For three and a half quarters, it appeared as if the Noxapater Tigers were going to knock off defending region champion West Lowndes.
The Tigers led 20-8 late, but two fourth-quarter scores gave West Lowndes a 22-20 home win over Noxapater on Friday night.
The Noxapater Tigers fall to 2-2 on the season and will host Vardaman on Friday night for homecoming.
Head Coach Caleb Kelly said his team had its chances to win the game after leading 20-8 late in the fourth.
“I thought we were the better team but fumbled the game away,” Kelly said. “We shot ourselves in the foot and turnovers killed us. We fumbled late to give them a walk-in score. Our kids gave good effort, and I was highly impressed with our kids on defense. We moved the ball all night but coughed up three turnovers. We were in position to win and just didn’t finish it. I hope our kids understand that we are still a good football team. The only people who can beat us is us.”
The Tigers got on the board first as Kyle Phillips scored on a 45-yard run with 7:29 left in the first quarter. The PAT failed, and Noxapater led 6-0.
West Lowndes then put together a long drive and scored with two minutes left in the first. The try for two was good, and West Lowndes led 8-6, a score that held until halftime.
“I thought we were the better team at the end of the night,” Kelly said. “We just didn’t finish, and the turnovers killed us. We must do a better job finishing. West Lowndes has good talent and a good team.”
He continued, “Our kids gave a good effort, and I was highly impressed with our kids on defense. We moved the ball well all night. We had some drives but stayed behind the chains with penalties. We just weren’t our best on offense. We were in position to win and didn’t finish it.”
The Tigers made things interesting in the second half as they retook the lead when Phillips broke free on an 80-yard run. Phillips ran in the two-point conversion, and the Tigers led with 4:28 left in the third quarter.
After holding the Panthers, the Tigers appeared in total control of the game as Philips scored on a 7-yard run with 6:28 left in the game. The try for two failed, and Noxapater led 20-8.
The Panthers then went down the field and scored with four minutes to go in the game to cut the lead to 20-14.
The Tigers got the ball back but fumbled deep in West Lowndes territory. The Panthers scored with 2:39 left in the game and converted the two-point conversion to go up 22-20 with 2:39 left.
“We had bright spots in the run game,” Kelly said. “We ran for 297 yards and if you take away a few penalties on key plays, we probably ran for 350 yards or more. We just couldn’t get ahead of the chains. We just fumbled it away, and that’s a hard way to win. We have to improve our ball security and grow from it.”
Phillips led the rushing attack with 207 yards on 16 carries with three TDs while Jimmy Graham had 74 yards on eight carries. Phillips was 2-of-9 passing for 26 yards.
On defense, Emmanuel Carter had 14 tackles while JyKavius Riddle had 12 tackles and an interception. Keon Tucker also had 12 tackles while T.K. Wilson had seven tackles and a forced fumble. Chris Dale had six tackles while Phillips and Javien Eichelberger had five tackles. Demarkus McCully had four tackles, J’Cameron Riley had three tackles, and Vontavious Tripplet had a fumble recovery.
This week’s game:
The Tigers will be at home this week as they host Vardaman for homecoming and will continue in division play.
Vardaman is 2-1 on the season with wins over Myrtle (42-0) and Bruce (42-14). Two weeks ago, they lost 31-21 to East Webster.
“They will be well prepared and will play hard,” Kelly said. “We have to rebound from this loss. We have to clean up our mistakes and go 1-0 this week. I would hope this loss would drive our guys this week to really want to win. I still think we are one of the best teams in the district.”