in by Charleston’s Maquarious Kimble at the Tigers’ 43. Five plays later, Kristian Gammage found Anthony Harris open in the flat for what would be a 41-yard catch-and-run touchdown at 3:30 in the second quarter.

“They left the wide receiver wide open and Kristian found him,” said Martin. “They made a play out of it.”

A run for the two-point play was stuffed, but CHS led 6-3 at the intermission.

With 9:42 in the third quarter, Keyshun Cashaw ran for an apparent 44-yard touchdown, only to have the play wiped out on a block in the back penalty call.

“It was a great run,” Martin said of Cashaw’s carry.  “He read his blocks really well.”

In the fourth quarter, Dontavious Cashaw stuffed a Calhoun City running back for a 1-yard loss on a fourth-and-1 play at the Wildcats’ 45.  With 2:48 remaining, the visitors turned the ball over on downs at the Charleston 43.

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Statistically, Gammage completed 3-of-7 passes for 44 yards and one touchdown.  Harris had the 41-yard TD reception. Clay Taylor caught one for 5 yards and A.J. Wren caught one for a 2-yard loss.

Gammage led CHS rushers with 18 carries for 75 yards. Wren had six totes for 22.

Jamar Taylor topped CHS defenders with eight solo tackles and one assist.  Hankins had seven individual stops and two assists.  Enochius Harris notched seven solo takedowns and one sack.  Dontavious Cashaw added four solos and an assist, and Tyler Tellis had five individuals and one assist, according to defensive statistics made available Wednesday.

IN THE PHOTO: Charleston defenders take down a Calhoun City ball carrier Friday night.  The Tigers’ defense contributed another solid outing to a winning cause.  (Photo by Kelly Paris)