September 18, 2010 10:11:00 PM
WEST POINT -- If the flags were legitimate, the Noxubee County football team had some of the best players on the West Point High team Friday night.
In a 28-13 loss to the defending Class 5A state champions, Noxubee County was penalized 18 times for 111 yards. First-year head coach Tyrone Shorter stopped short of blaming the referees afterward and conceded his team needs to mature.
"I don''t want to call the referees out, but I guess we did make too many mistakes tonight," Shorter said. "We left too many points on the field."
Some of the Tigers'' miscues were blatant, like an offensive lineman lurching forward to bowl over a defender less than a second after taking his stance while no one else on the line as flinched. That was the case on a crucial first-and-goal on West Point''s 1 yard line with 3 minutes, 8 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
Trailing 28-13, a touchdown would have put the Tigers on the comeback trail. Instead, the penalty pushed them back to the 5 yard line. Three incompletions and one rush for a loss spelled the end.
There were other mistakes, too. On the same drive as the super-false start, a pass from Noxubee County quarterback Deangelo Ballard hit Janardreon Jones in the hands at chest height in the end zone but Jones couldn''t hold on.
Earlier in the quarter, after Kamal Chamberlain scored Noxubee County''s final points on a 9-yard pass from backup Jared Johnson, the Tigers recovered an onsides kick but were forced to give it back due to an illegal touching call.
The Tigers also gave the Green Wave four first downs due to penalties and regularly dug huge holes on offense from which Ballard was forced to pull his team out.
"The penalties killed us," Shorter said. "We got inside the 20-yard line like four times and didn''t get nothing out of it. Both quarterbacks did a very good job. Our receivers didn''t help them out any tonight. We dropped a lot of passes. Passes that we usually make."
But Shorter took nothing away from the Green Wave. He acknowledged the slew of mistakes on his team''s behalf are least affordable against a defending state champion.
Meanwhile, West Point regained confidence and some direction after it squandered a 20-0 halftime lead last week in a 21-20 home loss to Starkville.
West Point coach Chris Chambless said his squad had "three tough days of practice" after the loss.
"We corrected a lot of mistakes we made on both sides of the ball," Chambless said. "We made some third-down conversions we needed to make and stopped some we needed to stop."
The Green Wave converted 5 of 14 third downs, but received plenty of help from Noxubee County penalties on third and fourth down. West Point made some mistakes, too, drawing eight flags, which cost 70 yards, and struggling to seal the victory.
"We would have stayed in the zone the whole game no matter what the score was," Chambless said. "We wanted to finish. Certainly there are things we could have done that would help us finish a little quicker."
West Point racked up 215 rushing yards compared to Noxubee County''s 35, including bruising touchdown runs of 20 and 17 yards from senior tailback LaKenderic Thomas. Senior quarterback Justin Cox found the end zone on a 1-yard run in the third quarter and threw a 49-yard bomb to Jamarius Tallie in the first quarter.
Noxubee County won the passing yards race 184 to 137, but attempted 41 passes to get it.
"We''re comfortable with our passing game," Shorter said. "We knew it would be difficult to run the ball against this group. Ballard played a wonderful game, even though he made some bad reads at times. A good defense will make you make bad reads.
"The game plan worked. We just left too many points on the field."
Both of Noxubee County''s quarterbacks contributed. Ballard threw a 9-yard strike to Jones late in the second quarter.
West Point will travel to Indianola Gentry next week, while Shorter has high hopes for his team at home against Memphis Sheffield.
"We''re still going to go to Jackson," Shorter said. "I know that''s a big statement, but we''re going to learn from this."
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