Three four-star prospects took to the field on an ominous and sometimes drizzly evening in Macon, Mississippi, on Friday night. They did not disappoint.
In an absolute thriller of a game between well-respected programs, Jeffery Simmons and the 4A Noxubee County Tigers came away victorious against A.J. Brown, Kobe Jones and the 6A Starkville Yellow Jackets by a score of 26-20 in double overtime.
After a 51-19 drubbing at the hands of the Yellow Jackets in last season’s opener, Noxubee County was looking to return the favor on its home field this time around.
Starkville took the lead 7-0 with a touchdown on their first drive but after a lightning delay with 5:30 remaining in the first quarter, Noxubee came back out of the locker room with a different intensity. They scored the next 14 points to take a 20-6 lead.
“We went over and talked as a defensive line during the break,” said Simmons. “We said ‘Okay, we need to fix this.’ When we went in there, we lined up, wrote it on the board, [had a] board talk, came back out and got everything right.”
The Yellow Jackets responded with a couple of touchdowns of their own, including a game-tying juggling act on a fade route midway through the fourth quarter by A.J. Brown. Simmons seemingly willed his way into the backfield to block the extra point, which was a huge momentum swing for the home team. After a couple of quick stalled drives by both teams, the game went to overtime.
“It was going through my head — I know I can get back there in the backfield,” said Simmons. “It’s the ability I’ve got and the mindset. I trust God. I pray every night, every day, and all I say to God is ‘Let me go do it. Give me the strength to go do it and when I went back there, came on the ball, I did it.’”
Neither team scored in the first overtime, but Noxubee County took the lead 26-20 after a passing touchdown and another missed two-point conversion in the second overtime period. On fourth-and-goal for Starkville from the 2-yard line, what would have been the game-tying touchdown went through Brown’s hands and the celebration began for the defending 4A state champion Tigers.
Jeffery Simmons was the difference throughout. He finished with 12 tackles, including five sacks and a tackle for loss to go along with three deflections – one that forced a punt and another that led to an interception in the fourth quarter – in addition to assisting on five more tackles, recovering a muffed punt and busting through the line for that crucial blocked kick on what would have been the game-winning extra point.
Simmons showed a great deal of emotion throughout and when asked about that, he said “I dedicated this game to my nephew. My sister lost three of them. I chose that I’m going to come out here every play with the greatest effort. I said I wasn’t going to stop until I win. This is my house and I said I’m going to protect it. I’m glad we won as a team.”
A.J. Brown finished with 14 receptions for 147 yards and a touchdown. Many of his receptions were quite impressive, and he displayed great ability in catching the ball at its high point as well as reeling in fade routes from all angles.
Playing at offensive tackle, defensive end and occasionally defensive tackle, Kobe Jones did not have his best performance but finished with four tackles, two of those for loss, a quarterback pressure and an assisted tackle. Jones was effective in his run blocking and the Yellow Jackets ran behind him most of the night.
In a game that went down to the wire and was mostly played in wet conditions, Jeffery Simmons was the star of the night. His enthusiasm and determination led his team to a hard-fought win.
Justin Wagner, lead recruiting analyst at Touchdown Alabama, says Simmons projects as an early contributor for whichever team lands his commitment.
“He’s a guy that can do everything well, and he showed that tonight,” said Wagner. “He’s an unbelievable talent with unlimited potential.”
Noxubee County head coach Tyrone Shorter said of Simmons’ performance, “I’ve been coaching for 18 years and I’ve never seen a player dominate a game like that. If he’s not the best player in the state of Mississippi, I don’t know who is. If you can turn his film on, you can see he was totally above everybody. He made play after play after play, but it’s expected of him. This guy is unbelievable. We played him on offense and we played him on special teams. He hardly [came] off the field and he played through the whole game. It just tells how hard he works, but he’s an unbelievable guy.”