MACON — The Noxubee County High School football team reached the red zone three times against Amory on Friday night, scoring on one of them.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, Amory also scored on one of them, and that 84-yard interception return during the second quarter was the biggest of several big plays in Amory’s 34-22 victory at Tiger Stadium.
“It was a big-play game,” Noxubee County coach Teddy Young said. “One team would make a play, the other team would do a great job in responding. We had our chances. We just didn’t make the plays when it really counted.”
The lead continued to change hands after Elijah Spratt’s interception, but the play gave the Panthers their first lead and stopped a Tigers drive that had reached the Amory 15. Noxubee County committed two other turnovers, while Amory had none, perhaps the most telling statistic of the evening.
Still, the Tigers took a lead into the fourth quarter, thanks to a 58-yard run by Martavius Wicks late in the third that gave Noxubee County a 22-20 edge. Wicks finished with 15 carries for 98 yards.
That 2-point lead carried into the fourth thanks to a terrific defensive stand by the Tigers, who stuffed Amory’s Charleston French on third-and-1 from the Noxubee County 33 and got the ball back on downs when senior Devion Brewer knocked the ball loose from Amory receiver Isiah Smith on fourth down.
But the fourth quarter was not kind to the Tigers. On the second play of the period, Amory’s Nathaniel Walker recovered a fumble to set up the Panthers near midfield. It took nine plays for them to score, with junior quarterback Jartarian Ware dumping off a 12-yard scoring pass to French to put the visitors ahead for good.
The Panthers started at midfield again on their next drive thanks to their defense, which stuffed Noxubee County’s do-everything Chaunssey Triplett on third-and-2 and fourth-and-1 to take the ball back at the Tigers’ 48. This time it took eight plays, highlighted by Ware completing a 38-yard pass on third-and-16 to the Tigers’ 9 with 2:25 left.
It was academic after that, with Ware keeping from 3 yards out for the final score.
Triplett had a tremendous game for Noxubee County. He rushed 14 times for 92 yards and two touchdowns — including a highlight-reel 17-yard dance to the end zone that sent the Tigers into intermission with a 16-13 lead — and took some snaps in the Wildcat formation, completing passes of 35 and 29 yards.
“He’s one great athlete,” Green said of Triplett. “He’s a senior, he put the team on his back. We’re not healthy on offense, especially at the quarterback position, so we asked him to do a lot.”
He almost did even more. With the Tigers trailing by five in the fourth quarter, Triplett broke through the line and raced 56 yards for an apparent touchdown, but it was wiped out by a holding penalty.
Earlier, on the Tigers’ first drive of the third quarter, Triplett hit Anthony Little, who was open behind the Amory defense and headed for the end zone when Amory’s Cameron Haynes chased him down at the 15 and made a touchdown-saving tackle. Three plays later, Wicks took a pitch right and scored from 15 yards out, but that was called back by another holding penalty.
On the next play, Amory linebacker Thomas Hubbert picked off a pass and returned it to the Amory 38. An unsportsmanlike conduct call on the Tigers moved the ball near midfield, and six plays later, helped by a pass interference penalty in the end zone, Amory took the lead on an 8-yard pass from Ware to James Conner.
“It came down to execution,” Young said. “A couple of picks, some holding calls brought some touchdowns back …”
There were other bright spots for the Tigers. Their first touchdown was set up by a gutsy play call. On third-and-28 from their own 2, the Tigers caught the Panthers by surprise as Ramoan Jackson took a direct snap and rumbled 31 yards. Three plays later, on another third down, Triplett went left and took off 57 yards for a score which, with Jackson’s 2-point run, gave Noxubee County an 8-0 lead.
And some of their issues were rooted in injuries. Three players took turns at quarterback for the Tigers.
“Tonight we had our fourth-string quarterback, who’s also a freshman,” Young said. “Hopefully we’ll get back healthy at that position, and once we get healthy at that position, you’ll see a better offense.”
There wasn’t much wrong with the rushing defense, which kept the Panthers to 2 yards or fewer nine times on 27 plays. But a fake punt, when Dylan Thompson hit a wide-open Walker Maranto for 29 yards to the Tigers’ 21, set up one score, the pick-six accounted for another, and Amory scoring drives that started at midfield after turnovers didn’t help.
Young’s message to his team after the game was simple: Despite the key district loss, the season’s not over.
“Keep their heads up,” he said he told his players. “We played a hard game against a good team, but at the end of the day it doesn’t determine our season. We’ve just got to get healthy, continue to get better.”
And perhaps get another crack at Amory during the Class 3A playoffs.
“That’s the plan,” Young said, allowing himself a smile. “I told them, good game, but I also told them we’ll see them again.”
Amory 34, Noxubee County 22
Amory (5-3, 3-0 3A-4) 0 13 7 14 — 34
Noxubee County (4-3, 1-1 3A-4) 8 8 6 0 — 22
NC — Chaunssey Triplett 57 run (Ramoan Jackson run), 2:38
A — Isaiah Brownlee 8 pass from Jatarian Ware (Dylan Thompson kick), 8:53
A — Elijah Spratt 84 interception return (Thompson kick), 6:08
NC — Triplett 17 run (Jackson run), :52
A — James Conner 8 pass from Jatarian Ware (Thompson kick), 5:17
NC — Martavius Wicks 42 run (run failed)
A — Charleston French 12 pass from Ware (Thompson kick), 7:17
A — Ware 3 run (Thompson kick), 1:10