West Ouachita head coach Mike Rainwater warned his players all week long.

Knowing Jonesboro-Hodge would be honoring two players that died in a fatal car crash earlier this summer, West Ouachita had to be ready to withstand an emotional punch out of the gate.

The Chiefs were not in a 41-20 loss to the Tigers.

“I told them all week,” Rainwater said. “Considering the circumstances, if we didn’t come out and play fast, it would be a long night. I wasn’t harping on it, but I just wanted them to understand the situation. So we brought it up throughout the week. They showed up ready to play in the first half, and we didn’t.”

Three first-half turnovers (four total in the game) certainly helped Jonesboro-Hodge pull off the Class 5A upset. Jonesboro-Hodge defensive back Devontae Mozee recorded two pick sixes for the Tigers in the win.

West Ouachita freshman quarterback Sam Ozark was 2-for-6 with the two interceptions.

“We had 50 more yards on offense and held them to 90 yards in the second half, but they showed up to play in the first half and we didn’t. That’s the bottom line,” Rainwater vented after his team fell to 1-1 on the year. “Ozark is a young pup right now, and he’s learning. He’s having to realize that he can’t throw it after they’re open. You have to anticipate the break. That’s something he’s having to translate coming from junior high to varsity. The speed of the game is just so much different. But I thought our guys just played flat. Throwing the ball wasn’t the issue. It was all the turnovers.”

Jonesboro-Hodge cashed in on those turnovers in an upset win that will have Tiger fans talking for quite some time. Head coach Terrance Blakenship told KMLB’s “The Locker Room” Saturday morning the seniors presented the parents of the fallen players gifts 10 minutes before the game. And once the game got started, he could feel their presence.

“I looked up and thought, ‘Those kids are watching over me.’ I didn’t tell the coaching staff or players or anything, but I thought, ‘There’s no way we could lose tonight.’ I felt it during the game,” Blakenship said.

West Ouachita’s Mike Hall rushed for 100 yards and two scores on 15 carries, while the Tiger defense did a nice job of containing Kohl Nolan, who had 42 yards and one score on 17 carries. Nolan added 66 yards on two catches in the loss.

“You better have a game plan for him,” Blakenship said. “Hey man, I had nightmares worrying about him after looking at film. He’s a game changer. We just loaded the box and dared them to throw the football.”

Though Rainwater was frustrated with how his team came out of the gate, he thought his team played much better in the second half. He also gave praise to Jonesboro-Hodge for rising to the occasion.

“Those players fit the bill. They are very athletic,” Rainwater said. “They play extremely hard, and I knew that going in. That goes back to me. Maybe I didn't get that across. I tried to express to our guys all week the situation and that they were perfectly capable of getting on us in a hurry if we don’t watch out. Athletically, it could get out of hand in a hurry with anybody. Not just us.”

West Ouachita will look to rebound at (2-0) Natchitoches Central Friday.

Award-winning sports writer for columns and features since joining the field in 2013. As the first-ever featured columnist of the month at Bleacher Report, Martin cut his teeth with online media before joining the newspaper business in 2014.

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