Choctaws Cap Off Up and Down Season With a Win / Charles Williams
Coach John Bland’s eighth season at the helm of the Choctaw football team saw plenty of ups and downs. The Choctaws finished at 4-6 on the season and 2-5 in Gulf South Conference play in their first full season since 2019.
The Choctaws opened the season with a Thursday night 24-0 loss to Albany State. Following week two bye, the Choctaws would bounce back with a dominant 63-0 win over Fort Lauderdale as the Choctaws put up 418 yards of total offense and allowed just 70 total yards on defense. The next week, their conference opener, the Choctaws suffered the aforementioned 31-28 loss to West Alabama as the Choctaws rallied from down 31-21 but were unable to complete the comeback.
However, they would bounce back the next week with a 42-21 road win at North Greenville. Quarterback DeAnte Smith-Moore hit on three of his five pass attempts including a 23-yard touchdown to Marcus Williams who also put up 93 rushing yards. The following week the Choctaws fell to West Georgia 40-21 as they were gashed through the air by quarterback Harrison Frost for 415 yards and 3 touchdowns.
The Choctaws, and especially the defense, would bounce back in a big way the next week with a 20-7 win at Shorter. The defense gave up under 300 total yards and was led by Zadok Esters with 7 tackles and Nicholas Walker who had an interception. The defense would carry that momentum into the next week, only giving up 13 first-half points to eventual GSC co-champ Valdosta State. However, Valdosta would open it up in the second half eventually winning 41-14.
At homecoming the next week the Choctaws faced the other GSC co-champion West Florida. The first half was a shootout, ending tied at 28. Three different Choctaws scored rushing touchdowns, and Sam Wilder hauled in a 30-yard touchdown pass from DeAnte Smith-Moore. However, the second half was all West Florida, and the game ended in a 63-28 loss.
The next week MC faced rival Delta State in the Heritage Bell Classic. The heated rivalry game did not disappoint as it was back and forth all game, and regulation ended deadlocked at 21. In overtime, the Choctaws would get the ball first but ultimately fumble before DSU kicker Connor Mantelli hit a 28-yard field goal to claim the Heritage Bell trophy. While they lost, multiple Choctaws had good individual performances, including Cole Fagan who ran for 131 yards on just 12 carries. This includes his 64-yard 4th quarter touchdown run. Jonathan Jones, Nicholas Walker, and Zadok Esters all had good days on the defensive end as Jones racked up 17 tackles and Walker and Esters both tallied an interception.
After that heartbreaking loss, the Choctaws ended on a high note with a 28-24 win at West Alabama. The Choctaws racked up 490 yards of total offense with DeAnte Smith-Moore and Marcus Williams both racking up over 100 yards on the ground. Their 4-6 record makes this Coach Bland’s second-best season at MC and second straight with 4 or more wins.