November 20, 2009 8:48:00 AM
Adam Minichino - firstname.lastname@example.org
Things get tougher for the Noxubee County football team each time it faces Itawamba Agricultural High School.
The Tigers'' job gets tougher because each victory extends the team''s streak.
Noxubee County has eliminated Itawamba AHS from the playoffs the past two seasons and has won the last four meetings, dating back to 1994.
The defending Class 4A state champions will try to add another victory to that run at 7 tonight when they travel to Fulton to take on the Indians in the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 4A North Half State playoffs.
The Tigers (12-1) are coming off a 22-0 victory against Senatobia. That shutout was the team''s 10th of the season.
Noxubee County has allowed only 49 points all season. Twenty of those points came in a loss to West Point. But Noxubee County High coach M.C. Miller knows his team''s recent history against Itawamba AHS will make things difficult.
"We''re just going to have to play hard every time we get a chance," Miller said. "We know they''re going to play hard because this is going to be the third time in a row we try to beat them in the playoffs."
Miller feels Itawamba AHS, which defeated Center Hill 21-7 last week, is a much improved team from last season when it went 10-2. A year ago, Noxubee County beat Itawamba AHS 28-14 en route to its first football state title in the program''s history.
In 2007, the Tigers earned a 27-20 victory. Before that, Noxubee County earned a 25-20 victory against the Indians in 2004 and a 41-3 victory against them in 2003.
This year, though, Miller knows running back Deshaun McGaughy and quarterback Maikhail Miller are ready to end the Tigers'' winning streak.
"We''re going to try to contain (McGaughy) because we know he is one of the best running backs in the state," Miller said. "We''re going to try to stop him and to put pressure on the quarterback. We''re going to try to stop the run. That''s the main thing."
Miller said Itawamba AHS'' quarterback is throwing the ball a lot better this season and looks a lot more mature.
"He seems like he is becoming a leader and doing what he is supposed to do," Miller said.
Itawamba AHS coach Jamie Mitchell said Miller (109 of 210, 1,663 yards, 14 touchdowns, six interceptions) has improved at quarterback, which has helped his team roll up 350 points this season.
"Maikhail played well last year, but we did not rely on him too much because we were a run-based football team," Mitchell said. "We lost four offensive linemen and a SEC fullback, so we turned into a spread team that relies on him to throw the football. He definitely will play on Saturday where he wants to because he is just that talented."
Mitchell said McGaughy is equally as talented. The senior running back, who also is a two-time state champion in power lifting, set the school''s all-time rushing mark this season. He said McGaughy has more than 5,000 yards in his career, and 1,241 yards and 17 touchdowns this season.
Mitchell said his team will have its problems trying to handle Noxubee County''s defense.
"Every one of them can run and they are relentless," Mitchell said. "You may block one of them, but you''re not going to get all of them because they fly to the football.
"I don''t know if we''re going to be able to do a whole lot with them. The big thing is just to be able to block them a little bit of the time to get the other guys the ball. I feel like we have guys who can make some plays, but we have to have time to get them the football. Without question this will be the biggest test we have faced all year."
Dillon Mitchell leads the Indians with 36 catches for 594 yards and seven touchdowns.
Linebacker Trae Bobo leads the defense.
Mitchell said Noxubee County''s offense presents an equally daunting challenge. He said Jared Johnson has improved at quarterback, and that the Tigers always are dangerous with someone as talented as senior wide receiver Vincent Sanders. He said running backs Earnest Harmon, Patreon Hopkins, and Jontae Skinner give the Tigers speed and depth in the backfield.
"I don''t know if they''re as prolific as they have been in the past couple of years, but they are still extremely dangerous with playmakers," Mitchell said.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.