Battle of the Tigers, Jefferson County hosts 3A South State Championship

Published 12:31 pm Friday, November 24, 2023

By Patrick Jones

The Natchez Democrat

FAYETTE — It will be the battle of the Tigers this Friday night when Jefferson County High School plays host to surprising Noxubee County High School in the 2023 MHSAA Class 3A South State Championship Game.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Kickoff between the Noxubee County Tigers (9-4; Region 5-3A No. 2 seed) and the Jefferson County Tigers (9-3; Region 7-3A No. 1 seed) is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday. The host Tigers are coming off an impressive 30-17 road win over the Region 6-3A No. 3 seed Seminary High School Bulldogs last Friday night.

“The guys came in focused. They came in determined to win. Everybody was on one accord,” Jefferson County head coach Roderick Holmes said.

In that game, Jefferson County trailed Seminary 10-8 late in the first half before senior quarterback Jabari Watson threw a key touchdown pass to fellow senior Luke Bolin for a touchdown. The Tigers added the two-point conversion to go up 16-10 at halftime.

That score not only gave Jefferson County the lead for good, but it also swung the momentum in the Tigers’ favor. They would score two touchdowns in the third quarter to increase their lead to 30-10 with 8:40 to go in the third quarter.

The Bulldogs scored a touchdown later in the third quarter to make it a 30-17 and they had their chances to make it even closer, but the Tigers came up with some big stops. Defensively, Jermal Williams returned a fumble for a touchdown and De’anthony Miller had three interceptions. That unit also came up with a big goal-line stand to deny Seminary. 

Offensively, Watson had another solid performance and the host Tigers will need another big-time game from him as well as Royale Shelvy to defeat Noxubee County, win the Class 3A South State championship, and advance to the Class 3A State Championship Game as part of the 2023 Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi Gridiron Classic (MHSAA Football State Championships) on Saturday, Dec. 2 at 3:30 p.m. at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on the campus of the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss).

After the game, Holmes said that all three units — offense, defense, and special teams — contributed in a big way in helping Jefferson County come out on top.

“Very thrilled about that. We’ve been preaching that the whole year. When all three units contribute their job, the result is a win and that’s what I expect from them,” Holme said.

Meanwhile, the visiting Tigers from Macon have already pulled off two straight stunning road upset this postseason. Two weeks ago in the Class 3A South State quarterfinals, they traveled to Bay St. Louis and upset the Region 8-1A No. 1 seed St. Stanislaus High School Rock-A-Chaws in convincing fashion, 49-14. 

Then last Friday night in the other Class 3A South State semifinal-round game, they hit the road to Bassfield and shocked many by defeating the Jefferson Davis High School Jaguars 29-22.

“It’s a team that we haven’t faced before. It’s a team we know little about. It’s a challenge. But again, it’s the playoffs. We know they’re very good,” Holmes said. “My players have been up for the challenge and I’m fine with that.”

Holmes added that even though Thanksgiving falls on a Thursday and that could present a challenge in how a team’s practice could be altered, he sees it as “a blessing.”

“We’re looking at this in a different way. We’re in practice right now (Monday morning). We’re not looking as it’s Thanksgiving week, we have to practice. We’re one of the four teams left in Class 3A in late November and it’s a blessing,” Holmes said.

Holmes said that the host Tigers will practice in the morning a few days and in the evening in the other days. He noted that his team will practice on Thanksgiving Day itself.

“We’re altering our practice times. I still want to give them the opportunity to rest this week,” Holmes said. “Most of the time we break down film on Monday and do some running.”

When asked who needs to have a big game for Jefferson County to defeat Noxubee County and not only win the Class 3A South State title but also advance to the state title game next weekend, Holmes said, “We need everybody. We need all hands on deck. We need everybody on offense. Everybody on defense. Everybody on special teams. That’s what it’s going to take to beat those guys. Not just one or two people.”

Holmes said that he expects the stadium at Jefferson County to be packed with not any empty seat in sight.

“I don’t expect there to be a spot to not have a person. This is the first time we’ve hosted a South State title game. I don’t expect this to be the end. I look for us to play for the state championship and take it all,” Holmes said.