On a beautiful night for football that gave every football fan fall fever, the Charleston Tigers (1-3, 1-0) defeated the Greenland Pirates (2-2, 0-1) 35-29 on homecoming night. The Tigers ended a three game losing streak to three 2018 state playoffs teams in Class 3A and 4A, all on the road. By defeating Greenland in the conference season opener, Charleston is now 1-0 in conference play, one game ahead of a very good Greenland team. Charleston joins Mansfield, Booneville, and Cedarville who all won opening conference games on Friday. Charleston travels to Cedarville next week. Cedarville defeated a very good Lamar team 24-21 on Friday night. Five teams will make the playoffs, and each conference win is big in qualifying for the playoffs and earning a higher seed in the opening round. Charleston not only ended the three game skid, but also placed themselves in a competitive position in the standings with respect to earning a state playoff birth.
Charleston once again fell victim to the big play on defense as the explosive Greenland offense proved it was all that it was built up to be. Greenland’s big play offense kept the Tigers defense on their toes for the entire night. But Charleston reduced the number of busts in the defensive secondary and continued to play physical run defense to lead the team to its first victory. Several Tigers playing both ways on offense and defense turned in iron man performances to defeat the Pirates.
After falling behind early, the Tigers clawed their way back to take a 15-14 halftime lead, their first halftime lead of the season. The game went back and forth until a forced turnover by the Charleston defense in the second half proved to be the difference in the game.
Facing a fourth and one inside their own territory, Charleston elected to go for the first down to end the game. A successful first down attempt with less than one minute to go would end the game as Greenland was out of time outs. But as another example of the intensity and the effort of both teams, the Greenland defense sold out and rushed everyone up the middle to stop the quarterback sneak of Tigers quarterback Brayden Ross. Coach Ricky May elected to try to end the game with the fourth down play. “I probably should have punted there, but the offensive line said they would get it. We didn’t get it. Could have gave up, but we tackle them in bounds…ball game.” The defensive stop gave Greenland one last chance to either tie or take the lead. With no time outs, the Greenland offense moved the ball to the Charleston twelve yard line but were unable to get out of bounds to stop the clock before time expired. The game ended, and pandemonium broke out on the Charleston sideline. Coach Ricky May and the Charleston Tigers had their first win of the season! After the game, a very happy Ricky May said, “Two good football teams, evenly matched, we made some mistakes early, could have capitalized, I felt like we could have been up 22-0 at half, but our kids came back when they had to with their backs against the wall. Kids did what they had to do to win the game.”
Charleston’s Shane Turner, among many Tigers, had a stand out performance on both sides of the line of scrimmage. “We had been playing him at guard because Nolan Harrington had been hurt. That kid (Harrington) I am really proud of; he came back this week, toe was hurt, practiced hard, played his butt off tonight, gave us the opportunity to move Shane to the backfield, that was big time.”
At first report, the Tigers also seem to have come out of the game without serious injuries or loss of availability for anyone next week. “I am pretty sure that everyone is OK and we may get one back next week.”
Friday night’s game at Alumni Field epitomized all the reasons why I believe high school football may be the most entertaining level of football. It is a game played by teenagers who, on most teams, will not play beyond high school. They are not on television, they are not paid for playing the sport, and very few people know them outside their communities, region, or maybe throughout the state. They just play for pride, the fun of the game, for their communities, and for each other. Watching these players respond to the adversity, the injuries, and disappointment of an 0-3 start after working all year to prepare for the season, was heart warming to anyone who remotely calls themselves fans of the game. The Tigers gave their all Friday night in front of their home fans. It was a proud moment for Charleston. Both teams played their hearts out. Greenland is a very good football team. They are very talented and they are going to win a lot of football games.
After a thrilling win last night, the Tigers can take today and enjoy what was a critical win and the most important game of the season thus far. But it will soon be time to go back to work to prepare for another tough conference opponent at Cedarville. Cedarville is a tough place to play, but this Charleston team is one of high character and toughness that has been forged in a tough non-conference schedule that challenged the Tigers to play away from home the entire first month of the season.
The Tigers are a resilient group. They will celebrate this win, but, they will once again go back to practice this week to prepare for their next game, and they will be ready to go when they play Cedarville. If they continue to bring the same intensity and effort that they have, especially over the past two weeks, they will once again find themselves in position to win in another crucial 3A-1 district game.
Coach May will be the first to tell you that this game was all about the players, and he is right. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Coach May on his first win as Charleston’s head football coach. I believe this win will be the first of many for May. He and his staff have done a masterful job of keeping the team together and keeping them focused on the prize of winning in conference when everything seemed so bad during the non-conference portion of the schedule. The players and the coaches deserve a lot of credit for the work they have put in as evidenced by last night’s victory.
Here are a few pictures of Charleston High School football homecoming 2019 at Alumni Field. Enjoy!