By Ruthie Robison The Winston County Journal
The Nanih Waiya Warriors found out Thursday before their matchup with the Noxapater Tigers that they would finish their season third in Class 1A, Region 3, District 4.
Due to the Oktibbeha County School district’s sudden loss of accreditation last week, the West Oktibbeha Timberwolves, holding the Region 3, No. 3 spot, were banned from playing in the postseason. Nanih Waiya, originally seeded fourth in their division, moved up to the third spot while West Lowndes moved up from fifth to fourth clinching a playoff berth.
The Warriors started their 2012 season with many new faces on both sides of the ball. With four losses early in the year, Nanih Waiya was uncertain about the rest of their season.
After a non-division 54-21 win over Clarkdale, the Warriors went on a six game winning spree.
“Of course starting out this season 0-4 we were kind of down which we knew we were starting nine new players on each side of the ball,” said Nanih Waiya head coach Tate Hanna. “We were proud of the effort they gave. Then to break off six wins; we were very proud.”
Even though Nanih Waiya was unable to obtain another victory last Thursday night at Leon Burton Field, the Warriors were able to achieve something that only one other team in the district has accomplished this year. Nanih Waiya was able to reach the end zone twice during the game against the stingy Tiger defense. The only other team to score over seven points during a bout with Noxapater in division play was the second ranked Pelahatchie Chiefs.
“Noxapater is probably the number one (Class 1A) team in the state,” said Hanna. “They are a very good team, and I’m proud our kids and their effort.”
In addition, the Warrior defense held Noxapater to their lowest margin win in district play defeating Nanih Waiya by 26 points.
The match between the Warriors and Tigers has been a long-standing, heated county rival contest with the winner receiving the Cross Creek Rivalry trophy.
The Tigers and the Warriors took the field ready for an intense showdown.
Nanih Waiya began moving the ball down the field on their first possession. As the Warriors traveled deep into Tiger territory, Noxapater intercepted the ball putting the Tigers on their own 19- yard line. On the next play, junior quarterback Tyrell Carter connected with wide receiver Justin Robertson on an 81-yardpass. Noxapater gained an early lead, 6-0.
But the Warriors were aggressive and did not waste much time answering back. Nanih Waiya began moving the chains again bringing the ball back into Tiger territory. Senior quarterback Luke Rosamond dashed a keeper 19 yards for a Nanih Waiya touchdown. The Warriors had matched Noxapater with 6:05 left in the first quarter, 6-6. The Tigers knew they had to retake the lead quickly in order to contain Nanih Waiya’s efforts for a victory.
Noxapater answered back on their next possession. Carter hit Robertson again, this time with a20-yard pass. The Tigers had reclaimed the lead, 12-6.
In the second quarter, the Tigers began racking up points with three touchdowns.
By halftime, Noxapater had a 33-6 advantage over Nanih Waiya.
“We came out and had opportunities to put the ball in the end zone with our first two or three drives, but we didn’t,” Hanna said. “Against a good team like Noxapater, you have to put together good drives and put points on the board.”
The second half of the game took a turn as both teams tightened down on the defensive side of the ball.
The Warrior defense forced the Tigers to punt for the first time during the game in the third quarter.
With Nanih Waiya in possession of the ball, they marched down the field. On the Tiger 26-yard line, the Warriors were close to a rally. But a Noxapater interception spoiled Nanih Waiya’s chance to score.
Both teams would remain scoreless in the third quarter.
The Tigers capped their win with another touchdown run by Keon Coburn from one yard out.
However, the Warriors kept fighting.
With just seconds left in the game, freshman Ken McQueen made a run from the red zone. The Warriors added the extra points and took a 40-14 loss.
“I am proud of the team,” Hanna said. “They kept fighting. The score was 33-6 at halftime, and they fought back. The second half was an 8-7 game.”
Nanih Waiya finished their schedule with a 6-5 overall record and was 5-3 in district play.
The Warriors will enter the first round on the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 1A playoffs this Friday.
Nanih Waiya will travel to Stringer to face the Region 4, No. 2 Red Devils.
Stringer has a 9-2, 8-1 record and recently defeated Salem, 56-14.
Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m.