By Ruthie Robison The Winston County Journal
Last year, only one Mississippi High School Activities Association team defended their title as State Champion. This year the Noxapater Tigers have their sights set on being one of the elite, few teams in the state to bring home back-to-back state titles.
For Noxapater, the road to get to Mississippi Memorial Stadium started last Friday in Maben. The Tigers met up with the West Oktibbeha Timberwolves. Going into the Friday night battle, both teams seemed evenly matched. However, the Tigers routed West Oktibbeha in an impressive fashion, 57-6, and earned the Class 1A, Region 3, District 4 title.
The Noxapater offense proved to be too much for the Timberwolves to handle.
And the Tiger defense gave an outstanding performance holding a team to six points in four quarters that had been averaging 46 points a game this season.
Noxapater continued to steam roll their opponent throughout the game. The Tigers defense attacked the West Oktibbeha quarterback, Von Smith, with a fierce pass rush creating two turnovers by intercepted passes. The Noxapater defense also recovered one fumble during their battle with the Timberwolves. The Tiger defense forced a total of six turnovers throughout the game.
While the Tigers collected opportunities to score, West Oktibbeha fell behind early going three-and-out on their first two drives. The Timberwolves tried to take advantage of chances to score, but the Noxapater defensive backs pressured the receivers and contributed to five dropped West Oktibbeha passes.
The Noxapater offense capitalized off six drives that started either mid-field or deep in Timberwolf territory.
West Oktibbeha was held to a season low of 136 offensive yards with 128 yards attributed to Tiberias Lampkin and his 21 carries during the game. Lampkin scored the only Timberwolf touchdown early in the third quarter on a 39-yard run.
Junior quarterback Tyrell Carter started the scoring in the first quarter with a 16-yard pass to junior wide receiver Justin Robertson.
After an onside kick by the Timberwolves, the Tigers pounced on another opportunity to score deep inside West Oktibbeha territory. A few plays later, senior running back Trey Baber made a run from three yards out increasing the Noxapater lead, 12-0.
The Tigers reached the end zone once more in the first quarter and took a 19-0 lead to the second quarter of the game.
Early in the second quarter, Carter found Baber with a 60-yard touchdown pass. Noxapater had a 25-0 lead and would add two more touchdowns in the second quarter.
By halftime, the Tigers had accumulated 37 unanswered points.
After Lampkin’s scoring run, Noxapater struck back with two Baber runs in the third quarter.
Baber capped a Tiger drive with a run from two yards out. On the next Noxapater possession, Baber made a 26-yard dash to the end zone. Marshall Kugle added the extra point, and the Tigers brought a 50-7 led to the fourth quarter.
The explosive Tiger offense finally began to slow down in the fourth quarter. Sophomore running back Chris Johnson capped the Noxapater scoring with a two-yard run followed by the point-after-touchdown by Kugle.
Carter was 15-23 through the air for 266 yards with three touchdowns while Baber led the rushing attack racking up four touchdowns.
The Tigers have an 8-2 overall record, 7-0 district record and have eight consecutive wins.
Noxapater will finish their schedule at home this Thursday night with another district showdown. The Tigers will host county rival Nanih Waiya Warrior who recently clinched a playoff spot.
After this week, the Tigers will host the first round of the Class 1A South half playoffs. Noxapater will take on the Region 4, District 7 team holding the fourth spot.
Cathedral, Salem and Dexter are all possible candidates of the Region 4, No. 4 seed. Friday night duels will decide which team will line up opposite the Tigers Nov. 9.
Kickoff this Thursday is set for 7:00 p.m.