It’s game week for the Class 4A state title contest and East Central’s Hornets are still abuzz after taking down Poplarville 52-45 on Friday to claim the South State championship.
East Central head coach Seth Smith and his staff are in the process of preparing for Saturday’s 3 p.m. kickoff against Noxubee County at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford.
Smith has proven a master at managing his team’s mental approach this season and he hopes his team can to stay on that emotional high.
“We’re back down to earth, but I keep reminding them that they better keep floating because you want to enjoy this,” Smith said. “It’s rare and special to be in this position so you want them to soak it up. You just have to balance it. You want to appreciate what happened, but you’re also reminding them that we have a football game to play on Saturday.”
Smith was on the receiving end of countless congratulatory messages over the weekend.
“I got a lot of texts from friends and family members,” he said. “A lot of people had kind words and nice things to say about the game. It was an epic game. I was fortunate to be a part of that football game. It was tremendous.”
Senior running back Tony Brown scored six touchdowns, including the go-ahead score from 3 yards out, on Friday to lead East Central to the win at Poplarville. He pushed his touchdown total to 48 with 32 coming over the last six games.
East Central stands at 13-0 while Noxubee County rolls in at 10-4 after taking down Louisville 35-28 to win the North State championship.
East Central has the better record, but Noxubee County is to Class 4A football what South Panola has been to Class 6A. Noxubee County has won four state title since the 2008 campaign.
“I would assume they’re as good or better than any of the teams they’ve had in the past,” Smith said. “They’re going to the state championship for a reason. For a school like them, it’s almost the norm.”
Noxubee County won consecutive state titles in 2014 and 2015, beating St. Stanislaus both seasons.
The Tigers will again bring a potent passing attack into the state title game with senior quarterback Armoni Clark completing 60.7 percent of his passes for 2,391 yards, 30 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Noxubee County has two receivers who hit the 1,000-yard mark this season in 6-foot-1, 180-pound senior Rashad Eades and 6-foot, 192-pound junior Kyziah Pruitt. Eades is the big play threat with 48 catches for 1,004 yards and 13 touchdowns. Pruitt has 74 receptions for 1,068 yards and 12 scores.
“The biggest thing is how we match up with their skill guys,” Smith said. “They have two really good receivers. Our kids go out and give good effort so we’ll see what happens. They’re also really good up front on the defensive line. Their defensive line and two receivers are the strengths of their team.”
State title schedule
Location: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Oxford
11 a.m. — Simmons vs. Nanih Waiya (Class 1A)
3 p.m. — Winona vs. Taylorsville (Class 2A)
7 p.m. — Starkville vs. Pearl (Class 6A)
11 a.m. — Yazoo County vs. Jefferson Davis County (Class 3A)
3 p.m. — Noxubee County vs. East Central (Class 4A)
7 p.m. — West Point vs. Hattiesburg (Class 5A)