October 24, 2009 10:24:00 PM
MACON -- The Noxubee County High School football team''s defense might not have eye-popping size, but the results it is producing are larger than life.
The Tigers'' defense scored the only touchdown of the first half and held Louisville to 13 rushing yards Friday night in a 28-0 victory in a Class 4A, Region 4, District 4 game before 3,000 chilly patrons.
"We don''t have any college prospects over there other than Vincent (Sanders), but it''s a pride thing with them," Noxubee County coach M.C. Miller. "We can''t outphysical anybody, we just outquick them. Everybody just has good speed and can run to the ball."
The shutout was the eighth of the season and fifth consecutive for Noxubee County, the defending Class 4A state champion.
Last season, Noxubee County had seven shutouts en route to the championship.
The defense gave the Tigers the momentum as Tommy Lane scooped up a mishandled shotgun snap and raced 57 yards with the fumble recovery for a touchdown early in the second quarter.
"The turnover in the first half absolutely killed us," Louisville coach Brad Peterson said. "I thought that was a huge play. We could have gone in (at the half) 0-0."
The touchdown and the ensuing two-point conversion pass from Jared Johnson to Sanders made it 8-0. Noxubee County led even though it only had one first down and 34 yards offense at halftime.
"We just said, ''Don''t panic,'' and we knew if the defense would keep playing well like they were doing, the offense would get on track sooner or later," Miller said.
It happened sooner.
Noxubee County (9-1, 4-0 district) drove 65 yards on eight plays on its first possession of the second half to score on a 1-yard run by Earnest Harmon, one of three quarterbacks the Tigers used Friday.
Johnson helped set up the score with a 20-yard pass to Sanders that moved the ball to the Louisville 1.
The drive also included a 20-yard pass from Johnson to Terrance Barron and an 18-yard run by Hopkins.
"That made it a whole different game," Peterson said of the score. "We had a chance to come right back and get a little momentum, but we dropped a touchdown pass."
Leading 15-0 after three quarters against the Wildcats (7-3, 3-1), the defending Class 3A champions, the Tigers added a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns by Sanders.
The first came on a 15-yard run out of the quarterback spot on fourth-and-7. The second was an incredible 28-yard touchdown reception from Johnson over Louisville High standout Markese Triplett just yards away from where Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen was watching from the sidelines.
"Oh my gosh, the catch Sanders made on fourth and whatever was an unbelievable play," Peterson said.
With his team leading by three touchdowns in the fourth quarter and facing fourth-and-27 from the Louisville 28, Miller wanted to give his best player an opportunity to shine.
"We knew the game was won and they had been talking at each other," Miller said of Sanders and Triplett. "I said let''s throw a fade and see who is the best. He (Triplett) had good coverage on him and everything, but Vince has got that 33-inch vertical. He can get up there."
Sanders made the catch with Triplett all over him and fell into the end zone for the touchdown.
Noxubee County had 210 of its 244 yards of total offense in the second half. It also earned eight first downs after intermission.
Patreon Hopkins rushed for 65 yards on 15 carries for the Tigers, while Sanders rushed for 29 yards on five carries and had five catches for 68 yards.
Louisville quarterbacks C.J. Bates and Chris Wraggs combined to complete 8 of 24 passes for 95 yards, while Tajh Ford had three catches for 27 yards. Triplett had two catches for 42 yards and two interceptions.
Noxubee County will play host to winless Caledonia on Friday night, while Louisville will visit Amory to close the regular season.