By Austin Bishop
The Winston County Journal
Veteran Nanih Waiya head football coach Tate Hanna knew going into his team’s 42-25 win over Sebastopol last Friday night, that possessing the football was going to be important for his Warriors.
So, he decided to put the football in the hands of junior running back Jamarlo Smith; a decision that proved to be a wise one.
Smith carried the ball 43 times for 271 yards and three touchdowns as the Warriors weathered a storm from the homestanding Bearcats in the third quarter to take the crucial Region 3-1A win. The victory moved Nanih Waiya to 5-3 overall and 4-1 in league play. The region victory all but secured a spot for the Warriors in the MHSAA Class 1A State Football Playoffs that are set to begin on Nov. 15.
“We had to win that game to get at least the third or fourth spot in the district,” Hanna said. “It was a big win.”
Now the Warriors will try for a little more as they play host to county rival Noxapater Thursday night at 7, then visit French Camp Academy on Nov. 1. Both of those games will go a long way to sorting out the region seedings for the playoffs. NW will then close out the regular season by hosting West Oktibbeha on Nov. 8.
Nanih Waiya’s lone district loss came 39-0 to Pelahatchie four weeks ago.
“We played the best we have played all year,” Hanna said of his team’s effort against Sebastopol on Friday. “We controlled the ball on offense and just wore them down.”
Nanih Waiya jumped out to a 14-0 halftime lead thanks to second quarter touchdown runs of 2 and 18 yards by Smith and a pair of extra point kicks by Gentry Hodge.
Things got a little exciting for the Warriors in the third quarter as Sebastopol scored 25 points, but Nanih Waiya responded to the challenge and never gave up the lead.
“They never really were able to stop us offensively,” Hanna said. “We kept coming at them and did a good of answering them when they scored.”
After Sebastopol cut the NW lead to 14-13, Smith brook loose for a 37-yard touchdown run to make it 21-13, only to have the homestanding Bobcats counter to cut it to 21-19.
Dylan Dent, who Tate said had a solid effort running the ball to give Smith a rest in key situations, then scored on a 14-yard run to make it 27-19.
After Sebastopol cut it to 27-25 on a pass play at the end of the third quarter, the Warriors put it away in the fourth quarter on touchdowns runs of 31 by Dent and 14 by Stewart Ball.
Dent finished the night with 78 rushing yards on 10 attempts, while Ball had 13 carries for 59 yards and hit on 3-of-3 passes for 64 yards. All of his completions were to Isaiah Eiland. Hodge was also good on four-of-five extra point attempts.
Marcellous Grady led the defense with eight tackles, while Aaron Ellinburg had six stops and Peyton Jones intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble for the Warriors.
“I was a little afraid the team would be looking ahead to the Noxapater game, but they did a good job of taking care of business,” Hanna said. “Noxapater is loaded as far as talent goes and will be a tough challenge.
“Of course it’s always a big rivalry and we look for a big crowd,” he said. “We have to try and control the time of possession. There isn’t any doubt that Noxapater will put up some points. We just have to try and contain them when we get the opportunity.”