By ROCKY HIGGINBOTHAM

Kemper County Messenger



Rivalry week has arrived for Nanih Waiya.

In a contest which will once again have postseason implications, Nanih Waiya hosts “cross-swamp” rival Noxapater Thursday night in a Region 3-1A showdown. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

Fresh off a 53-13 non-district win at Smithville, Nanih Waiya comes into the matchup 11-0 overall and 7-0 in region play. Noxapater is 8-2 and 6-1 after winning 29-18 last week at Vardaman.

“They’re coming off a very big win at a tough place to play last week and they have a lot to play for just like we do,” Nanih Waiya coach Ryan Keeton said of the Tigers. “We’re expecting the same kind of battle we got from them last year.”

Last year, some fans felt Nanih Waiya was clearly the better team in the rivalry – but the Warriors struggled to grind out a 19-7 victory.

“They’re going to get up for us just like they did last year and they’re going to be quick and stingy on defense,” Keeton said. “They’ve lost a couple of games, but they’re just a few points away from being undefeated too.”

Nanih Waiya has won four straight in the rivalry, while Noxapater’s two losses were by a combined three points.

The Tigers are allowing just 9.5 points per game; Nanih Waiya has allowed 9.18.

“They’re going to be one of the quickest and more athletic teams we’ve seen,” Keeton said.

Both teams have qualified for the postseason, but both are also playing for a region title and home-field advantage in the playoffs. Nanih Waiya can finish an unblemished run through the region (the Warriors have won 32 straight district games), while a Noxapater win could possibly  throw the teams into a three-way tie with French Camp – which is also 6-1 in the league and is at Leake County Friday.

Last week at Smithville, Nanih Waiya quarterback Bryce Stanton topped the century mark in the air and on the ground and six different Warriors found the end zone in a big win.

The Warriors took control with three first-quarter touchdowns, with Charner Estes getting the scoring started on a 2-yard run for a 6-0 lead.

Chris Smith returned an interception 80 yards for Nanih Waiya’s next score, and Taemaus Glass ran in the two-point conversion for a 14-0 lead.

It was 21-0 after Stanton rumbled 75 yards and Roper Ball added the point-after kick.

Smith scored on a 16-yard run and Ball added another kick in the second quarter, putting the Warriors ahead 28-0 before Smithville scored.

Stanton found Isaac Eiland on a 57-yard touchdown pass later in the second quarter, then Ball kicked a 37-yard field goal that sent the Warriors into the locker room with a 38-7 lead.

Shia Moore scored on a 16-yard touchdown run and Stanton hit Deon Hickman on a two-point pass for a 46-7 lead in the third quarter.

Smithville answered that score to pull within 46-13, and Tylan Glass scored on a 5-yard touchdown run later in the third to wrap up the scoring for the night.

Stanton finished with 101 yards passing, with Eiland, Smith and Estes catching passes. He also ran for 120 yards on six carries, while Smith added 51 on three carries and Taemaus Glass 38 on just four carries.

Nanih Waiya out-gained Smithville 353-179 on the night.

Estes led the defense with eight total tackles including five solos and two tackles for a loss, while Taemaus Glass and Dalton Luke recorded seven tackles apiece. Both had two solos and five assists; Luke had a sack and two TFL; and Glass had a TFL.

Caleb Warren recorded six total tackles and had one TFL; Moore recorded six tackles and had a fumble recovery; Kyle Holdiness had five total stops and one TFL; and Smith had four stops and the interception.