When the Tigers rolled into Hillbillies stadium Friday afternoon, there could have been many reasons for gloom and doom. The Tigers were playing their third consecutive road game of the season and had yet to play at home. The previous loss to Dardanelle was a tough loss, both on the scoreboard and with the number of injuries that were mounting up. Heck, there was even a forecast of rain all day.
And now, the Tigers were about to face their second consecutive 4A opponent, ranked even higher than their last at Dardanelle. In short, a team of lesser character had every excuse to go into Friday night’s game and give less than 100% effort. Just go through the motions. Just mail it in. Any other cliche I can use for not having their heart in the game and just going in to get it over with.
But none of that is what Charleston Tigers football is all about. And it certainly isn’t what this team is about. Despite still having a significant number of players dressed in alternate black jerseys indicating their inactive status due to injury, the Tigers, with a few of their ailing players back in the lineup, went into Ozark and gave a gargantuan effort. Oh, by the way, the initial report after the game is good with respect to any injuries that may have occurred in this game. As of Friday night, it appears that no significant injuries were incurred in the game against Ozark which is very welcomed news for the Charleston players and coaching staff.
The final score was Ozark 27 and Charleston 7. But this was one of those games where the final score did not tell the entire story.
Charleston had another breakdown early in the game that allowed an Ozark touchdown. Another Ozark score was set up by a fumbled punt that gave Ozark the ball deep in Charleston territory. The offense moved the ball and drove deep into Ozark territory at the end of the first half. The drive stalled and Charleston was unable to convert the opportunity into points just before the half.
The defense, particularly the defensive line, played exceptionally well. The Tigers defense played hard-nosed, physical defense against the size and speed of Ozark’s running game. The Tigers defense produced a turnover in Ozark territory that eventually led to a touchdown.
There is never any satisfaction in a loss. You play to win the game. But for this team who has been faced with adversity since before the season due to multiple injuries, Tigers fans can take great pride in their team’s effort at Ozark. To anyone who attended the game, there was noticeable improvement with the return of a few players to the starting lineups. As even more players are anticipated to return next week, there is good reason for optimism as the Tigers enter conference play next week.
Charleston coach Ricky May was encouraged by his team’s effort Friday night. “We probably, maybe three plays in the game, if they went different, we would be right there and possibly be in a tie or go ahead. On defense, a couple of guys out of position a couple of times, and it cost us defensively. Second half, played our butt off. I thought our kids never quit, and that’s the exciting thing for me. It would be easy for somebody who is 0-2 to lay down and we never did. We’ll just start getting better Monday and get ready for conference.”
The Dardanelle loss was a tough loss. Coach May was very happy with his team’s response. “We still have seven starters out. I told them there was not a team in America that could play with seven starters out. But our hearts tonight is the reason we could have won this game. Defensive line has been there all year. But, Logan Binz, we asked him to start. He was on down in the depth chart two weeks ago, probably thought he would never start, stepped up big tonight. Made several tackles, caused several to be tackled because of his angles, and I’m really proud of that young man tonight. I felt like our offensive line played physical too. I think Brayden (Ross) may have been sacked once, maybe hurried a few times, but I thought they played really well. It’s basically the same kids playing both ways and they don’t come off the field. I thought that was a very good testament of their will.”
Charleston will return home next Friday to open conference play against the Greenland Pirates. Conference play has been the target for the Tigers as they have fought their way through a very tough non-conference schedule. The team hopes to have a few more players available for the conference opener. “Hopefully we get two more back next week, one in the secondary and a receiver, and that will be huge for us.”
The importance of next Friday night’s game with Greenland cannot be overstated. It is homecoming for Charleston High School, and will also be the first opportunity for the community to see the Tigers play at home. The next seven games, starting with Greenland, will determine the success of this season. A winning season in the final seven games will more than likely land the Tigers in the state playoffs.
This is a battle-tested team. They have faced more adversity in the first three weeks of the season than some teams will face in an entire season. And through it all, the Tigers have shown their toughness, character, and heart. It is very unlikely that the team will face more adversity for the remainder of this season than they have already.
Combine these characteristics with a team’s improving health and the return to full strength on the field and much happier times could be in store for the Charleston Tigers.
And one last thing. Charleston fans should pat themselves on the back for showing up Friday night in large numbers to support these players. The Charleston fan base too showed great character and loyalty to their school and their players. I am guessing that things are going to be a lot more fun from here on out.