By Austin Bishop
The Winston County Journal
What was billed as a showdown for the Region 3-1A championship on Friday night in Pelahatchie became a blowout in the second half as the visiting Tigers of Noxapater used a 34-7 win over the homestanding Chiefs to catapult themselves into the Class 1A statewide rankings.
On Monday morning the Jackson Clarion-Ledger tabbed Noxapater as the No. 4 ranked team in its class. Now the Tigers — who are 5-2 overall and 4-0 in region play — have to keep their focus as they continue to tune up for the remainder of their regular season schedule and the MHSAA Class 1A State Football Playoffs that will begin in mid-November.
“We are going out there every day (on the practice field) trying to get better,” Noxapater head coach Justin Hunter said. “We are trying to get better for Nanih Waiya, Sebastopol, West Lowndes, Stringer, Cathedral, whoever we might have to play. Every week we need to come out with intensity and emotion like we are playing Pelahatchie.”
Hunter won’t have any trouble getting his Tigers focused when they make the short trip to Nanih Waiya in two weeks to take on the Warriors, but this week Noxapater has to take care of business at home against Ethel first.
The EHS Tigers are just 1-6 on the year with that lone win being a 40-6 victory over McAdams in the third week of the season.
While Noxapater had a 14-0 lead at the half against Pelahatchie, the Tigers really flexed their muscles in the third quarter as they built up a big lead before the Chiefs managed a touchdown in the final quarter.
“The kids had to face a little adversity early in the game, but they handled it well, made the adjustments and went out there and played well,” he said. “I’m very proud of them.”
Senior quarterback Tyrell Carter put the Tigers on the scoreboard on the first play from scrimmage for Noxapater in the game as he raced 38 yards for the touchdown. The score was set up by a long punt return by Justin Robertson.
The Tigers used a 55-yard touchdown run by back-up quarterback Keontae Daniels in the second quarter to take a 14-0 lead at the half. Daniels finished the night with 87 rushing yards on 13 carries.
Robertson — who ran for 165 yards on nine carries and had two receptions for 29 yards in the game — helped the Tigers break things open in the third quarter when he scored on runs of 65, 23 and 12 yards.
Avonte Woods had 11 carries for 53 yards for the winners, while Carter had 45 yards on three attempts. Defensively, Anthony Coburn had 11 tackles to lead the Tigers. Robertson had an interception and nine tackles, while David Parker was in on seven stops.
Noxapater leads the Region 3-1A race with a 4-0 mark, but there are four schools with one loss each. Those four teams play each other this week as 3-1 French Camp visits 4-1 Pelahatchie and 3-1 Nanih Waiya travels to 3-1 Sebastopol. Each of the four remaining teams in the region has at least three losses. The top four teams from each region qualify for the playoffs, which will begin on Nov. 15.
The No. 1 team in the state in the Clarion-Ledger MHSAA Class 1A rankings this week is Bogue Chitto, followed by Stringer, Mound Bayou JFK, Noxapater and Coffeeville.