When asked about the importance of tonight’s District 2A-4 clash against visiting Marietta, Tishomingo football coach Nic Claborn needed less than one second to formulate his answer.
“It’s huge,” he said.
Tishomingo is 0-3 in district play and must win its final two regular-season games to have a chance to qualify for the postseason. A loss tonight would virtually eliminate the Indians from the playoffs.
Matt Suffal’s Marietta Indians, at 1-2 in district play, have a little more room for error — but not much.
Marietta (2-4) snapped a three-game losing streak last week with a 42-21 win at Konawa.
That victory has Marietta well alive in the hunt for a playoff berth.
Marietta and Hugo (2-4, 1-2) are tied for the fourth and final playoff berth.
Marietta hosts Hugo on Oct. 23.
Marietta and Hugo trail Davis (3-3, 2-0) by two games in the loss column and co-leaders Kingston (6-0, 3-0) and Coalgate (4-2, 3-0) by three games.
Suffal wants his players to treat tonight’s game with a do-or-die mentality.
“We have to win this game,” he said. “We can’t afford to make one or two mistakes. If we want to compete for that third playoff spot, we have to play well, and the kids know that. No one wants to go to Washington in the playoffs.”
The defense set the tone for the Indians in their 21-point victory at Konawa (0-6, 0-2). Chris Campos and Jonathon Escobedo both returned interceptions for touchdowns on each of Konawa’s first two drives.
Marietta’s offensive line won the battle in the trenches and the Indians’ running backs plowed their way for 367 yards on 54 carries.
Escobedo and Campos found paydirt on both sides of the ball. In addition to his interception return for a score, Escobedo was the Indians’ top rusher. He totaled 125 yards on 16 carries with one touchdown. Campos gained 96 yards on 11 carries with one touchdown. The Indians didn’t attempt one pass.
For as pleased as Suffal was to see his Indians break into the win column for the first time in their last four games, he felt there was plenty of room for improvement.
“We feel pretty good about getting the win, but we didn’t play as well that day as we did in any of our losses, except the Lone Grove game,” he said. “They (Konawa) moved the ball more than they should have. We had breakdowns with the basic fundamentals.”
The effort the Indians made during the first two days of practice this week to address and correct the issues that plagued them in their win over Konawa has Suffal feeling much better.
“The last two practices have been some of the best that we have had all year,” he said.   
The experience that Marietta’s defense gained in playing against Konawa, Suffal said, a team that threw the ball “80 percent (of its plays) has the Indians well prepared for Tishomingo’s spread offense.
Tishomingo senior quarterback Zac Floyd will look to help the Indians offense get back on track after scoring 21 points in its last two games combined. Two weeks ago, Kingston held Tishomingo to 74 yards of offense.
Against Davis, Floyd threw for 209 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Senior Colten Walls caught six balls for 117 yards, and fellow senior Bo Cannon had six receptions for 81 yards. Junior Nathan Northcutt scampered for a team-high 90 rushing yards on 15 carries with two touchdowns. Christian Wright, also a senior, recorded 50 yards on 10 carries.
“It’s been kind of struggle on offense the last couple of weeks, and part of that has been the competition that we have faced,” Claborn said. “We’ve been kind of banged up at a few positions. But this week, we are healthy. We’ve had a really good week of practice. I’m proud of the kids.”
Tishomingo’s defense pitched a shutout during the second half against Davis and the Indians will look to carry over that type of performance into tonight.
The challenge for Tishomingo is to stay disciplined when defending against Marietta’s Wing-T offense.
“Defensively, we have to focus on making sure that we are staying at home,” Claborn said. “They run a lot of misdirection and we have to be good tacklers.”
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.