By Austin Bishop
The Winston County Journal
You can’t always believe everything you hear.
“From what we had been told going into the game they were real stout on defense and were pretty basic on offense,” Noxapater head coach Justin Hunter said of the Lumberton High School Panthers. “That wasn’t the truth. They are real good on offense and were a big load to handle.”
Lumberton lined up in a two tight end power I set and used its power and strength to roll to a 48-35 win over homestanding Noxapater in the first round of the MHSAA Class 1A State Football Playoffs on Friday night.
“There is no way they are the fourth best team in their region,” Hunter said. “In fact it wouldn’t surprise me if they wind up in Jackson (playing for the state championship). Now I understand why they had all of that pre-season hype surrounding them. They are a good football team.
“They have been a strong 2A football program for years and Friday night they looked like a good 2A team,” he said. “They had the size and the numbers. They had some men out there.”
With the win Lumberton will now travel to French Camp Academy for one of the MHSAA Class 1A South State semifinals, while Hinds AHS will host Stringer in the other one. The winners will meet for the South State title on Nov. 29.
Jatarrian Clark rushed for 182 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries for Lumberton, while Ben McSwain had eight carries for 132 yards and two scores and quarterback Joe Arnold had five carries for 95 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Noxapater fell behind 20-0 in the game and trailed 28-14 at the half before scoring on their first possession of the third quarter to cut the Lumberton lead to 28-21.
“Our guys were really excited on the sidelines and we were back in the game,” Hunter said. “Then we had them on a third and seven and we had the runner hemmed up on the sideline but he broke loose for a long touchdown. That just took some of the wind out of us.
“But I will say this, our guys never quit. They kept fighting right to the end like they have all season.”
The Tigers, the Region 3-1A Champions for the second consecutive year, finished the season at 8-4.
Justin Robertson led the Tigers with 158 rushing yards on 16 carries, while quarterback Tyrell Carter — who left the game in the first half with a concussion — ran for 44 yards on seven carries and connected on all three of his pass attempts for 28 yards. Keontae Daniels rushed for 82 yards on 10 carries and hit on 3-of-8 passes for 28 yards and a score.
David Parker led Noxapater with 13 tackles, while Nick Strehle had 11 and Trevara Miller and Anthony Coburn recorded six each.
Noxapater’s second quarter touchdowns came on a 2-yard run by Carter and a 3-yard run by Miller. Robertson scored on runs of 17 and 60 yards in the second half, while Jarious Carter hauled in a 15-yard touchdown pass from Daniels.