By Ben Wait
Special to the Dispatch
MACON — The Noxubee County High School football team took advantage of special teams Friday night to advance to the second round of the Class 4A North State playoffs.
Noxubee County blocked three North Pontotoc punts en route to a 42-6 victory.
The Tigers also boosted their kicking game, making all six PATs. Noxubee County coach Tyrone Shorter knew his special teams had to improve this week.
“It was big,” Shorter said of his special teams stepping up. “We worked on our field goals all week and we knew we had to get better in special teams, and we saw on film we could come after some of those punts, and it showed tonight. We blocked three punts and we saw their weakness in the punt, so we came after them, and it changed the game for us.”
The Tigers also added a punt return from senior Terrance Barron late in the fourth quarter. Barron received the punt at the Vikings’ 40-yard line and made his way through tacklers into the end zone.
Noxubee County built a 21-0 lead in the first half. Junior quarterback Deangelo Ballard put the Tigers on the board when he found Barron for a 29-yard touchdown. The touchdown was set up by the first blocked touchdown. Five Tigers found their way to Chance Earnest after a high snap, and the Tigers took immediate advantage.
Junior running back Darrell Robinson (three touchdowns) led the offense. He finished the first half with a 24-yard score to give the Tigers a 21-6 at halftime. He came back in the second half to score from 5 and 3 yards.
“It’s playoffs and it’s time to play,” said Robinson, who had 22 carries 105 yards. “It’s do or die, so I came out and ran as hard as I can hard to play to my potential.”
Shorter has been relying on Robinson all year, and Friday night was no different.
“Darrell has been playing like this all year,” Shorter said. “We had to put all the carries on him, and he did a great job for us tonight.”
The defense stepped up, too. Known as the “Tiger Demon Defense,” that unit showed the Vikings why they are called that. The Tigers came after senior quarterback Caleb Mills all night and sacked him three times. Eric Hunt and Javancy Jones had back-to-back sacks late in the fourth quarter.
“Defense has got to play good,” Shorter said. “We get into the playoffs you have got to play good defense, and our defense has been playing good all year. If we don’t give up a big play, it’s going to be hard for people to drive the ball on us, and that’s what we are trying to get into our players head, play solid sound defense.”
The Tigers forced the Vikings to four turnovers on downs and forced a fumble and recovered it. The Vikings were driving deep in Tiger territory when Jeremy Hunt forced a Nate Mounceto fumble. Jeremy’s brother, Erick, recovered the ball.
“It was all about just making the big play,” Jeremy said of his forced fumble. “I’m playing in crucial situations.”
Jeremy has seen the defense step up and agrees with Shorter the defense has to play well for the Tigers to get deep into the playoffs.
“We have been playing good ball, getting the offense off the field quick,” Jeremy said. “We are just doing what we need to do to help the team get to Jackson.”
Noxubee County will travel to Amory at 7 p.m. Friday for a second-round game.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.
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