• John Macon Gillespie

Coverage Breakdown: Noxubee County @ Pontotoc

Players to Watch:

Noxubee County Tigers

#1 Maliek Stallings—Noxubee County has been fairly balanced on offense throughout the season, and part of that is due to their sophomore signal caller. Stallings leads the Tigers in both passing yards (2,342) and total yards (2,356) in 2016, and will be targeting a plethora of talented receivers tonight. He has a rocket arm and freakish passing accuracy. When coverage breaks down, Stallings can escape pressure and has a knack for extending plays, but doesn't carry the ball often. When Stallings isn't taking snaps, it will be junior Armoni Clark.

#8 Kyziah Pruit—One of Stallings' favorite targets in the passing game is fellow sophomore Kyziah Pruitt. Pruitt leads the Tigers in receiving yards with 1,162 and has 13 touchdown receptions. Pruitt has two traits that help make a receiver successful: size and speed. He is listed as 6'0 and 185 pounds and has the burst of quickness necessary to separate himself from opposing defensive backs. The Tiger quarterbacks will also target Pruitt in screen passes from time to time to help get him into the open field.

#30 Jakerrius Oliver—Noxubee will use an assortment of running backs tonight, an attack that is spearheaded by senior Jakerrius Oliver. Oliver leads the Tigers in rushing yards with 605 and also has 123 receiving yards on the year with nine total touchdowns. Oliver is a threat to get into the open field and make plays. He makes quick cuts, which is valuable for him whether he is running the ball or running a route. He is sometimes targeted in short passing situations and then racks up some yards after the catch.

#4 Ty'Quintin Ramsey—Another senior back that is valuable to the Tigers' ground game is Ty'Quintin Ramsey. Ramsey has 537 rushing yards on the season with five touchdowns, and like his fellow running back Jakerrius Oliver, could be targeted in the passing game as well. Ramsey is quick and elusive and can slip through a defender's grasp. Although he is listed as 5'8 and 190 pounds, the Tigers have no problem feeding him the football in between the tackles.

#24 Kalmorris Robinson—If defense wins championships, Robinson can help the Tigers return to the title game. The senior linebacker has 102 solo tackles on the season and 133 total. Robinson is quick and has a drive to find the football that is almost impossible to deny. His ability to fly around the field and break through the line of scrimmage will help Noxubee as they attempt to quell Pontotoc's offensive attacks.

Pontotoc Warriors

#10 Jacob Carter—A quarterback's success goes a long way in determining how successful his team will be, and senior Jacob Carter has been brilliant in 2016. Carter has thrown for 2,537 yards and 30 touchdowns with only three interceptions. He has great awareness in the pocket and can throw accurately, even when on the move. When his pass protection breaks down, Carter can scramble out of the pocket and find the open man downfield. He is a vital asset to the Warriors' offense, to say the least.

#1 Austin Morphis—Statistically, Austin Morphis is Jacob Carter's favorite receiver to target on Friday nights. The junior wideout and strong safety makes his presence known on both sides of the football for the Warriors. Offensively, Morphis has 819 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns while on defense he has 28 total tackles. Morphis may be called on for screen plays on offense, where his size and power make him a formidable force to bring down. Morphis will have to play well defensively as he is facing a talented quarterback in Maliek Stallings.

#21 Gabe Harmon—A young talent that has burst onto the scene in 2016 is sophomore running back Gabe Harmon. Harmon is listed at 5'7 and 180 pounds, and will be targeted in both the passing and rushing game tonight. Not only is he quick in the open field, but he also has no issue with lowering his shoulder into oncoming defenders to fight for extra yardage. It is this determination that has given Harmon 1,667 rushing yards on the season and 19 touchdowns. Harmon is frequently utilized in Pontotoc's offense, and they will try to get him the ball as often as possible tonight.

#28 Brandon Hale—The Warrior defense relies heavily on senior Brandon Hale. Hale has accumulated 150 total tackles on the year, 35 of which are solo. He will line up at strong safety and linebacker where his speed and power are utilized to their full potential. Hale has good hands and is a threat to intercept the ball when it is thrown his way and is known to lay punishing hits on ballcarriers. He will have to be on his toes tonight as he faces Noxubee's balanced offense.

#44 McKinley Windham—Another talented name on this Pontotoc defense is senior linebacker McKinley Windham. Windham has 134 total tackles, 2.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles so far in 2016. His strength and power make him a nightmare for opposing running backs, and he can track carriers down in the open field. If he can lay some hard hits early, it may effect the course of tonight's game.

Keys to the Game:

I have been hoping for this matchup all season. Pontotoc has had a special season so far as they sit at 12-1 on the year, while Noxubee, although at 9-4, is still one of the most talented teams in the state and the reigning 4A State Champions.

Both offenses are great. Both defenses are great. Who has the edge?

Whichever team's offensive playmakers can have a big night should win the ballgame. Not an easy task against such formidable defenses, but this is the postseason. Nothing is easy anymore.

Will it be a quarterback like Jacob Carter or Maliek Stallings that shines, or will it be one of the two running backs? Could we see one forced turnover decide the outcome of the game?

It's the 4A playoffs, it's a game in “The Hollow,” and it's going to be exciting.


The Running Backs

It's hard to narrow down the X-Factors due to the amount of talent on both rosters, but I am impressed with both teams' running game. Pontotoc's Gabe Harmon is already phenomenal and will only get better as his career progresses, and Noxubee's assortment of running backs is the perfect example of pure talent. We may see a lot of rushing yards tonight in Pontotoc.

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