By Austin Bishop
The Winston County Journal
Sometimes things just don’t work out like you had hoped.
While Noxapater head football coach Justin Hunter was pleased that his team took a 28-12 win over West Lowndes on Friday night to win the Region 3-1A Championship to earn the No. 1 seed out of the district, the opponent his team drew is far from a pushover.
The Tigers will play host to perennial 2A power Lumberton, who just dropped to Class 1A, in the first round of the MHSAA Class 1A State Football Playoffs at Burton Field on Friday night.
“We didn’t get much of a present in Lumberton,” Hunter said. “They have been a 2A powerhouse for years. I think they are a lot like us and had some injuries. There is no way they should really be a number four seed.”
Hunter said every game would be a big one from here on out for his Tigers, and nothing less than a top performance each Friday night would be needed to advance.
“We have got to play a full four quarters, not turn the ball over and tackle better on defense.”
Defense is something Lumberton loves to play as well.
“They have been very good on defense,” Hunter said of the Panthers. “They will grind it out on you and try to make you make a mistake, then punt it to you and make you play against their defense.”
Hunter said Lumberton was a big-play team on offense, with good size and speed.
The Tigers may not have played their best game on Friday night against West Lowndes, but they did what needed to be done to secure the league title and the top seed in the region.
“We took care of business and did what we had to do,” Hunter said. “It was a sloppy game. I didn’t feel like we played as well as we wanted to play. We knew we had to win to win the region. We were just glad we got it done.”
Noxapater took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a 6-yard run by Justin Robertson and the first of four extra point kicks by Marshall Kugle. West Lowndes returned a fumble 44 yards for a touchdown to cut the lead to 7-6 after one quarter of play.
The Tigers, now 8-3 on the season, went up 14-6 at the half thanks to a 9-yard scoring run by Robertson.
Noxapater scored on a 19-yard run by Robertson and a 20-yard pass play from Tyrell Carter to David Parker in the third quarter to go up 28-6, before West Lowndes added a fourth quarter touchdown late to cut the final to 28-12.
Vonte Woods led the Noxapater offense with 201 rushing yards on 26 carries, while Robertson had 19 carries for 134 yards and Carter nine attempts for 71 yards. Carter also hit on 8-of-16 passes for 63 yards and a touchdown.
Trevara Miller led Noxapater defensively with nine tackles, while Parker had seven and Chris Johnson had six. Jarious Carter picked off a pass and had three tackles for the winners.