The start to the season was none too kind for Calhoun City.
The Wildcats began the season dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak, causing them to forfeit their first two games of the season before returning to action, only to drop their next four games.
The 0-6 start is a rarity for a program that has played for the Class 2A state championship seven times over the last 15 years, including last season, when it finished runner-up to Taylorsville.
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Their worst start since 1977 was remedied a little on Friday, as Calhoun City won its first game of the season with a dominant 30-6 win over Eupora.
Now, second-year head coach M.D. Jennings is starting to see signs of hope with this team.
“We’ve challenged the kids and told them we can’t use our youth or two weeks off as an excuse, but we've just got to step up and get the job done. And they responded well,” Jennings said.
City went back to the basics in its win over Eupora: a strong running game and a stingy defense.
The Wildcats (1-6, 1-1 Division 2-2A) totaled 240 yards and scored all four touchdowns on the ground, while limiting the Eagles to just 196 yards of total offense.
The offense is a slight change of pace for senior quarterback Jackson Lee. Lee sprung onto the scene as a nice dual-threat option for the Wildcats last season, but his arm talent has been put on the shelf most of the season and his legs have become even more of a weapon.
With only two pass attempts against Eupora, Lee took 19 carries for 139 yards and two scores.
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“He’s able to run the power-read stuff very well. It kind of puts a defense in a bind right there, not knowing if they need to tackle the running back or the quarterback,” said Jennings. “Having a kid like Jackson is a big bonus for us.”
Despite the string of losses to start the season, City’s defense certainly seems up to par for its standards. The Wildcats are allowing just 14.2 points in the five games of action.
With the newfound success on offense paired with this defense, Jennings sees a path for this team to a first-round home playoff game with two more division games left on the schedule, including a date with Bruce at home this Friday.
“When things go bad early in the season, it’s easy to start losing hope,” Jennings said. “I’ve told them to keep their heads down and keep grinding. Trust the scheme, trust your teammates, trust the coaches and play with discipline. If you can do that, everything else takes care of itself.”