August 25, 2009 12:33:00 PM
Adam Minichino - email@example.com
The Noxubee County High School football team stayed relatively healthy last season in its run to the Class 4A state title.
Things will be a little tougher this season in the Tigers'' quest to repeat.
Noxubee County High coach M.C Miller said Monday that senior wide receiver/quarterback/free safety Vincent Sanders will be out an undetermined length of time with a fractured jaw.
Sanders suffered the injury early in the fourth quarter of Noxubee County''s 30-0 victory against Starkville High in the season opener for both teams.
With the Tigers leading 30-0, Sanders came up to hit running back Billy Shed after an 11-yard reception on the right sideline. The hit left Sanders woozy and with pain in his jaw.
After spending a few minutes on the sideline with medical personnel, Sanders walked to the ambulance and was taken to the hospital. He returned a text message to Commercial Dispatch correspondent Logan Lowery just after midnight saying doctors couldn''t find anything wrong but set up a dentist appointment for him Saturday.
Miller said Monday that he wouldn''t know until today how long Sanders would be out.
"The good part of it is that it is the early part of the year and maybe we will get him back in the nick of time before we hit district play," said Miller, whose team plays host to Columbus at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Sanders, who is one of The Clarion-Ledger''s Dandy Dozen prep football players, was 6 of 9 for 123 yards and touchdowns against Starkville. He threw both of his touchdowns to senior running back Earnest Harmon.
Sanders also ran for a 3-yard touchdown and had only 5 yards rushing on eight carries.
Miller said at the beginning of the season that he wanted to try to keep Sanders at wide receiver. But an injury to sophomore quarterback Jared Johnson in the preseason forced Miller to go to Sanders, who has experience playing quarterback.
Sanders played the position two years ago after he hurt his elbow and was replaced by Termarcus Conner.
The move proved immediate dividends as Sanders caught two touchdown passes against Neshoba Central.
The decision to pair Sanders with senior wide receiver Patrick Patterson last season gave the Tigers one of the state''s strongest vertical passing attacks.
Sanders was a dual threat for the Class 4A state champions. The 6-foot-2, 190-pounder had 28 tackles and eight interceptions. He also had 23 catches for 505 yards and eight touchdowns.
Sanders'' biggest touchdown of the season came on a 52-yard reception from Conner in the second quarter of the Class 4A state title game against D''Iberville. The catch gave the Tigers a 6-3 lead that they never relinquished en route to a 12-10 victory.
Miller said Johnson is expected to play quarterback Friday and that other players will have to emerge to make up for what Sanders adds to the offense. He said Harmon is just one of several other possibilities to play quarterback.
"They''re going to respond and step up and do a good job," Miller said. "They know they''re going to have to play harder, and Jared is going to have to pick it up. That''s all there is to it. We always say we''re not a one-man team, and I think we still have other players we can depend on to do a good enough job. They are not Vincent, but I think they will do a good enough job."
Noxubee County plays at Murrah (Sept. 4), at Greenville Weston (Sept. 11), plays host to Class 5A West Point (Sept. 18), and plays host to Memphis Sheffield (Sept. 25) before it opens its Class 4A-District 4 schedule Oct. 2 at Kosciusko.
Noxubee County will face Louisville, which won the Class 3A state title last season and moved up to Class 4A into Noxubee County''s district this season, on Oct. 23, the next to last week of the regular season.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.