By Rocky

Higginbotham

Kemper County Messenger



In its playoff opener, Nanih Waiya hit East Marion with the thunder and a stout defense in an easy win.

Last Friday night in South State semifinal action, the Warriors showed their versatility with the lightning and an air attack.

“Lightning” Chris Smith struck for 148 yards and two touchdowns, and senior quarterback Bryce Stanton threw for 232 yards and two more scores as the Warriors rolled up a 42-18 win over visiting Stringer.

The win lifted Nanih Waiya to a perfect 14-0 on the season, while the Red Devils finished 10-4.

The No. 2 ranked Warriors will host the Class 1A South State Championship game this week, albeit not necessarily against the team many expected. Nanih Waiya hosts Resurrection Catholic Friday with a state championship berth on the line, with kickoff set for 7 p.m.

Resurrection knocked off defending state runner-up Lumberton 20-12 last week. Lumberton had eliminated Nanih Waiya in the postseason two consecutive years.

“It’s not maybe who some of our folks expected, but it’s a team that beat them,” Nanih Waiya coach Ryan Keeton said of Resurrection. “A team with a lot of experienced guys that is playing its best football of the year.”

The parochial school from Pascagoula is 7-6 overall after starting the year 0-4 – all against bigger competition. The Eagles were the state runners-up in 2015 and have made four straight playoff appearances.

They’ve won six of their last seven games – with the only loss a 26-22 setback to Lumberton in the regular season that they avenged last week.

Senior quarterback Blake Porter has thrown for 2,386 yards and 25 touchdowns, while senior Jerry Johnson is the leading rusher with 835 yards and 13 touchdowns despite missing three games with an injury.

The top two receivers are also seniors: Patrick Roth has 46 catches for 862 yards and nine scores while Caden Hinman has 36 catches for 658 yards and eight TDs.

Nanih Waiya, meanwhile, blitzed Stringer with a pair of early scores to take control in last Friday night’s win.

Smith busted an 81-yard touchdown run on the Warriors’ first play from scrimmage, and after a Taemaus Glass conversion run, Nanih Waiya was up 8-0 less than 2 minutes into the game.

It was 16-0 after a 69-yard touchdown pass from Stanton to Smith, who broke a tackle just beyond the line of scrimmage and raced down the left sideline for a score.

Things got a little hairy in the second quarter. The Red Devils got on the board with a field goal, then trimmed the lead to 16-5 with a safety.

But Nanih Waiya’s defense stepped up, and Stanton added a 2-yard touchdown keeper before the half for a 22-5 lead.

Stanton found Isaac Eiland on a 34-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter, then Glass scored on a 10-yard run and Smith added the two-point conversion for a 36-5 advantage.

Stringer scored a pair of touchdowns in the fourth, sandwiched around a 76-yard scoring jaunt from Smith.

Smith finished with 264 total yards and three TDs on nine touches. He ran it six times for 148 yards and caught three passes for 106 yards. Stanton was 7-of-11 for 232 yard and two scores passing, with Eiland catching four balls for 126 yards. Nanih Waiya rolled up 447 total yards and held Stringer to 163.

Glass, Stanton and Dalton Luke all had seven total tackles, with Stanton’s three solos leading the defense.

Charner Estes had six total stops including one tackle for a loss; Smith and Shia Moore had five tackles each; Deon Hickman had four stops and a TFL; Kyle Holdiness had four tackles; and Eiland had an interception.