October 13, 2009 10:08:00 AM
Adam Minichino - firstname.lastname@example.org
MACON -- Overconfidence never has been a problem for the Noxubee County High School football team.
Instead of talking about what they''re going to do, the Tigers rely on a swarming defense that is lightning quick and an offense that can strike from anywhere at anytime to produce results.
The return of senior wide receiver/quarterback Vincent Sanders from a broken jaw last week figures to give the Tigers the missing piece that could help them defend their Class 4A state title.
But senior running back Earnest Harmon has been around long enough to know the Tigers have to remain focused and can''t rely on one person to help make their championship dreams come true again.
"We don''t get overconfident because our main thing is staying humble," Harmon said. "We preach that 24-7. We can''t live off last year. I know we have Vincent back, and he is a great player, but we also have to understand we have to take it one game at a time."
And while it was nice to see Sanders score two touchdowns last week in a 38-0 victory against Kosciusko, Harmon said the Tigers need to deliver complete team efforts the rest of the season.
Harmon and the Tigers will try to do that at 7 tonight when they play host to Amory in a Class 4A, Region 4, District matchup.
Noxubee County (6-1, 1-0 district) knows it can''t look past Amory or Houston, its opponent next week, to its Oct. 23 showdown against Louisville.
Many believe that game will determine the district champion. There also is bound to be plenty of talk from Noxubee County fans who believe their team is set now that Sanders, who injured his jaw Aug. 21 in the season opener against Starkville High and missed five games, has returned.
But Harmon, who filled in at quarterback in the Tigers'' loss against West Point, knows it''s not that simple.
"We have a lot of work to do to get back to Jackson," Harmon said. "We just have to get serious about it and keep working hard on it and we should be all right."
Harmon said the upperclassmen are still teaching the younger players what it takes every day to be a championship program.
Sophomore Terrence Barron was one of the players who learned some of those lessons and emerged in Sanders'' absence. Barron made several exceptional catches in the rain and on the soggy turf Sept. 18 in the Tigers'' 20-12 loss to the Green Wave. His speed and his ability to catch the ball should give Noxubee County a pair of game-breakers for Harmon or quarterback Jared Johnson to throw to.
"I was just trying to pick of Vincent''s slack," Barron said. "I felt we should have won that game (against West Point), but a loss is a loss."
Barron believes the return of Sanders will take some of the pressure off him. He isn''t sure if Sanders still will attract double- and triple-teams, but he will be ready to be a go-to player if needed.
"I am not expected to do anything, and I was just going to wait my time," Barron said. "I just tried to do what I had to do. I felt I did pretty well (without Sanders in the lineup)."
Noxubee County coach M.C. Miller said the Tigers plan to use Sanders more on offense and more at free safety. He said he will start at wide receiver and on defense tonight.
"We''re going to try to get him back in the groove," Miller said. "We know with Vincent back we have a big playmaker. We hope we can get it going. He makes a difference."
Harmon said he is willing to do whatever it takes to help the Tigers get back to Jackson. If that means throwing blocks for Patreon Hopkins or throwing balls to Sanders, if Miller wants him to do it, that''s what he''ll do.
"We''re not playing as if we''re a championship team, but we are," Harmon said. "We fell off against West Point and a lot of people started doubting us after that loss. We heard a lot of talk and we went down in the rankings. We have to prove it to ourselves and to the community. We want people to know maybe we slacked off a little bit and we lost a game, but we''re still here and we''re still going to do what it takes to win."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.