Tigers' offensive line paves way for victory


Members of the Noxubee County High School offensive line and ground game.

Members of the Noxubee County High School offensive line and ground game. Photo by: Adam Minichino/Dispatch Staff


Adam Minichino



MACON -- One challenge has been met. 


Ervin Gray is convinced the Noxubee County High School football team's offensive line can meet whatever goals its coaches set for the unit moving forward. 


In fact, the senior right tackle is so sure he is going to guarantee he and his linemates will play like they did Friday against Columbus the rest of the season. 


"We just have to come to practice with a good attitude and give it our all and work on the basics," Gray said. "If we do that, we will get better and better each week. 


"I can promise we will do that." 


The 6-foot-1 1/2, 240-pound offensive lineman played a key role in a 35-12 victory against Columbus. The Tigers (1-1) had 43 carries for 344 yards. Senior running back Ja'Qualyn Smith had 24 carries for 165 yards. Senior quarterback Maliek Stallings added 12 carries for 120 yards, while senior running back Kaiyus Lewis, who served as a primary blocking back, had seven carries for 59 yards. 


For its effort, the Noxubee County High offensive line, which includes Lewis and tight end Jaylon Barnett, is The Dispatch's Prep Player of the Week. 


Noxubee County will try to build on that effort at 7 p.m. Friday when it plays host to Shannon in its home opener. 


The offensive line of senior Malcomn Purtue (left tackle), sophomore Ma'teo Chandler (left guard), senior Michael Barber (center), senior Tomorris Luster (right guard), and Gray (right tackle) helped the Tigers have success on the ground without senior athlete Kyziah Pruitt, a Mississippi State commit, and junior quarterback Khristopher White. 


"They did an excellent job," Noxubee County co-offensive coordinator / assistant head coach Teddy Young said. "They just wanted to make a statement." 


Young said each one of the linemen came up to him during the week of practice and encouraged him to "run behind me." He said he tried to keep "all of the linemen happy" by running behind each one of them. Young said he was pleased to see a bounce-back effort following a 30-6 loss to Starkville in the season opener. 


Gray said the Tigers responded to the challenges laid out by Young and John Sallis, the co-offensive coordinator who also coaches the offensive line. 


"We gave up a lot of pressure and didn't have a lot of rushing yards against Starkville," said Gray, whose brother, Anterrious Gray, also was an offensive lineman for the Tigers. "We worked in practice on coming off the ball and being explosive and aggressive and having better footwork." 


Noxubee County had 26 carries for 28 yards against Starkville. Sallis credited Starkville for having a great defensive front, which likely will be the best group Noxubee County faces all season. Still, with four seniors on his line and a senior running back and a senior H-back, he expected better. That's why he challenged his players to pay more attention to the details and to give better effort. 


"I told them you can fix it, not me," Sallis said. "There wasn't anything we did in practice. They just had to find something inside themselves that made them get tired of getting their tail beat." 


Sallis said the Tigers had better practices prior to the game against Columbus. He said it shouldn't matter if the other team knows what lay is coming because the Tigers should be able to gain yards if everyone steps in the right place, puts their head in the right place, and plays with a little aggression good things are going to happen. 


Sallis said the grades from week one to week two were "unbelievable." In the opener, he said he saw two of his linemen in "jacked-up stances" and knew is was going to be a long night. Sallis said the stances and the splits the linemen took enabled their pad levels to be so much better against Columbus. 


"There are still we have to fix, but our combos got off on our backers, and when your combos get off on the backers, you're going to get more yards," Sallis said.  


Gray, who is in his second year on the offensive line, moved from right guard to right tackle. He said he is using his quickness to make the move from one position to the next. He said the offensive linemen took offense to not playing up to their potential against the Yellow Jackets. Gray said attention to the details, like footwork, pad height, were crucial to the improved play against the Falcons. 


"It felt good. We were very proud of ourselves," Gray said. "We dominated the line of scrimmage and improved a lot from the week before." 


Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor


Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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