November 8, 2009 12:36:00 AM
MACON -- It wasn''t the prettiest game in the history of the Noxubee County High School football program, but coach M.C. Miller will take it.
The Tigers surrendered their second-most points in a game this season, had more 100 yards in penalties, and committed three turnovers, but mustered enough offense to defeat New Albany 36-17 Friday night in the first round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 4A North Half State playoffs.
"I thought we played well, but in the end we made too many mistakes for a seasoned football team," Miller said. "New Albany is a good team, and I''m not trying to take anything away from them, but we hurt ourselves. As we move forward it''s something that cannot continue."
Vincent Sanders gave the Tigers (12-1) an 8-0 lead on an 85-yard kick return.
The Bulldogs (6-6) fumbled on the first play of their first drive, as the snap from center in the shotgun hit the man in motion.
It took Noxubee County three plays to capitalize on senior running back Patreon Hopkins'' 10-yard touchdown run.
Kamal Chamberlain''s kick extended the Tigers'' lead to 15-0 with 9 minutes, 54 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
"The last thing I told the team out of the pregame locker room was the first two minutes of the game were the most important," New Albany coach Ron Price said. "Against a team like Noxubee you just can''t give them those opportunities. Their defense surrendered 37 points all season and we put ourselves in a two-score hole early. We do not have the team to come back like that."
The Bulldogs did have several bright spots. They outgained the Tigers 251-220 yards and were the first team to score on the Noxubee County defense in two months.
Quarterback Tyler Basil (12 of 29, 140 yards) and junior running back Eric Johnson (14 carries, 80 yards) led a balanced attack for the Bulldogs.
"I feel like we showed everyone we have a good offense," Price said. "We knew they had the athletes to match up with us, and they possess speed we can not simulate. I thought our guys played a great game, and I am very proud of this team."
Miller feels the points his defense allowed could help it moving forward.
"I thought they were solid overall," Miller said. "But I think they were trying to play perfect. They were carrying six straight shutouts into tonight. I think they can go back and just play football."
With the Bulldogs'' controlling the clock, the Tigers made all of the big plays. Leading 22-7 with 5:18 left in the second quarter, Noxubee County faced fourth-and-18 on the Bulldogs'' 38. Quarterback Jarred Johnson delivered a perfect fade pass to Sanders, who caught the ball in double coverage.
"He is our playmaker," Miller said. "He is a guy you keep involved in the offense and put the ball in his hands. He made some big plays tonight that without make this a different ballgame."
New Albany made one second-half push to make it a game.
After cutting the lead to 28-17 following a Michael Joslin touchdown, the Bulldogs had first-and-10 on their 30 before their third turnover of the game -- a fumble recovered by linebacker Fredeas Tate -- sealed their fate.
Noxubee County added a final blow on Harmon''s 3-yard touchdown run.
With the win, the defending Class 4A state champion Tigers will play host to Senatobia, which defeated Yazoo City, on Friday in the second round.