By Ruthie Robison The Winston County Journal
Last Friday night the Noxapater Tigers proved that they are the defending Class 1A State Champions for a reason.
Noxapater rolled out their seventh consecutive win this season against the Pelahatchie Chiefs, 52-20.
“Our guys were ready to play,” said Noxapater head coach Justin Hunter.
The Tigers and Chiefs both entered last week’s meeting as undefeated opponents in division play. Although the Chiefs were one of the toughest teams the Tigers have faced this season, that did not seemed to matter as the Noxapater offense exploded in the first quarter setting the tone for the rest of the game.
Noxapater quickly gained control of the ball and kept the Chief offense pressured. This is the largest margin Pelahatchie has lost by all year and only the second time the Chiefs have been defeated.
“[Pelahatchie] had a very good team and were averaging about 370 yards rushing and about 450 yards total,” said Hunter. “I felt like our defense was really ready to play [Friday] and offensively we played well.”
With 8:11 left in the first quarter, the Tigers stared scoring with a 20-yard keeper by junior quarterback Tyrell Carter. Noxapater took the lead over the Chiefs, 6-0.
On the ensuing kickoff return, junior Justin Robertson recovered a Chief fumble and four plays later senior running back Trey Baber made a run from the six-yard line.
Pelahatchie managed to answer back with 12:00 left in the first half of the game when Chief quarterback Darrin Sherman made a 29-yard scamper. Noxapater sophomore Jarious Carter blocked the PAT, but the Chiefs had still managed to cut the Tiger lead in half.
The Tigers began moving the ball down to field in an effort to answer back. Carter pushed his way through Chief defenders from four yards out for another Noxapater touchdown.
Later in the second quarter, the Tigers struck again. After the Chiefs fumbled a punt, Noxapater gained possession of the ball on the Pelahatchie eight-yard line. The Tigers pounced on another chance to score. Three plays later, Baber punched it in from the three. Marshall Kugle added the extra point and Noxapater had a 25-6 advantage going into halftime.
With an early lead to protect, the Noxapater defense made a stand in the second half of the game.
“We had four good days of practice,” Hunter said. “They knew what [Pelahatchie] was going to do; it was just a matter of stopping it.”
The Tigers took advantage of three turnovers on downs forced by the Noxapater defense and capitalized with scoring plays in the third quarter.
With 9:46 left in the third quarter, after taking over at the Chief 17-yard line, on the next play senior running back Keon Coburn made a dash to the end zone.
Later in the third quarter, the Tigers took possession at the Pelahatchie 21-yard line. Four plays later, Carter reached the end zone from four yards out. After the extra point provided by Kugle, Noxapater was ahead 38-6.
With just 23 seconds left in the third quarter, the Tigers gain the ball on the Chief 35-yard line. On the ensuing play, Baber took it 35-yards for another Noxapater touchdown. Kugle added the extra point for the Tigers.
Noxapater had an overwhelming 45-6 lead over the Chiefs. But Pelahatchie managed to score again with a 60 yard touchdown run, however, still trailed behind the Tigers, 45-12.
Noxapater capped their prolific scoring in the fourth quarter with 9:14 left in the game. Starting from their own 20-yard line, the Tigers began moving the ball down the field. Baber entered the end zone with a 46-yard run. Kugle added the PAT.
The Chiefs scored one final time late in the fourth quarter.
“I couldn’t be prouder of our guys, our coaches, our managers and our fans. It was a great atmosphere for high school football,” said Hunter. “Pelahatchie has a great defense and I felt our offense really executed great tonight.”
Baber led the rushing attack with nine carries for 116 yards with four touchdowns. Carter had seven carries for 55 yards with three touchdowns, while Coburn had five carries for 18 yards with one touchdown.
Carter was 11-15 through the air for 194 yards.
Robertson had six receptions for 120 yards while Anthony Brown had three receptions for 42 yards. Justus Barfield has one reception for 24 yards.
“Our [defensive] line played well, our linebackers flowed and our [defensive backs] stayed deep,” Hunter said. “Everybody did their job, and it was just a huge team win.”
On the defensive side of the ball, Robertson had 11 stops with one fumble recovery. Jacoby Lewis and Dustin McVay had nine stops each while Trevara Miller and Anthony Brown had eight stops each. David Parker had seven stops, two pass deflections and one interception.
The Tigers hold a 7-2 overall record and are 6-0 in division games.
This Friday night the Tigers travel to Maben to square off with the West Oktibbeha Timberwolves. This matchup will likely decide who will take the district title for the Class 1A, Region 3, District 4 division.
“We want to try to stop them and score. It sounds simple, but that’s what we want to do,” said Hunter.
The Timberwolves led by quarterback Von Smith and running back Tiberias Lampkin hold an 8-1 overall record and are 6-0 in district play.
“We’ll have to play as good as we did [Friday] to stay in the game. They are a good team,” Hunter said. “Their quarterback and running back are really good.”
The Timberwolves defeated the East Oktibbeha Titans last Friday night, 34-6. The Tigers will return to Leon Burton Field the following week to take on county rival the Nanih Waiya Warriors.
Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m. in Maben.