OXFORD, MS (WLOX) - East Central's magical 2017 season comes up just a bit short. Senior quarterback Rylee Brown threw a late-game interception with just seconds to play, sealing the deal as the Hornets (13-1) fall to Noxubee County 41-35 in the Class 4A State Championship game.
"Obviously, that's the best group that's ever come through this school," head coach Seth Smith said. "(I) just couldn't be more gracious to our community. (I am) grateful for their support. It's really the most enjoyable time of my life."
The Hornets led by 14 points at two different points in the second half, but Noxubee County scored the final 20 points of the game to pull away.
"Credit their players, they're very talented," Smith said of the Tigers. "(They've) got a ton of great athletes, we had a hard time matching up with them, and any time we got the momentum we just couldn't quite hold on to it."
Having a healthy Tony Brown would certainly have helped. The senior running back had to be carted off the field in the second quarter with what Coach Smith believes to be a broken collarbone, but not before racking up 108 yards on 14 carries (editor's note - Brown later tweeted he only suffered a dislocated shoulder).
"Well obviously, it hurts," Smith said of Brown's absence. "If you would have told us we'd only have him for one quarter... You saw what he did, two touchdowns, which put him at 50 total touchdowns on the season."
Despite coming up just six points short of their ultimate goal, Smith still showed plenty of pride for all of their accomplishments this season, including the program's first Class 4A South State Championship.
"You're talking about a school that had only won one playoff game in the 59-year history of the school before those guys," Smith said. "Now, they've won I think seven or eight playoff games and made it to a State Championship, so there's really not much left to say about what they've done. It's incredible."
Ultimately, the Hornets did not earn that one win they really wanted from this season, but considering their one win campaign from just a few years ago, head coach Seth Smith has built up the East Central program for future success.