By Brandon Speck/NEMS Daily Journal
There may not be a better defense in Mississippi than Noxubee County. There may not be a better backfield duo than Itawamba’s.
The two Class 4A unbeatens face off tonight in Fulton in a much-anticipated MHSAA state quarterfinals match.
“Noxubee is considered one of the best teams in the state of Mississippi, in all classifications,” Itawamba coach Toby Collums said. “We’ll come in as the underdog, and I hope our kids take that role and that mindset going into the game, that we’ve got kind of like nothing to lose and get after them. They’re an exceptional football team.”
Noxubee (13-0) was ranked second in the final state-wide Top 25 and boasts five postseason all-stars. The Tigers allow 7.2 points per game and have five shutouts.
Noxubee coach Tyrone Shorter said Thursday that defensive end prospect Dylan Bradley will be a game-time decision. He came back from a knee injury last week and has suffered from flu-like symptoms since Monday.
Itawamba’s defense doesn’t get the publicity its opponent does but is allowing only 10.1 points a game with three shutouts.
The No. 12 Indians (12-0) boast a backfield that has rushed for 3,065 yards and 47 touchdowns.
Top prospect Ashton Shumpert missed three games to open the season but has 1,732 yards and 25 scores. Charles Moore has 1,333 yards and 22 scores.
“Their offensive line is very big and can block. I think we have our hands full,” Shorter said. “I know our defensive line is very good.
“Our kids are looking forward to it. This is what you want. I just wish it wasn’t so early.”
Noxubee piles it on the stat sheet, too. Back Darrell Robinson has carried the ball 256 times for 2,273 yards and 41 touchdowns.
The numbers stand out, but Collums limits the stock in numbers with only one common opponent between the two. Both coaches say the game will be won in the trenches.
“It’s going to come down to who protects against the big play and who has the fewest turnovers. You’ve got to win the battle up front, and that’s probably their strength on defense, their front five,” Collums said.
IAHS scores just over 40 points per game. Noxubee averages better than 36.