November 25, 2012 1:01:32 AM
Adam Minichino - firstname.lastname@example.org
MACON -- Dylan Bradley was still going more than 20 minutes after his shift ended.
Instead of trying to track down Louisville High School quarterback Wyatt Roberts or to corral a Wildcat, Bradley was content to move a little slower and pose for a few more pictures.
Bradley could take his time because he had another reward for his and his teammates' labor -- a Class 4A North State trophy -- in his right hand.
"To fight through injuries, it is worth it," Bradley said. "It is worth every pain, every time I had to go to therapy. No matter what it was it was worth it. Once you can say you are a champion, everything you went through was there for you to build to become a champion. I am not going to give back the pain I went through for anything because I want that. I thank God for giving me the opportunity to go through that pain so I could know what it takes to work your butt off to get back.
"I am holding the trophy in my right hand: North Mississippi champions, Class of 4A. That feels great. A lot of teams wish they were in our shoes right now."
But Bradley and the Tigers are still hungry.
The next-to-last-step on the season's journey came Friday night in the Noxubee County High School football team's 41-21 victory in the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 4A North State title game at Tiger Stadium.
Noxubee County (15-0) will try to win its second football crown and become the school's first football team to go 16-0 in a season at 3 p.m. Saturday when it takes on Greene County, a 24-21 winner against Quitman on Friday, at Memorial Stadium in Jackson.
Noxubee County's defense did its job despite allowing three big plays on touchdown passes of 47, 36, and 41 yards by Roberts. But the Tigers, who beat the Wildcats 41-28 in the regular season, allowed only 26 rushing yards and had six sacks of Roberts.
Noxubee County coach Tyrone Shorter said the Tigers minor changes from the regular-season meeting against Louisville, a 41-28 victory in Louisville. He said the Tigers moved personnel and shifted Javancy Jones from slot coverage to the inside where he could rush the passer. He also said the Tigers used different skill players, including junior Eric Hunt, in the slot to try to contain the Wildcats' receivers. The result was a defensive push that limited Roberts' time to throw.
"Our ends and defensive front did a very good job putting pressure on him," Shorter said. "We wanted him to get the ball out of his hands within two seconds. I thought they did a very good job of that all night."
Jones said the Tigers' ability to disrupt Roberts' timing allowed them to bounce back after giving up the occasional big play.
Senior Javoris Glenn said Noxubee County was focused on not allowing Roberts (10 of 30, 162 yards) to get into a rhythm.
"We played way harder than we did the last time," Glenn said. "We were able to get more pressure. If you take the head off the snake, everything is dead. That is who we had to get, and we got it. If he can't throw it, they can't catch it."
Bradley was at the heart of the defensive effort. His non-stop motor helped him lead a convoy into the Wildcats' backfield. Through all of injuries and rehabilitation, Bradley said the latest victory was especially satisfying because it was his final game wearing his school colors at Tiger Stadium. He said he will remember how hard he had to work to come back from shoulder and knee injuries this week as he and his teammates prepare to deliver one more dominating effort. Only after a state title has been secured will Bradley rest for a moment to take a few more pictures and reap the rewards of another suffocating 48 minutes.
"We knew we had to get pressure on the quarterback, and we did," Bradley said. "Coach Shorter asked us to get seven or eight sacks. When your coach asks for that, when he demands that, we're going to give it to him. He deserves everything that came his way this year. He preached to us: Keep God first."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.