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Emeko Blakes Jr. of Horn Lake and Kris Luscious (32) of Columbus eye an incoming pass Blakes would eventually catch for a touchdown in the Eagles’ 47-6 victory last Friday. The Eagles travel to Oxford this week.

Some big games are on tap among DeSoto County football teams this weekend as the top two teams in the county face stiff challenges. Here’s how we break down the schedule with our Friday Five Football Things to Remember.

1. BATTLES AT THE TOP: First place in Region 1-5A and either the outright or shared number one spot in Region 1-6A are on the line in games at Olive Branch and Oxford respectively this Friday night. In Region 1-5A, Olive Branch hosts defending state champion West Point in a rematch of last year’s regular season game and North Half Championship contest, both won by the Green Wave. It’s the first time for West Point to head to Olive Branch to play since 2003, when the Conquistadors claimed a 27-24 double-overtime victory. The Green Wave have a 5-2 lead in the series, which dates back to 1982. The last Olive Branch victory was in 2004, when the Quistors won 21-14. The Wave and Quistors are the only two unbeaten teams in region play, so Friday’s winner will take sole possession of first place in the standings.

Meanwhile at Oxford, the Horn Lake Eagles play the Chargers with both teams among three squads having perfect 3-0 region marks. Horn Lake is also perfect for the year at 7-0, while Oxford comes in with a 6-1 record. Tupelo is also 3-0 and 6-1 overall and plays host to South Panola Friday, so either a two-way tie at the top of the standings or one team being all alone will be the result after Friday’s game. Horn Lake has dominated all seven opponents thus far, averaging just eight points allowed this season while scoring an average of 45.86 points a game. Oxford has scored 27.43 points a game on offense but has allowed an average of 20 points an outing, but the second-year 6A Chargers have won six straight after a season-opening loss to Starkville, 56-7.

2. COUNTY RIVALS GO AT IT: All-DeSoto County matchups this Friday night have Lewisburg at Center Hill in 5A and DeSoto Central at Hernando in 6A. The Patriots need a rebound after dropping its third straight game last week 35-6 to Lafayette. Lewisburg will also be looking to jump start an offense that has scored only 13 points in the three losses. Lewisburg has scored on average 17.71 points on offense, but has allowed 24 points a game on defense. Meanwhile, Center Hill got back on the winning track last week with a 14-0 victory at Saltillo, stopping a two-game losing streak in the process. The Mustangs score on average 17.13 points a game and allow 19.63 points a contest. Both teams are on the outside looking in toward a playoff spot, so Friday’s game carries great importance for both teams.

DeSoto Central will be trying to keep up with the frontrunners when the Jaguars travel to Hernando. Meanwhile, the Tigers are looking for something, anything, to go right in a year that has Hernando now on a five-game losing slide after two non-region wins to open the season.

That’s not to say DeSoto Central hasn’t struggled either, as the Jags have dropped two in a row and five of its last six. While the Tigers have joined Columbus at the bottom of the region standings, DeSoto Central is tied with South Panola and Southaven for fourth place and the all-important final playoff spot with only four weeks left in the regular season.

3. WE NEED A WIN! Southaven and Lake Cormorant could boost their playoff chances with victories this week; the Chargers at Columbus and the Gators hosting Saltillo.

Southaven joins South Panola and DeSoto Central in fourth place on Region 1-6A and has both of those teams yet to play, along with top-ranked Horn Lake at the end of the season. Meanwhile, Columbus is still looking for its first victory of the year after last week’s big loss at Horn Lake.

Last week’s 29-7 defeat at the hands of Tupelo meant first-year coach Eddie Stevenson’s Chargers have now dropped three of its last four contests. When Southaven has won this year, they have scored more than two touchdowns, including a 36-23 win at Hernando. In five losses, the Chargers could muster no more than 14 points each time.

Lake Cormorant can bolster their playoff hopes some with a win at home against the Saltillo Tigers, a winless team in the region that has won only one game this fall. West Point stopped a two-game Gator winning streak with a 47-7 victory last week, but Lake Cormorant has won three of its last five. A Friday win would be important because Nick Nester’s Gators still have to play Olive Branch and Lafayette before the season’s done.

4. HOW DO YOU STOP THIS GUY? Most of Tennessee prep football has been wondering that about running back and Michigan commit Eric Gray of Lausanne Collegiate (Memphis). That will be the challenge for the Northpoint Christian School Trojans when they host the Lynx in Southaven. Gray, who has already torched opponents for 1,328 yards and 21 touchdowns in six games played this year, is a two-time Mr. Football Award winner and enters Friday’s game with 7,016 yards and 105 yards for his Lausanne career. While the Trojans try to stop Gray and the Lynx, coach Chris Cascio’s team will be looking to find its first win of the year, coming off a 28-0 loss last week at University School of Jackson (Tenn.). Northpoint’s closest game of the year this fall came in week two in a 12-6 defeat to Independence.

5. BEACH TIME! Well, maybe not real beach time, but Magnolia Heights has this week off in preparation for the start of Mississippi Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) AAAA-2 division play next week. There are only three schools in the Chiefs’ district and they will start district play on Friday, Oct. 19 at home against Pillow Academy, followed by a trip to Washington School in Greenville on Oct. 26 to complete the regular season.

Bob Bakken is Sports Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.

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