By Austin Bishop
The Winston County Journal
The Warriors of Nanih Waiya High School my be channeling their inner Ric Flair when they open the MHSAA Class 1A Playoffs at Stringer High School on Friday night.
Flair, a professional wrestling icon, routinely said, “To be the man you have to beat the man.” That’s exactly the challenge facing the Warriors on Friday night when they face the defending MHSAA Class 1A State Champions.
“We know they are good,” NW head coach Tate Hanna said of the Red Devils. “They have their quarterback back and he is their bell cow — the one who makes them go. They like to run the football, but if you get too focused on that they will hit you with a pass.”
But don’t look for the Warriors to be doing much adjusting to their method of operation.
“We are going to keep our same game plan and try to eat some clock,” Hanna said. “We will have to have a Noxapater effort, a Sebastopol effort to win the game. We will have to play with a lot of heart and determination.”
The Warriors closed out the regular season on Friday night with a 47-6 home win over West Oktibbeha to improve to 7-4 overall and 5-3 in Region 3-1A.
“We started running the clock in the first quarter and were through playing by 8:45,” Hanna said. “That’s the earliest I ever remember being done with a ball game.”
The Warriors led 28-6 after one quarter of play with West Oktibbeha’s lone touchdown coming on an odd play after Nanih Waiya had built a 14-0 lead on touchdown runs of 8 and 57 yards by Jamarlo Smith.
West Oktibbeha snapped the ball over the punter’s head on first down, but the Timberwolves ran the ball down, and then scrambled down the field for the long touchdown to cut it to 14-6.
It didn’t take Nanih Waiya long to counter as Smith broke loose for an 80-yard touchdown run. The only thing to stop Smith on the night was the back of the end zone as he carried the ball three times for 145 yards and three touchdowns.
The Warriors build their lead to 28-6 after 12 minutes to play when Dylan Dent broke loose for a 73-yard touchdown run of his own. He rushed for 139 yards on three carries for NW, while Garrett Miles had four carries for 44 yards and Marcellous Grady five for 20.
Nanih Waiya took a 34-6 halftime lead on a 1-yard run by quarterback Stewart Ball and picked up third quarter touchdowns on a 13-yard run by Miles and a 2-yard run by Grady. Gentry Hodge was good on four extra point attempts for the Warriors, while Hayden Patterson ran in a two-point conversion.
Wyatt Ball caught one pass for 14 yards for Nanih Waiya on the night, but it was a costly one for the sophomore tight end as he suffered a season-ending knee injury on the play.