BAY ST. LOUIS – St. Stanislaus (9-2) scored first and they were able to stay within striking distance of Noxubee County (8-4) in the first half, but the visitors scored 28 unanswered second-half points to put away the Rock-a-chaws 49-14 in the second round of the 3A state playoffs.
The Rock-a-chaws scored to tie the game at 14-14 with just under seven minutes remaining on the second quarter clock. But the Tigers would put together a 9-play 69-yard scoring drive that would give them the lead for good with just under a minute remaining on the second quarter clock. They would take a 21-14 lead into halftime.
The Rock-a-chaws would also suffer a significant setback when their play-making quarterback Ian Rios suffered an injury early in the third quarter and was not able to return to the game.
“Obviously he was a big time difference maker,” said Rock-a-chaws coach Tim Lala. “There was a time of uncertainty, maybe he’ll come back, maybe he won’t. But we fought through all that, and that’s what I’m really proud of. It got out of hand a little bit. We got some opportunities for some of the seniors to do some things that they hadn’t gotten to do before.
“I’m super proud of these guys. This group of seniors is an unbelievably special group,” said Lala. “They are a big reason for the success we’ve been able to have this year.
“At this very moment it hurts a lot that it’s over,” said Lala. “This group of men won’t get to see the field again together. In a couple of weeks, we’ll get back to work on the 2024 rendition of this group.”
St. Stanislaus got on the scoreboard first on their first possession of the game with a 35-yard touchdown pass from Rios to a wide-open Ethan Galloway short of the goal line. The Rock-a-chaws would convert on two third-and-longs and a fourth-and-1 on the 61-yard 9-play drive.
Noxubee County would go 80 yards on their ensuing possession as Kamario Taylor would break away for two eleven-yard runs, the second for the Tigers’ first score of the game. Taylor would also connect with Dequadrion Welch for a 38-yard pass play to move the ball into Rock-a-chaws’ territory at the 42-yard line. The PAT kick failed, giving the Rocks a 7-6 lead with just over four minutes remaining in the first quarter.
The Rocks’ defense held the Tigers’ offense to a net of 6 yards on their next possession, and the Tigers’ defense reciprocated on the Rock’s ensuing possession, forcing a Rocks’ punt from just inside the Tigers’ side of midfield. Evan Noel’s punt traveled 35 yards, giving the visitors a long field from their own 14-yard line. But Taylor was not moved. He took the first snap through the line of scrimmage and down the Rocks’ sideline, racing 86 yards to give the visitors their second score and their first lead of the game. The 2-point conversion attempt gave the Tigers a 14-7 lead with 9 minutes remaining in the second quarter.
The Rocks started their ensuing possession at their own 21-yard line. Rios was sacked on the first snap, and after an incomplete pass, the Rocks’ faced another third-and-long. And Rios answered with a 30-yard keeper for a first down.
Rios would convert on a second third-and-long on this series with a 21-yard pass completion to Levi Green. Rios would carry on the next two snaps, the first for 20 yards down the left side of the field followed by a 14-yard keeper for the touchdown. Evan Noel was successful on both PAT kicks, closing out the Rock-a-chaws scoring on the night to tie the game at 14-14.
The second half was all Noxubee County as they scored on their first two possessions, then scored on an interception – a pick-6 to take a 41-14 lead with a minute to go in the third quarter.
Taylor would connect with Welch again for the Tigers’ final score, this time from 21 yards out. He then connected with Welch from 3 yards out for the 2-point conversion to close out the game’s scoring.
This was the third time these two teams have met in the playoffs. Noxubee County defeated St. Stanislaus in the 2014 and ’15 4A State Championships.