Having already previewed area football playoff games Corinth vs West Lauderdale and Biggersville vs West Lowndes earlier this week, today I take a look ahead at the remaining prep postseason contests on the agenda for Friday night.
The two game previews in this edition are Walnut at East Webster and Booneville @ Noxubee County. We’ll start in Prentiss County with the Blue Devils.
Booneville (6-2) @ Noxubee County (6-2)
Maxpreps lists the Tigers record as 0-1 but I have them at 6-2. That’s because they forfeited their regular season home game against Corinth due to COVID on the NCHS campus in Macon.
Whichever record is legit, one thing is for certain, Noxubee County is the real deal and will be a tough out for anyone that stands in their way.
This week that happens to be Booneville. Head coach Mike Mattox led his squad to a second place finish in Region 1-3A this fall and enjoyed a bye last Friday due to a lack of teams finishing the season in Region 3-3A.
Amory won the division and is the No. 1 seed from Region 1-3A.
The Tigers are five time state 4A champions with their last title coming at the end of the 2017 season. They dropped a class to 3A two years ago.
“They (Noxubee County) are the defending 3A runners-up,” said Mattox, “and that speaks volumes to the kind of team they have. Offensively they have size and speed. They don’t do a lot of different things but what they do they do very well.”
Mattox referred to Tigers senior Bobby Shanklin, a 5-9, 200-pounder, as a horse.
“They’ll line him up in several different formations, including taking direct snaps in the backfield. They will throw of a lot of stops and hitches to keep the opposing defense honest. They are effective both running and passing and have some big boys up on the offensive line that can really block.”
Defensively, the Blue Devils coach said the Tigers “Are big and strong. They are led by the cousin of (former Noxubee County, Mississippi State and current Tennessee Titans defensive tackle Jeffrey) Simmons, who played for MSU. He’s a man on their D-line.”
Booneville fans know what their team is capable of and has done well many times this season. Mattox specified it’s gonna take another herculean effort if his team is to win on the road and advance to round three.
“We have our work cut out for us,” he pointed out. “Our kids have played some really good games this year but we’re gonna need a near-perfect game against Noxubee if we hope to win. We basically have to play our best game of the year. and hope they (Tigers) stub their toes.”
Neither squad has a common opponent this season. Kickoff between Booneville and Noxubee County at Tiger Stadium is set for 7 p.m.
Kent’s pick: Noxubee County
Walnut (8-2) @ East Webster (5-4)
The Wildcats are the only one of the area quartet to have already played a postseason game, whipping MS Palmer 48-32 “Between the Hedges” last Friday.
In that contest head coach John Meeks did something a bit unique: he split his two star TJ’s (Colom II and Luellen) into two halves, handing the first half rushing duties to TJ Luellen. The senior rushed for 116 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Fellow senior TJ Colom II followed that performance with an even bigger second half, going for 216 yards and two TD’s. He added a game-sealing interception at the goal line with under a minute to play.
Walnut is an explosive offensive team which has been somewhat generous defensively this season, scoring at a 44 points per game clip while allowing 25 points per contest. Fifty-six of those came in a road loss at East Union in October.
Three things Meeks-coached teams always seem to possess are speed, physicality and discipline. It doesn’t mean a win every time out but it’s been a successful formula since he took the reins of the ‘Cats in 2012. Since that time he has compiled a 66-39 record with eight playoff appearances.
East Webster has not been kind to Walnut in their abbreviated recent history, owning a 5-0 record against the Wildcats since 2005. Three were decided by 35 points or more while the 2005 and 2011 contests ended in 25-12 and 12-7 finals respectively.
The only common opponent for the two schools this season was East Union. The Urchins defeated Walnut 56-30 in October after the Wolverines had defeated East Union 42-20 in September.
The Wolverines like to run the ball and are deeply grounded in that part of the game. For instance, they rushed for 391 yards in their win over East Union with two backs, senior Steven Betts and junior Zy Ford, going for 160 and 108 respectively. The duo scored five touchdowns in the game.
Can Walnut slow down the East Union rushing game and force them to win thru the air while Colom II and Luellen continue their recent hot streak? It’s interesting to note that Wilcats quarterback Cade Hunt lit the Urchins secondary up with a 21-32 performance for 343 yards and two TD’s. Colom and Luellen combined for just 79 rushing yards in that contest but each scored twice on the ground. Colom served primarily as a receiver against EUHS, hauling in 12 passes for 235 yards.
Will the ‘Cats finally break the streak and earn a road playoff win over East Webster or will the Wolverines continue their dominance in the series?
Kickoff in Maben is set for 7 p.m.
Kent’s pick: East Webster