November 10, 2013 1:29:39 AM
MACON -- The Noxubee County High School football team demolished Indianola Gentry 45-6 Friday night in the first round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 4A North State playoffs.
Running backs Eric Hunt and Shannessy Sherrod combined for five rushing touchdowns and 116 yards. Noxubee County coach Tyrone Shorter said the running game has been his team's calling card all season.
"We focus on running the football and playing good defense," Shorter said. "Sherrod is just a sophomore, and he is doing a great job for us. He is getting better and better. We know Hunt can run it, but we need him on defense."
Noxubee County needed four series to score its first points, but it adjusted and put the game away early.
The defense didn't get its shutout, though, as Josh Walker returned a kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown.
"That was the first kickoff we've had returned for a touchdown against us all year," Shorter said. "We will watch the film and go back and correct it. We have to be good in all three phases of the game."
Noxubee County held Gentry to -68 yards rushing and had several sacks that pinned Gentry back. Those stops led to short punts, which set the offense up in prime scoring position.
Hunt and Sherrod capitalized by playing smash-mouth football, snapping off short runs that led to longer runs. Hunt's performance was special for several reasons. Not only did he lead his team with two touchdowns, he also increased the margin so younger players could get playing time.
Hunt said Gentry came out in a different defensive set-up than Noxubee County expected. "The offensive line stepped up and took the challenge of the new set-up," Hunt said. "They blocked well."
Sherrod has an excellent model to learn from in Hunt, and followed the senior's lead flawlessly.
"Tonight, (Hunt) was encouraging me a lot," Sherrod said. "He helped me out a lot and gave me some good advice."
Noxubee County had a few hiccups on special teams. The Tigers missed several extra points and lost a few balls during punt returns. They weren't game-changers, but Shorter has a few concerns entering the next round.
"We've been playing great special teams all year," Shorter said. "We just have to watch film and make the adjustments we need. We have a different holder and long snapper, so we just need to go back and practice more on it."
Noxubee County will continue its hunt for a repeat state championship on Friday night against Ripley. Ripley shut out Pontotoc 31-0.
"It's going to get tougher and tougher," Sherrod said, "but we just have to take it game by game as we make our way to state."