November 5, 2017 4:22:07 PM
The contents of this article have been modified since its original posting.
MACON -- L.C. Clemmons has changed a lot since middle school.
In seventh grade, Clemmons weighed about 190 pounds and earned the nickname "bowling ball" from his coaches and teammates.
Five years later, the 5-foot-10 Clemmons has chiseled his frame to 215 pounds. On Friday, the senior fullback showed he still can be an effective bowling ball. Clemmons also displayed a willingness to be the train conductor that leads the Tigers back to a state title game.
With Clemmons rushing for two touchdowns and Kyziah Pruitt scoring five touchdowns, No. 1 seed Noxubee County pulled away to beat No. 4 seed Amory 48-26 in the first round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 4A playoffs at Tiger Stadium.
"I got to go through them. No doubt," Clemmons said. "You can't go around them. I learned to go through."
Noxubee County (7-4) will play next week at Yazoo City in the second round. Yazoo City, the No. 3 seed from Region 3, beat Ripley 24-23 in the first round Friday.
Clemmons' straight-ahead approach came through best in the third quarter when he pin-balled off multiple defenders on his way to a 34-yard touchdown run. His 16-yard touchdown run in the first quarter opened the scoring for the Tigers.
In addition to serving as lead blocker for tailback Jaqualyn Smith (11 carries, 99 yards), Clemmons took it upon himself to be conductor for the whole team. Two years ago, center Bobby May assumed the role by using his right arm to simulate the motion to blow a whistle on a train or a horn on a tractor trailer. Clemmons said he has been doing that all season, but it took on added significance Friday in the first round of the playoffs.
Noxubee County Tyrone Shorter said the motion of blowing a whistle or a horn is one of many symbols he has seen throughout the years.
"Early in the week, one of the boys asked me where the sledgehammer was, the one that Jeffery Simmons used to come out with," Shorter said. "I told him, 'He must have taken it with him because I can't find it.' That is why this program is so unique because the younger guys saw what the guys that came through the program did. Now they are striving to do that. We want the upperclassmen to lead, and to leave something behind to tell them this is what we are going to do.
"They saw the older guys like Bobby May, Jeffery Simmons, Timorrius Conner win championships and they saw them do it the right way. This senior group is hungry. When a lot of guys weren't focused Wednesday, I didn't have to say much. The seniors went crazy on those guys. ... L.C. was one of them. Terry (Joiner) was one of them. They know what is at stake. They know anything can happen in the playoffs."
Clemmons admitted the Tigers started slowly and trailed multiple times in the first half before the team leaders emerged.
Senior quarterback Armoni Clark also played a big role by going 7-for-11 for 213 yards and three touchdowns, all to Pruitt. He said it is an easy pass to make when a receiver like Pruitt has sprinted past a defensive back and he has nothing but open field in front of him. He said the Tigers practice putting the right touch on passes every day, so he felt comfortable standing in the pocket and biding his time before releasing the football.
"I watched film all week and when I was at home and I saw they play a lot of man to man," Clark said. "I knew we had the athletes to beat them one on one. I knew it was going to work when coach called it."
Clark's only hiccup was an interception in the third quarter. That was the only pass Clark attempted in the second half. Clark's highlight in the final 24 minutes was a 24-yard keeper for a first down in the fourth quarter. The run showed the confidence Clark has to read defenses and his comfort level in his second season leading the team.
Last season, Clark split time at quarterback with Stallings. Both players shared the duties at the start of this season, too, before Shorter opted to go with Clark and to move Stallings to wide receiver and cornerback. Late in the regular season, Shorter praised Clark for his play by saying he was the reason the Tigers' offense has clicked.
Clark said staying humble has helped him make the most of his senior season to this point.
"It is playoff time," Clark said. "If we lose, I go home, and I am not ready to do go home. I need a championship."
Clemmons is hungry, too. He admitted the Tigers started slowly before kicking into gear to set up the next step on their journey.
If Clemmons has his say, he will keep rolling and lead the way on both sides of the football.
"We have to keep on movin'," Clemmons said. "We are going to get there. I have that confidence because of the team and the athletes we have."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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