Columbus High School’s Derrick Jordan carries a Noxubee County’s Zack Andrews for a few yards in their game Friday night in Columbus. Jordan rushed for 102 yards and a touchdown. Photo by: Chris McDill/Special to The Dispatch
August 25, 2018 10:52:00 PM
Senior defensive back Quin Malone feels the 2018 Columbus High School football team has a chance to be different.
While Malone and his teammates wait on that difference to manifest itself, Columbus lost for the 11th time in the last 13 games with a 35-12 setback to Noxubee County on Friday night at Falcon Field.
"This team is a brotherhood," Malone said. "We are a lot closer than we were last season. It just feels like this is going to be a different year. First, we played West Point. Then we played Noxubee County. That's tough on anybody.
"We are still a brotherhood, though. That is going to keep us going. Things will be different by the end of the season."
After a disappointing performance in a season-opening loss to West Point, Columbus put forth a more competitive effort against Noxubee County (1-1), the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) reigning Class 4A State champion. The teams were tied 6-6 at halftime. In the third quarter, Columbus trailed by two scores before throwing an interception in the end zone.
"We looked like a football team that can win some games tonight," Columbus coach Eric Rice said. "The improvement from the first game (a 55-6 loss to West Point) and this game was huge and noticeable. The biggest challenge is this. When we have some adversity, it's hard to recover. In a football game, bad things are going to happen.
"If you turn the ball over on offense, that should motivate your defense to go out and get it right back. We aren't there yet. When some adversity hits, we get down and you can tell the confidence level slips. We can be a good football team. The guys just have to stick together."
Columbus revived their running game thanks to senior Derrick Jordan, who had 19 carries for 102 yards. Overall, the Falcons had 36 carries for 204 yards.
Columbus had one rushing game better than 123 yards last season (214 in a victory against Vicksburg).
Noxubee County intercepted quarterback Jalen Craddieth three times. The Falcons also saw a mishandled snap from Craddieth to Jordan go 52 yards the other way for the Tigers' go-ahead touchdown.
"That epitomizes where we are," Rice said. "Noxubee County had a couple of turnovers and they don't flinch. We have one and that sets us back. We are playing the Class 4A State champions from last season. That's a good team. Our guys saw us play a competitive game for three quarters. Now, you hope the team can learn from these mistakes. We need to find a way to learn and get better."
Malone had two interceptions to spark the defense. Senior Dontae Gillespie had 12 tackles, while junior Mario Martin was in on three sacks and two quarterback hurries.
"We knew they were moving some people around (due to injury)," Malone said. "My job was to read the quarterback's eyes and try to make a play. We are going to keep bowing our necks and coming after the other team. When all is said and done, we feel like we can be one of the better defenses in Class 6A."
Rice plans to remain patient. He admits the adversity faced by this year's team has hurt when the program is trying to build confidence. A much needed open date falls next on the schedule before a home game against Starkville.
"We have the toughest three-game stretch in the state to start the season," Rice said. "They kids are still trying to learn how to win. We knew it wouldn't happen overnight. The closeness of this team is going to help. After the West Point game, they came out and had a great week of practice.
"The region games are the ones that count. This group will continue to practice hard and play hard. A little success would help us grow even more."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.
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