MACON, Miss., - Midway through the fourth quarter Friday night, Noxubee County head coach M.C. Miller was calmly standing on the sideline in his trademark straw hat and toothpick dangling from his mouth munching on a bag of popcorn.
The game was already in the bag by that point.
His Tigers had surged to a 36-10 lead in the first three quarters to bounce Hernando from the MHSAA 4A State Playoffs in the opening round.
"I'd only do that when the game is in the bag," Miller said. "I knew that it was kinda over with then and somebody else had some so I just got me a few of them. It tasted pretty good so I told them that they better go get me a bag."
Noxubee County racked up 425 yards of total offense in the game and held Hernando to negative-21 yards rushing on the evening. The Tigers accounted for 257 yards on the ground themselves while passing for another 168 en route to the win.
Wide receiver Patrick Patterson had another stellar night picking up 126 yards of total offense and three touchdowns. The U.S. Army All-American caught six passes for 95 yards and three scores while rushing for 31 yards on three attempts.
"He is a great player," Miller said. "He is going to make something happen. He is our go-to man no matter if he is double covered or what; if we still need to go to him we will go to him. He is unstoppable on the high school level. Nobody has stopped him yet. They have double and triple teamed him and he still finds a way to get open and we get the ball to him. If you get the ball close to him, he will get it."
Quarterback Termarcus Conner also had an excellent evening hitting on 12-of-19 passing for 168 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He also had two more touchdown passes dropped.
"He is improving and every game he is getting better and better," Miller said. "He missed a lot of reads tonight but he was throwing the ball well. If we can get him on where he can read his keys, we will be hard to beat. He's got a good arm and can run it too."
Not to be outdone, running back Earnest Harmon added 145 yards rushing on 23 attempts and a score to lead the Tigers.
Noxubee got things rolling on the opening drive of the game. The Tigers drove 80-yards in 11 plays finding the end zone on a Conner to Patterson 18-yard strike. Patterson added the point after for an early 7-0 lead.
The game would remain that way until early on in the second quarter. After a 44-yard scramble by Conner, he hooked up with Patterson from 6-yards out to extend the lead to 13-0 after a missed PAT.
Hernando got on the board after taking advantage of a muffed punt and used the field position to cash in a 27-yard field goal by Hugo Pontes.
The Tigers roared back on the ensuing drive after the Conner-Patterson connected once more for a touchdown, this time from 16-yards out. Conner ran in the two-point conversion for a 21-3 lead midway through the second quarter.
But Hernando would not go away just yet. Quarterback Martin Walsh completed a 60-yard pass to Ricky Robertson to set up a 13-yard scoring toss to Curtis Turnstall on the next drive. Pontes booted the extra point cutting the lead to 21-10.
Noxubee County countered just before the end of the half. Harmon chewed up 47 yards on the ensuing drive capping it off with a 5-yard plunge. The two-point conversion pass was incomplete with 55 second remaining.
Hernando made a push to score with the allotted time left after a 50-yard completion from Walsh to Justin Joyner to set up a 1st-and-goal situation. But the Tiger defense stepped up with two consecutive sacks before time expired in the first half.
Noxubee's defense would account for it's two scores in the second half as Demond Jenkins sacked Walsh in the end zone for a safety on the first drive of the third quarter and Enoch Glenn would later recover a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown to wrap up the scoring.
"(The defense has) done so much this year that I can't hardly say anything more," Miller said. "It's not just a one-man team, it's all of them. They all run to the ball and are aggressive and want to make contact."
Hernando was held to only 167 total yards and gave up seven sacks and two turnovers.
Walsh completed 8-of-19 passing for 188 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Robertson was the leading receiver for Hernando with two grabs for 66 yards while Kendall Simmons paced the ground game with 14 yards on five carries.
Hernando ends it's season at 8-3 while the Tigers kept it's season perfect at 10-0. Noxubee will advance to host Itawamba AHS (10-1) on Friday.
"They have a good ball club," Miller said of Itawamba. "They were tough last year. We were lucky to get out of there with the quarterback they had last year. But one thing about it is we have them at home this time. I haven't seen them on film or anything yet but all that I hear is that they have a good ball club and have a good running back."
Noxubee County 36, Hernando 10 Macon
Hernando 0 10 0 0 - 10 Noxubee 7 20 9 0 - 36
1st Quarter: NC-Patrick Patterson 18-yard pass from Termarcus Conner (Patterson kick) 2nd Quarter: NC-Patterson 6-yard pass from Conner (Kick failed) HHS- Hugo Pontes 27-yard field goal NC- Patterson 16-yard pass from Conner (Conner run) HHS- Curtis Turnstall 13-yard pass from Martin Walsh (Pontes kick) NC- Earnest Harmon 5-yard run (pass failed) 3rd Quarter: NC- Demond Jenkins safety NC- Enoch Glenn fumble recovery (Patterson kick)