By Ruthie Robison The Winston County Journal
The Noxapater Tigers defended their Cross Creek Rivalry trophy last Thursday night.
The Tigers hosted county and division rival, the Nanih Waiya Warriors, in a much-anticipated battle.
The previous week Noxapater had clinched the district title after a 57-6 win over the West Oktibbeha Timberwolves.
“We did a great job offensively and defensive last week,” Tiger head coach Justin Hunter said. “We held a team that was averaging 49 points and nearly 500 yards a game to 6 points and 126 yards, so we were really proud of our guys.”
However last Thursday, Noxapater was looking for a personal victory and to complete their season as undefeated in Class 1A, Region 3, District 4 action.
The Tigers and the Warriors took Leon Burton Field ready for an intense showdown.
Nanih Waiya began moving the ball down the field on their first possession. As the Warriors traveled deep into Tiger territory, Noxapater defensive back Austin Barrett grabbed a Nanih Waiya pass and gave the ball to the Tigers on their own 19-yard line. On the next play, junior quarterback Tyrell Carter connected with junior wide receiver Justin Robertson on an 81-yard pass. Noxapater gained an early lead, 6-0.
The Warriors struck back putting together a drive that brought them back into Tiger territory. Senior quarterback Luke Rosamond carried a keeper 19 yards for a Nanih Waiya touchdown. The Warriors had matched Noxapater with 6:05 left in the first quarter, 6-6.
The Tigers knew they had to retake the lead quickly in order to contain Nanih Waiya’s efforts for a victory.
Noxapater answered back on their next possession. Carter hit Robertson again, this time with a 20-yard pass. The Tigers had reclaimed the lead, 12-6.
“(Carter) made a great throw, and (Robertson) made a great catch. He jumped up over the (Nanih Waiya defensive back) and snagged it right in the corner of the end zone,” said Hunter. “It was a great individual effort by both of them, and a good job by the offensive line protecting for them.”
The second quarter featured the fierce Tiger ground assault as Noxapater added three rushing touchdowns before the half.
Carter dashed from midfield to the end zone for a Tiger touchdown early in the second quarter.
Shortly after, Noxapater began moving the chains. Senior running back Trey Baber made a run from two yards out to cap the Tiger drive. Noxapater added the extra points with 4:10 left in the first half of the game.
After forcing the Warriors to punt, the Tigers had another opportunity to increase their lead over Nanih Waiya.
A pass from Carter to senior wide receiver Justus Barfield put the Tigers on the Warrior 12-yard line. On the next play, senior running back Keon Coburn punched it in for a Tiger touchdown. Trevara Miller added the extra point.
Noxapater entered halftime with a 33-6 advantage over Nanih Waiya.
The Warriors forced the Tigers to punt for the first time during the game early in the third quarter. Both teams’ offense fell silent. However, Robertson made an interception in the end zone preventing Nanih Waiya from scoring.
The Tigers’ final scoring play was in the fourth quarter with 5:32 left in the game. Coburn made a run from the one-yard line. Miller added the point-after-touchdown.
The Warriors were able to reach the end zone once more late in the game, but it would not be enough to cut away at the Tiger lead, 40-14.
“Our kids have played well and I hope they keep it up,” said Hunter. “This was a great game and both teams played hard.”
Offensively, Baber led with 15 carries for 174 yards with one touchdown. Carter had five carries for 93 yards with one touchdown while Coburn had eight carries for 35 yards with two touchdowns.
Carter was 8-15 through the air for 168 yards with two touchdowns.
Robertson had four receptions for 117 yards with two touchdowns. Barfield had one reception for 38 yards. Baber had one reception for seven yards while Barrett had one reception for six yards.
On the defensive side of the ball, Jacoby Lewis had seven tackles, two assists and one sack. Dustin McVay had five tackles, five assists and one sack while Robertson had six tackles, one assist and an interception. Miller had six tackles and one assist.
The defending Class 1A champions finished their season with an overall 9-2 record and remained undefeated in district play.
“I’m hoping we’ll build a little bit more momentum,” Hunter said. “I feel like the second half we were kind of flat, but a lot of that was contributed by the Nanih Waiya defense and offense. Hopefully we’ll catch our stride and get going here in the playoffs.”
This Friday the Tigers will enter the first round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 1A playoffs.
Noxapater will host the Region 4, No. 4 seed Dexter Bulldogs from Tylertown.
“ (Dexter) is really athletic and very good with skill positions,” Hunter said. “They have a have a tall quarterback, about 6’5, and we’ll have to stop him.”
The Bulldogs hold a 6-5 overall record and a 5-4 record in district play. Dexter was recently defeated by Bogue Chitto, 32-12.
Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m.