The game between the White Station Spartans and the Whitehaven Tigers featured two teams on different roads in search of gridiron glory. The Spartans, who have not had great seasons of late, faced a prep football powerhouse hungry to match its past.
The Spartans entered the Friday night (Sept. 8) matchup with a two-game winning streak and the understanding that a win over the Tigers would send a message to the rest of the district. And while it was close, the Tigers, who now have a two-game win streak of their own, outlasted the Spartans 13-7 at Southwind Stadium.
The Tigers (3-1) missed the playoffs last season for the first team in over a decade. They are led by sophomore quarterback Jayden Thomas – who threw for 123 yards – and sophomore running back Christopher Talley. The duo looks to have what it takes to help propel the Tigers back to the top of the district.
“When you have a chance to extend leads, you have to take advantage of it,” Whitehaven head coach Rodney Saulsberry said. “Good teams that have players, one thing can happen and things can change. It is a blessing sometimes to get the win and a little adversity.”
The Tigers scored two first-half touchdowns to take an early lead (13-0). The first was on a 4-yard run by Nasir Lucas in the first quarter. The extra point was missed. The second touchdown was scored by Talley in the second quarter. He finished with 142 rushing yards.
“He has done a great job this season,” Saulsberry said of Talley. “He has developed himself into a great football player and he is only a sophomore. We are excited about what he can be.”
Whitehaven missed two field goals in the second half. Both kicks had distance, but each kick was wide left.
The Tigers’ defense only allowed 86 total yards in the game.
Coming off of a 2-8 season, White Station now is guided by head coach Teran Conley and already has matched last season’s win total. The Spartans’ defense has not allowed a team to score over 14 points.
The Spartans were more aggressive in the second half, with some strong running from Marty Stevens Jr. Although he only rushed for 20 yards, Stevens ran hard the entire game and scored in the final minutes from five yards out.
“I am trying to get him recruited,” Conley said of Stevens. “The scouts are looking at his size, but he is a workhorse. He is a workhorse in conditioning and in the film room. So, when he gets out (there) he only knows how to do it that way.”
After the hard-fought game, Conley said, “Our guys did not quit. Whitehaven is a good football team. Our boys showed that we are here to stay. We belong in 6A football. We will fight until the end.”
Conley said he needed to study the film to learn why the White Station offense was not able to get on track.
“I don’t know if it was us out of rhythm, or was the moment too big, or did we miss some things.”
Still, said Conley, “My boys did not give up. We couldn’t get anything going, but I didn’t see any quit. If we can continue to do that, we can rally the season. “
The Tigers’ kicking game showed some promise, kicking the football into the endzone all game long. Saulsberry said developing a field goal kicker as a weapon “is one of the things we have to work on. We have to get those field goals. Those are the kind of things that are going to win you a championship. Doing those little things.”
The theme for this season for Whitehaven is “To Restore the Roar.”
“We are roaring right now,” said Saulsberry.
On Friday (Sept. 15), Whitehaven’s Spartans travel to play the Bartlett Panthers. The Tigers will host the Houston Mustangs. Both games are set to kick off at 7 p.m.