November 12, 2010 7:41:00 AM
MABEN -- After the East Webster High School football team beat rival Eupora on Oct. 1, Xavier Moye had an MRI for a nagging leg injury he suffered in the season opener.
He had no idea he had been playing on a broken left leg.
The senior linebacker suffered a distal fracture in his left fibula against West Oktibbeha on Aug. 27. The injury confined him to a walking boot and forced him to watch as the Wolverines cruised to three straight district wins.
Moye is making up for lost time. He led the Wolverines with 15 tackles last week in their playoff opener.
At 7 tonight, he will lead East Webster (12-0) against Kennedy (8-4) in a Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 2A second-round playoff game.
East Webster coach Jimmy Carden said Moye is the lifeline of the defense, the man in the middle who makes all the calls and carries the flag.
As the tone-setter, Moye''s influence on the senior-laden defense is the reason the team played at a high level without him.
"I don''t really have to talk to my teammates because if they see me playing hard and trying to get to the ball on every snap, they''re going with me," Moye said. "If I''m having a good game and getting to the ball on every snap, my teammates are doing the same. That''s just how we play."
Moye, who has 67 tackles this season, led a defense that allowed only 51 rushing yards in a 62-14 victory against West Lowndes. Last week against Bruce, Moye had a game-high 15 tackles.
"Every week I want to give a shot to our defense," Moye said. "I want to go three and out every time their offense is on the field. I don''t want them to gain a yard. I just try to motivate our players to not let them gain a yard, and go hard to the ball on every snap."
Moye''s play and leadership have helped the defense become a tough, cohesive unit despite a lack of explosive talent, Carden said.
"There''s a certain toughness there, but even greater than that there''s a desire to play and win," he said. "You got guys throughout the years -- hopefully there''s one in every group -- who just doesn''t want to get beat. Those are the guys who tend to be your bell cow. It''s hard to win without those kinds of guys. That describes him."
Kennedy, which defeated Coahoma Agricultural 39-12 last week, boasts a potent ground game, led by sophomore Dontarious Malone''s 1,272 rushing yards.
East Webster beat Bruce 35-20 in a game that saw the hosts dominate all but three quarters. When Carden started to pull his starters, the Wolverines'' inexperienced second wave showed its age by allowing two touchdowns.
Carden said ability wasn''t as much an issue as a lack of focus. He contends he''s satisfied with the team''s depth for tonight and beyond.
"Normally at any level, you got some players where you just don''t have any more like that on the sideline," Carden said. "That''s from junior high to professional. But pretty much, we''ve had a situation where we''ve had guys hurt all through the year. We''ve had situations where somebody would shut down one area and we''d have somebody else pick it up. Team-wise, we''re probably a stronger team than we''ve ever been."
If East Webster wins tonight it will advance to play a road game against the winner of tonight''s Calhoun City-Hollandale Simmons game.