November 21, 2013 10:19:41 AM
Adam Minichino - firstname.lastname@example.org
MACON -- These are the matchups that excite Tyrone Shorter.
Just don't expect Shorter to wish for a lot of points as games stretch late into November and into December. Shorter has been coaching long enough to know teams have to have strong defenses if they want to win state titles. He also knows from past experience that Noxubee County (10-3) and Lafayette County (8-5) have had two of the strongest defenses in the state the past five seasons. The perennial Class 4A powers will get together again at 7 p.m. Friday to determine which team has the better defense.
Last season, Noxubee County beat Lafayette County 14-0 on its way to a 16-0 season and its second state championship. Lafayette County beat Noxubee County 20-0 in Macon in 2010 on its way to the first of back-to-back Class 4A crowns. Shorter expects a similar game when the team's renew their rivalry.
"Like I told the kids Friday night after the ballgame, to be a championship team you have to win one on the road," Shorter said. "We are in the same situation we were in last year. We had to go on the road (to Itawamba Agricultural High) and win one on the road."
The winner will play the winner of Friday's Cleveland-Rosa First game next week for the North State championship. The Class 4A state title game will be at 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, at Veterans Stadium in Jackson.
Shorter is excited about his team because the players are "hungry" to win another state championship. He feels the Tigers have raised their level of play in the postseason after going 5-0 in Region 4 to claim an all-important No. 1 seed.
Lafayette County enters the game riding a five-game winning streak. It defeated Greenwood 7-0 last week to earn the chance to play host to Noxubee County. Lafayette County has allowed only 39 points in its last five games. That stretch followed back-to-back losses to Ripley (38-21) and Rosa Fort (26-20). Noxubee County beat Ripley 28-14 last week.
"I look at the game last year and were averaging about 40 points a game and we only scored one time offensively and we had a defensive score," Shorter said. "Watching them on film, they play very good defense and are a running football team. I expect the game to be low scoring. I think both teams have very good defenses, and the way they play defense is kind of hard because sometimes it seems like you can get outside on them, but then they are right there and have a lot of speed. I think the team that makes the fewest mistakes is going to come out on top."
Senior running back/linebacker Eric Hunt played a key role on last season's state championship team. He also knows from going through Lafayette County last season that the Tigers face a challenge Friday, but he feels his team will be ready.
"I think it is going to be a smash-mouth football game," Hunt said. "I think both teams have solid defenses and are going to run the ball."
Shorter said playing a program like Lafayette County will been an added bonus because it will be keep the players focused. He said the intensity he sees from is players is different from what he saw early in the season, when the team battled through a non-conference schedule that includes games against Starkville, Columbus, Louisville, Aberdeen, and West Point.
But Shorter knows head-to-head comparisons and past results don't count for anything in the postseason. All he knows is Friday's game will be a hard-fought affair that could be decided by a field goal, or less.
For a coach who loves defense, that's fine with Shorter.
"Everything is falling into place for us and is coming at the right time," Shorter said. "The kids are practicing as hard as ever. They are hungry. They want to go back to Jackson.
"We know it is going to be hard going to Lafayette. They have a good football team. I think they are in the same situation we were earlier. They were kind of banged up and had some young players and they are starting to jell at the right time, too. It is going to be a good game."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.