By Austin Bishop
The Winston County Journal
There could be a lot at stake when the Noxapater football team travels to Pelahatchie Friday night for a big Region 3-1A contest.
Both the Tigers and Chiefs are undefeated in region play and the winner of the 7 p.m. contest will emerge as the odds on favorites to take the league title and the top seed out of Region 3-1A for the MHSAA Class 1A State Football Playoffs.
“A lot of people are talking about it,” said Noxapater head coach Justin Hunter. “The kids kind of know it is a big one as far as the district goes. Last year we kind of caught them off guard so I know they have some payback on their minds,” Hunter said, referring to the Chiefs.
Pelahatchie, which is ranked No. 4 in MHSAA Class 1A by the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, comes into the game with a 5-1 overall mark and a 4-0 region record. The Chiefs’ only loss was 38-34 to class 2A Puckett in the second game of the year. Pelahatchie has wins over playoff contenders Nanih Waiya (39-0) and Sebastopol (35-21) to its credit. The Chiefs have yet to face French Camp, who they host on Oct. 18.
The Tigers of Noxapater come into the game with a 4-2 overall record and 3-0 league marks and are riding a four-game winning streak. Noxapater lost to Eupora 34-6 and East Webster 20-19 to open the season, but since that time have outscored opponents 149-19, including a crucial 20-13 Region 3-1A win over French Camp.
Hunter said his Tigers wouldn’t see a lot of surprises out of Pelahatchie when kick-off time rolls around on Friday night.
“They are one of the teams that just do what they do,” Hunter said. “They don’t change a lot of what they always do. “They keep pounding you and pounding you until you finally get tired of it. If it doesn’t work early for them, they just keep on until it works late. We have just got to pound back.”
Hunter said the Chiefs, who have five or six players who carry the ball for them on a regular basis, are heavily run-oriented.
Hunter said his Tigers entered last week’s open date with a few nagging injuries but expected his team to be mostly healthy by Friday’s kick-off.
After the Pelahatchie contest, Noxapater hosts Ethel on Oct. 18 and then makes the short trip to take on cross-county rival Nanih Waiya on Thursday, Oct. 24.