By Bryan Davis
With the high school football season more than half over, conference play is bringing a playoff atmosphere to the air in every ball game.
The Oak Hill Academy Raiders (2-5; 1-0) are no exception this high intensity football that fans will see as the season rounds out over the next month.
This weekâ€™s match for Oak Hill is by far the most important one since their first conference game against Carroll, which they won. A second district win against Manchester (0-6;0-1) on Friday night would spell November football for the Raiders.
â€śItâ€™s our most important game of the year, no doubt,â€ť said Oak Hill head coach Leroy Gregg. â€śA win puts us in the playoffs. A loss puts us fighting to get in the playoffs.â€ť
With just two wins coming into this week, a high level of play during league action gives them a chance at a state title.
â€śThey knew before they left Friday night how important the Manchester game is,â€ť Gregg said. â€śIf we perform poorly, they know what thatâ€™s going to mean to us.â€ť
Oak Hill will be facing a Manchester team that has run into some misfortunes over the last month and a half. The Mavericks are winless under new head coach Benny McLendon, who is a familiar face to Gregg. He and Gregg played high school football together.
â€śThey have a different coaching staff,â€ť Gregg said. â€śHeâ€™s getting them to compete the way you need kids to compete now days. Thatâ€™s one aspect that will be different. There wonâ€™t be any quit in them.â€ť
On Friday night, the two friends will be on opposite sidelines, trying to keep their post-season hopes alive with every down.
A loss for Oak Hill would put them in a position where they would have to play a very good Winston team in the seasonâ€™s final week, to slip into the playoffs. The Raiders would much rather take care of business in Yazoo City.
A loss for Manchester would dash any hopes of a playoff berth. A win would put them in a position to where they would just have to beat Carroll the following week to get in.
The make-up of the two teams is similar, a the numbers will likely be close to equal. As far as opponents are concerned, Oak Hill had a tougher go of it in the first month.
â€śWe have one like opponent, and that is Indianola,â€ť Gregg said. â€śThey played Indianola a lot better than we did. They had some unfortunate things happen that led to that loss.â€ť
Manchester will feature one of the top players in the conference, in Matt Peaster, who was the districtâ€™s most valuable player last year.
â€śHe is a really good player,â€ť Gregg said. â€śHe was one of the best players in our conference last year. He competes hard, and he runs the ball like a tail back. He throws the ball well too.â€ť
Gregg says everything is on the line for both of these teams, which should prove to be a great Friday night match.
â€śTheyâ€™ve got us, and in a couple of weeks, they have Carroll,â€ť Gregg said. â€śYou can see a little hope there if youâ€™re Manchester.â€ť