November 30, 2019 11:55:48 AM
ACKERMAN -- They're heading back to the state championship.
Behind a stiff defense and the play of quarterback Marlon Windham, Noxubee County got past Choctaw County 33-14 in the MHSAA Class 3A north state championship Friday night.
The Tigers (10-5) will face Jefferson Davis County for the MHSAA Class 3A championship at 11 a.m. Friday at Southern Miss' M.M. Roberts Stadium.
"This team bought in from day one and they showed no quit," first-year Noxubee County head coach Teddy Young said. "We just came in ready to play tonight in all phases and came out with the victory."
Noxubee County never trailed the entire game.
After forcing a fumble, Windham found Jaqualon Sherrod on a 11-yard touchdown pass to give the Tigers an early 7-0 lead with 52 seconds left in the first quarter.
On their first possession of the second quarter, Windham and Sherrod connected on a 51-yard pass play, and two plays later Demond Cunningham scored on a 3-yard touchdown run to extend the Noxubee County lead to 13-0 with 10:09 remaining in the first half.
Mateo Chandler then came up with an interception off a deflection and went 28 yards for a touchdown to give the Tigers a 19-0 lead with 2:48 remaining in the first half.
"I've been telling people all the time we got the best defense in 3A, especially our front seven," Young said. "They play for each other. When the playoffs started, I challenged the offensive line for us to get to Hattiesburg; we got to run the ball, and we've done that."
Choctaw County got on the board on the first play of the third quarter on a 71-yard touchdown run by Kendall Coleman to cut the Noxubee County lead to 19-7.
The Tigers answered on a 27-yard run by Windham to extend the lead to 27-7 with 3 minutes, 33 seconds left in the third quarter.
After an interception, Cunningham scored from 1 yard out to give Noxubee County a 33-7 lead with 46 seconds left in the third quarter.
"I told the defense we got to force turnovers and make them drive the length of the field against us," Young said. "Defense stepped up tonight for us. Marlon is the leader of this team, and he showed it."
Windham finished 13 of 23 passing for 141 yards with a touchdown and also rushed for 73 yards on 12 carries with a score.
"Going into the game we knew we had to run the ball and limit our mistakes," Windham said. "Defense had to show up tonight, and they did, and tonight we didn't turn the ball over. Choctaw is a good team, and every time we got a turnover we had to score. We're ready for the state championship now."
The Tigers will be seeking their second state title in the last three years after winning the Class 4A state title in 2017.
"At Noxubee County we think state championship or bust," Young said. "A lot of people counted us out, and these kids kept believing, bought in and know the tradition."
1. Mississippi State's Kylin Hill declares for NFL Draft COLLEGE SPORTS