October 30, 2009 9:13:00 AM
Adam Minichino - firstname.lastname@example.org
MACON -- The Noxubee County High School football team is ready for the postseason.
Judging from the left right side of the scoring column, the defense is primed and raring to go.
The Tigers secured a perfect record in Class 4A, Region 4, District 4 on Thursday night with a 42-0 victory against Caledonia at Tiger Stadium.
The victory helped Noxubee County earn its sixth consecutive shutout and its ninth of the season. That mark is two better than last season, when Noxubee County allowed 20 points in nine regular-season games. The Tigers then won five games in a row to win the school''s first Class 4A state football title.
Coach M.C. Miller''s team has another title on its mind this year. The veteran coach substituted liberally and went primarily with freshmen in the second half to help the Tigers wrap up a 10-1 (5-0 in the district) regular season.
"I think we''re ready," Miller said. "We better be because the time is here now and there ain''t no tomorrow. It isn''t like the regular season and you can lose once and you still have a chance. You ain''t got no more chances. We have to win out."
Noxubee County wasted little time getting on the scoreboard. On the Tigers'' first play, quarterback Jared Johnson hit wide receiver Vincent Sanders on a 52-yard pass that went for a touchdown. Sanders used his height and leaping ability to outmaneuver the defender and come down with the football and then race down the right sideline to the end zone.
The Tigers scored on their next two possessions -- a 35-yard run by Patreon Hopkins and a 5-yard run by Earnest Harmon.
Noxubee County missed a chance to make it three in a row it lost a fumble inside the 5-yard line.
But the Tigers'' defense responded and held the Confederates (0-10, 0-5) to three downs and out. Sanders then returned a punt 30 yards before fumbling at the Caledonia 5 to give the ball right back.
Sanders didn''t waste another chance.
Following another three-and-out by Noxubee County''s defense, Sanders took the punt 40 yards for a score. Kamal Chamberlain''s extra point made it 29-0.
Two more rushing scorers in the second half capped the victory.
Miller said it is now up to his seniors to set the tone for the team as it begins its title defense.
"I have told them the coaches have done their part and now it is up to the seniors to provide leadership and pick us up and keep us going," Miller said. "We expect great things from them on in. I think we have a good shot to keep it going."
Miller believes his players are ready to kick off the playoffs next week at home because they have been playing hard all year. The defense has been great and the offense has overcome inconsistency and am injury to Sanders to put itself in position to make another run.
"I just think our defense is going to carry us a long way," Miller said. "We were worried about it in the beginning of the year, but right now it looks pretty good. I just hope we can keep things going and make things happen."
Daquarrius Mallard had two interceptions and Rodrick Joiner had another in the second half to help preserve the shutout.
Offensively, Hopkins, Harmon, and Jontae Skinner give the Tigers plenty of depth at running back. Sanders and Terrance Barron give Johnson at least two speedy targets out wide to provide the quick-strike ability.
Miller hopes playoff time will help re-focus everyone.
"Last year, Patrick (Patterson) and them guys when it came playoff time they were down on the field already dressed (ready to start practice)," Miller said. "I want them guys to feel the same way. They don''t have to wait on us and they can get out there. I want them to be ready to go. I think they will (respond the way he wants). We will know after Monday."
Caledonia had -14 yards rushing in the first half and only 3 total yards. It finished with 17 total yards. Quarterback Brandon Bell had the team''s biggest gainer of the night, a 16-yard scamper in the second half.
Cole Carter also had a partial block of a punt, but that was the extent of the highlights for the Confederates.
Caledonia coach David Boykin praised Noxubee County for its effort. He enjoyed watching how the Tigers played with passion. He said confidence is a key part of that enthusiasm, and that''s part of what he hopes to continue to build at Caledonia High.
"When you start being a championship football team, that''s what you see, you see a lot of guys who want to carry on the winning tradition," Boykin said. "It didn''t just start this year. They want to be the team that moves it up one. To be able to compete in this division, you have to be able to compete and beat a Noxubee County and a Kosciusko. You have got to be able to get to that level to be successful at Caledonia."
Boykin said it is imperative for the Confederates to get more players out for next season and to improve. He said work in the weight room in the offseason will be a key ingredient to his players'' ability to take the next step.
"We have to expect to win," Boykin said. "We don''t expect to win. We expect not to lose or hope not to lose. We don''t go out and say, ''We''re going to win this football game.'' When we leave the dressing room, you can see the doubt in our kids'' eyes. That is something I have to coach up. ... I will take the blame. I am the coach. It boils down to what are you going to do about it? I will take the blame for 10 losses this year, but I feel like we coached these kids up and put them in position to be successful. We were facing circumstances that probably weren''t fair for the kids, playing with a lot of younger kids, but they have to grow up. They are veterans, and they have to come back next year ready to rock n'' roll."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.