”The defense on both sides played well, they played hard,” said Okolona coach Jack Clark after the final horn sounded at the Battle of the Creek Friday night. “That was a ball game, an exciting game.”
The Toppers received to start the game and gained two first downs on a pass to J.J. Jones and a run from Damien Fields but a fumble returned possession to the Chieftains. The Chiefs couldn’t get the offense going and returned possession on the Okolona 22 yard line to set up Jones for a touchdown on the first play of the Houston drive.
The Toppers held their lead into the halftime break with neither team making much headway against their opponent’s defense. Okolona’s Rod Jones and Jay Collins had the first two of three Chieftain sacks on Houston QB Garrison Howell, but the Chiefs didn’t come out unscathed with Houston’s Nathan Smith dropping Okolona’s Tyson Eddie in the second quarter.
The Chiefs offense made their mark in the third quarter with Eddie and Dequin Babbit combining to keep the chains moving and Babbit completing the drive on an 18-yard run.
Okolona capitalized on a Houston fumble that put them on the Toppers’ 11-yard line late in the third. Eddie and Jacolbi Heard traded runs to halve the distance and Heard took the ball in the final six yards for the go-ahead TD. Babbit got the conversion run for the 14-6 lead.
The Toppers offense faced a maroon wall of defense on their fourth-quarter possessions, but the Chiefs couldn’t get into the red zone past the Toppers either.
With less than two minutes to go, the Toppers’ final possession ended with Rod Jones forcing a fumble and Jay Collins recovering and the Chiefs held the ball for the win.
Houston coach William Cook gave credit to the Topper defense and sees work needed on offense.
“The offense started off strong, moving well, but didn’t finish the game at all,” Cook said. “The defense played well all night.”
Cook wants the team to take the lessons learned from the early season and build on them for division play.
“We’ve got three weeks until division,” Cook said. “These games are important, they show us what to work on and what we need.”
Clark said his defense stepped up when they were needed most.
“In the second half they got more physical,” Clark said. “I’m an offensive-minded kind of guy, but the defense wins games. We talked about that on offense, when things aren’t going well to put it back on the defense.”
The Chiefs will have a long road trip to Blytheville, Ark., this Friday while the Toppers will host East Webster (3-0) on the home field.