November 15, 2009 12:34:00 AM
MACON -- In high school football, as with any sport, winning can be so contagious that it takes a heavy dose of reality -- a loss -- to stop the momentum.
Facing a 9-2 Senatobia team in the second round of the Class 4A North Half State playoffs, Noxubee County knew the Warriors'' potent passing attack could stop their bid to repeat as state champions.
"We worked on trying to stop their passing game in practice," Noxubee County High School coach M.C. Miller said. "We worked on what they do best and tried to stop it. Tonight, we were able to read the quarterback. We knew he liked to roll and throw the ball, so we were able to stop him."
The Tigers'' defense did its job to help the Tigers overcome several costly turnovers in a 22-0 victory.
The shutout is the 10th this season for Noxubee County (12-1), which will have to travel to Fulton next week to take on Itawamba Agricultural High School. IAHS (12-0) is the top-ranked team in Class 4A in the Mississippi Prep Sports Source rankings, and the only undefeated team remaining in that classification.
Good teams bounce back from potential setbacks and dig in the next time they start a drive.
Noxubee County, which is No. 2 in the MPSS poll, drove on its first possession to the Senatobia 27-yard line, but an interception thrown by quarterback Jared Johnson ended the march.
Senatobia went three-and-out and the Tigers took the ball at their 36. Patreon Hopkins and Earnest Harmon ground out valuable yardage as Noxubee County mounted a convincing five-minute scoring drive.
The Tigers'' first score came on a 36-yard strike from Johnson to Terrance Barron. Patreon Hopkins ran up the middle for the two-point conversion with 4 minutes, 3 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Noxubee County led 8-0 at the end of the first quarter and 14-0 at halftime.
Johnson threw his second scoring strike, a 67-yard pass to Vincent Sanders, to give the Tigers a two-score edge at the break.
"Everybody has room for improvement, "Johnson said. " I made a couple of bad reads and got intercepted. This was a big win, though."
The Tigers'' defense held Senatobia to just one pass completion in the first half. Josh Garret, Senatobia''s leading rusher, was held to just 34 yards on 10 carries.
Linebacker Toddrick Tate led the way for a Noxubee County defense that has allowed only 49 points this season.
The game''s final score came in the third quarter when Earnest Harmon hit Hopkins on a screen pass. Hopkins took the football and outran a covey of defenders 45 yards to give the Tigers a 20-0 lead. Harmon raced up the middle for the two-point conversion to give Noxubee County a 22-0 lead with 10:19 to go in the quarter.
"We should have had some more points, but it just did not happen," Miller said. "We did not have the consistency tonight, and it has been that way all year. I was pleased with (Antonio) Ryland. We put him in to run the clock out and he''s only a ninth-grader."
Noxubee County held Senatobia to two completions for 29 yards. The Warriors failed to cross over into Tiger territory in the second half.
"We missed an opportunity to score down there when they were up 8-0 but couldn''t do it," Senatobia head coach Phil Oakley said. "They scored on three big third-down plays. We just did not get it done tonight."
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