MACON — Sitting neatly in a row, Noxubee County’s five MHSAA championship trophies made their presence felt in the Tigers’ field house July 8.
The gleaming gold footballs were on display for the dedication of the building to former Noxubee County standout Jeffery Simmons, who paid to renovate the facility, but they served another purpose for the players inside that day.
None of them has ever won a state title, and they know it.
“It’s a great thing,” offensive lineman Bryson Kelly said. “It just gives us motivation to get us one. We’ve been to state twice, and we know how it feels not to get it. So we’re just going to do everything we can to get it this year.”
Noxubee County made the MHSAA Class 3A championship in 2019 but couldn’t bring home the crown. A year later, the Tigers went back to the title game, and they lost again.
For seniors like Kelly, the 2022 season represents a last chance to add a sixth gold ball to the collection in Macon.
“The guys have one goal in mind: to win a state championship,” Noxubee County coach Teddy Young said. “This senior class, they’re hungry, and I think we’ll go where this senior class takes us.”
The Tigers’ senior leaders include Kelly, wide receiver Anthony Little and defensive back Shunterrion Sherrod. With Kelly at tackle and a senior-heavy defensive line of James Mayo, Tony Deloach and Tony Tate, Young is optimistic.
“I’m a big believer that the game is won in the trenches, so we’re going to go as far as these guys take us,” he said.
The Tigers hope that will be farther than they went in 2021, when Noxubee County experienced a down season — relative to its standards, at least. Losses to West Point and Amory and a blowout by Louisville led to a 6-3 regular season, and Noxubee County bowed out to Winona in the second round of the playoffs.
Young said work ethic — or lack thereof — was a big part in the Tigers’ struggles, and health played a role, too.
“We had some key injuries along the way,” he said. “I think this year if we can stay healthy and start playing our best football toward the end of the year, I think we’ll have a chance to make a run.”
Kelly said Noxubee County has a chance to go undefeated, but that won’t be easy against a schedule featuring road games against each of the three teams that beat the Tigers in 2021: West Point, Louisville and Amory. A season-opening road trip to Philadelphia High School won’t be easy, either.
But with sophomore quarterback Kamario Taylor set to take over, anything is possible. Young touted the chemistry between his wide receivers and Taylor, the nephew of former Noxubee County quarterback and Mississippi State standout Omarr Conner; Little praised his new signal-caller’s talent and 6-foot-3 frame.
And Taylor’s leadership ability might surpass any of his other attributes.
“For him to be as young as he is, he’s a great leader,” Kelly said. “With someone to be young and push you to be the best you can be is a great feeling. It makes you want to work even harder.”
Taylor’s weapons include Little (516 yards, seven touchdowns in 2021) and junior DeQuadrion Welch (257 yards, two touchdowns). Running back Martavius Wicks ran for 749 yards and five scores as a sophomore last season.
Taylor and Wicks are part of a young group that offers plenty of promise, according to Little.
“We’ve got younger guys coming in to work and showing that they really want to play and really be good,” he said.
If they can break out — and if Noxubee County’s seniors can lead the way — the Tigers could add another trophy to their collection come December.
“It feels good,” Little said. “I think it’s going to be a good season.”
Theo DeRosa reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.
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