November 21, 2012 9:32:05 AM
Adam Minichino - email@example.com
MACON -- Speed, quickness, power.
The Noxubee County High School football team prides itself in having at least 11 players who have all three of those qualities that come together to form one of the state's best defenses.
Individually, Jeremy and Eric Hunt may be the best representation of what makes the Tigers' "Demon" defense successful. Not only are the brothers part of a Noxubee County High tradition that has been passed on, but they also represent two parts of a unit that is much more than what is listed on the roster.
At first glance, Jeremy, a senior who is listed at 5-foot-10, 200 pounds, and Eric, a junior who is 5-9, 190, wouldn't impress if football players are judged on size alone.
That description never applied to a member of the Noxubee County High defense.
"We grew up around football and always had the mentality to work hard, to do the best we can, and to dominate," said Jeremy Hunt, whose family lives in Shuqualak.
The ability of the Hunts and their teammates to do that has been a driving force behind Noxubee County's run to the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 4A North State title game. Noxubee County (14-0) will play host to Louisville (10-4) at 7 p.m. Friday to determine which team will play in the state title game at 7 p.m. Dec. 1 in Jackson.
Two more victories would help Noxubee County become the first team in school history to go 16-0. The school's 2008 team went 14-0 en route to the program's first state crown.
Danarius Hunt, who is a student at East Mississippi Community College in Scooba, was a member of that team. LaDarrell Hunt also was a key contributor at running back for the Tigers before graduating in 2012. He recently completed his freshman season as a member of the Itawamba C.C. football team.
The Hunts older brothers set the foundation for a style of football Jeremy and Eric are carrying on. None of the four Hunts had eye-popping size that jumped off a roster sheet, but Danarius, whose nickname is "D.D.", played defensive tackle with a tenacity that belied his stature. He graduated from Noxubee County High in 2010.
Jeremy and Eric have brought that same mentality to linebacker this season. Both players said it motivates them to see their brother LaDarrell at ICC, and they both hope to take their games to the next level after they graduate.
Noxubee County football coach Tyrone Shorter believes both players have the potential to accomplish that goal.
"They are two very good kids," Shorter said. "They have great parents. They are some tough kids. They do a lot of rodeoing and stuff. They are well-mannered kids, smart kids, and they play hard."
Shorter said Jeremy has started on defense since the 10th grade, while Eric is a two-year starter. He said both players also could play running back, but the Tigers have plenty of depth at that position with standout senior Darrell Robinson. He said their speed and strength makes them ideal components of a defense that has five shutouts this season and has allowed 16 points in its past four games.
"Both of those guys have a lot of speed and are tough kids," Shorter said. "They can play inside, they can cover. You want all of your kids to be like those guys. They are very well-mannered. They don't disrespect. Their parents did a very good job raising them. They are good guys who love to play the game and love to hit."
Jeremy and Eric said having a stable that they care for with their father, Darrell, has helped nurture their toughness. They said they enjoy riding -- outside of football season, of course -- and have been involved in rodeo along with Danarius.
"I think working with the horses makes us tougher and it keeps us in shape," Eric said.
Said Jeremy, "It is a full-time job. It is like coming to practice, working out, doing extra things to get better. It just makes your body tougher."
But as much as they enjoy caring for a stable of more than 10 horses a mile or two from their home, they said football is their passion. Eric moved from offense to defense after he injured his feet when he a horse fell on top of him. Jeremy said defense is an ideal fit because he has a motor that doesn't stop.
"It is just my mind-set," Jeremy said when asked to explain his style of play. "It is not just what is in me. It is my teammates who motivate me to make spectacular plays."
The Hunts know what it is like to celebrate hard hits and three-and-outs. With teammates like Dylan Bradley, Javancy Jones, Javoris Glenn, and Antonio Ryland -- just to name a few -- the Tigers have earned a reputation for their swarming defense. Like their aforementioned four teammates, none of the Tigers has the size that would immediately you think he is slated to play at the Division I level.
But that is another source of motivation for the Hunts. Jeremy said he has attracted interest from several colleges, including. They hope they can follow in the footsteps of players like Deontae Skinner, who is at Mississippi State University, and Corey Williams, who is at EMCC, and make an impact at the next level.
"My dad has always told me it doesn't matter about the size, it is all about the heart," Jeremy said.
That mentality holds true for all of the Tigers. Led by the Hunts, they will make sure to deliver their share of holiday hits to the Wildcats.
"We are known for being kids who have a bunch of heart and who fight to the end," Jeremy said. "They always are going to fight. They are never going to give up. They will play anywhere the coach needs them to play."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.