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 week’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.
“It’s our most important game of the year, no doubt,” said Oak Hill head coach Leroy Gregg. “A win puts us in the playoffs. A loss puts us fighting to get in the playoffs.”
With just two wins coming into this week, a high level of play during league action gives them a chance at a state title.
“They knew before they left Friday night how important the Manchester game is,” Gregg said. “If we perform poorly, they know what that’s going to mean to us.”
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.
“They have a different coaching staff,” Gregg said. “He’s getting them to compete the way you need kids to compete now days. That’s one aspect that will be different. There won’t be any quit in them.”
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 season’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.
“We have one like opponent, and that is Indianola,” Gregg said. “They played Indianola a lot better than we did. They had some unfortunate things happen that led to that loss.”
Manchester will feature one of the top players in the conference, in Matt Peaster, who was the district’s most valuable player last year.
“He is a really good player,” Gregg said. “He 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.”
Gregg says everything is on the line for both of these teams, which should prove to be a great Friday night match.
“They’ve got us, and in a couple of weeks, they have Carroll,” Gregg said. “You can see a little hope there if you’re Manchester.”