CATEGORY: FOL High School Football
HED:County line series continues at Okolona
By Wayne Clements
It may not mean anything to anyone outside of Shannon and Okolona, and there are those who think the two schools' football teams will play more important games this fall.
However, most of the players and many of the towns' residents, believe tonight's game pitting defending Class 3A state champion Shannon and annual Class 2A power Okolona is the biggest game of the year.
"I don't like anything about playing Okolona," Shannon coach Mike Scott said. "They've gotten to us more than we've gotten to them in the last 10 years. Their kids maybe get up more for us than our kids do for them."
"We're just seven miles apart," Okolona coach Buz Boyer explained. "A lot of the kids from both school districts live right across the road from each other on the (Lee-Chickasaw) county line. The kids take it pretty seriously."
There's a pretty serious difference in styles. Shannon, ranked No. 16 in the state by The Associated Press, has picked up where it left off last season, with quarterback Corey Johnson taking the place of All-America Romaro Miller and throwing the ball at every opportunity.
Red Raider running back Chris Lockeridge, overshadowed by the high-profile Miller last year despite a 1,000-yard season, hasn't missed a step, either. Lockeridge rushed for 203 yards and scored twice in Shannon's 32-6 win over Holly Springs last week.
"They just spread you out so much on offense," Boyer said. "You end up with a lot of one-on-one tackles and we're not tackling very well right now."
Running back O.J. Moore led the way for Okolona, ranked No. 5 in the Daily Journal Small School poll, in its opener, rushing for 120 yards on 15 carries. Lack of tackling something Okolona fans aren't used to seeing hurt the Chieftains in their 35-27 loss to defending Class 1A state champion Weir a week ago.
"Our offense played pretty good. A lot of times against Weir, we were in good position, but we just didn't wrap up," Boyer said.
Shannon's Scott wasn't satisfied with the Red Raiders' performance despite the lopsided win over the Hawks. Faced with big shoes to fill, Johnson still has some learning to do.
"We played well in some spots, but we turned the ball over too many times," Scott said of the Red Raiders' six turnovers. "There are just a lot of little things we goofed up on both sides of the ball.
"Corey's going to make a lot of improvement the first five games. He's going to make mistakes early he did that Friday but he improved as the game went on."
The Shannon-Okolona tilt isn't the only big-name game today. In Tippah County, it doesn't get much bigger than Falkner-Ripley, especially when the Eagles are coming off the happy end of a 45-7 rout of Booneville. Ripley will be trying to rebound from its season-opening 43-6 loss to Amory.
In Monroe County, Aberdeen has to travel to Amory for a meeting with the Panthers. Amory surprised a few folks when it used heralded running back Steve Griffin just seven times against Ripley. Junior quarterback Will Hall, making his first start, took up the slack by hitting 10-of-11 passes for 143 yards.
In other games today, Calhoun City (No. 4 AP, No. 1 Daily Journal) plays at Ackerman (No. 2 AP Little 10). Tupelo travels to No. 10 Louisville.