September 14, 2013 7:27:10 PM
By Don Rowe
Special to The Dispatch
ABERDEEN -- It was deja vu and Friday the 13th all rolled into one here Friday as defending Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 4A state champion Noxubee County posted a 39-21 win over the Aberdeen Bulldogs.
A year ago on this same field, Noxubee County defenders made life miserable for Aberdeen quarterback Josh Williams and his offensive unit by holding the Dogs to 32 total yards - 22 rushing and 10 passing - in a 45-0 rout.
This time around, the Tigers' defensive numbers and the final score weren't as impressive, as Williams threw for 199 yards and rushed for 63 more. But for the most part, Noxubee's defenders kept Williams in check with a fierce rush through a porous
Aberdeen offensive line which failed to give their quarterback adequate protection.
"Our offensive line and our running backs just didn't give Josh much blocking," said Aberdeen head coach Mark Bray. "He was running for his life most of the night."
Although Williams finished with 63 net yards rushing, he averaged only 2.4 yards per carry and was either sacked or caught behind the line of scrimmage 10 times for a minus 63 yards. On seven other carries, he was held to 2 yards or less.
Passing-wise, Williams averaged 18.1 yards on 11 completions, but the majority of those came under extreme pressure from the Tigers' defensive unit. Too, the Dogs didn't help their cause with four turnovers - three lost fumbles in the first half and one interception.
Noxubee County head coach Tyrone Shorter said his No. 1 goal was to contain Williams and he was pleased with the results.
"We knew we had to keep him contained because he can hurt you running or passing the ball," said Shorter. "Even still, he did some great things tonight under some
eal pressure. But overall I'm happy with our defensive effort."
Despite the three first-half turnovers, the anemic offensive numbers and playing without the services of running backs G.G. Blanchard (injury) and Josh Ewing, the Dogs came back from an 18-7 halftime deficit to take a 21-18 lead with 4:37 to play in the third quarter.
The Dogs pulled to within 18-15 early in third period following a Josh Hadley fumble recovery deep in Noxubee territory. One play later, Sammie Burroughs made a great catch in the end zone on a pass from Williams, who then hit Jerrick Orr for the 2-point conversion.
Later in the quarter, a Theo Boyd fumble recovery at the Noxubee County 19 set up a 13-yard touchdown pass from Williams to B.J. Williams to give Aberdeen its first and only lead of the game.
Undaunted, Noxubee went on to score 21 unanswered points to account for the 18- point win. The Tigers took over at their own 49 on the ensuing kickoff and marched 51 yards on six plays to retake the lead for good (24-21) on a 15-yard toss sweep by Eric Hunt with 2:18 left in the third period.
Midway through the fourth period, Hunt scored from 3 yards out and quarterback Tamorris Conner found Darrell Brandon for the 2-point conversion. Then Anzarius Taylor added a 28-yard TD scamper followed by a Zachery Kauffman PAT kick to close out the Tiger comeback with 2:15 remaining in the game.
In spite of turnovers, penalties and missed assignments, both coaches took note that their teams never gave up the fight.
"Unlike last year when we just gave up, we fought to the end this time," said Bray. "We had our chances, but didn't have a running game and that hurt us offensively. But the kids never gave up and that's encouraging."
Shorter said basically the same thing about his team's fighting spirit.
"We made some mistakes in our defensive backfield and we had four turnovers on offense, but we kept fighting as a team and we won the game as a team," said Shorter.
Noxubee grabbed an early 10-0 lead on a 23-yard Kauffman field goal on the Tigers' first possession of the game, followed by a 4-yard TD run by Conner and a Kauffman PAT kick on its next possession.
But a 28-yard Tyreke Gates interception return set up a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Williams and a Demarea Dobbins PAT kick with 3:16 left in the second quarter to cut into the Tigers' lead (10-7).
Less than two minutes later, though, Conner connected with Jessie Bryant from 27 yards out and Hunt added the 2-point conversion for an 18-7 halftime lead. On the touchdown pass, Aberdeen had but 10 players on the field.