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Defense powers Tigers past Yellow Jackets

 

Matthew Stevens

 

 

STARKVILLE --┬áThe opening of game of the 2012 season showcased a new era of Noxubee County High School football. 

 

In past seasons, Noxubee County's talent at the skill positions has defined the program. However, in a 29-8 victory against Class 5A state favorite Starkville, Noxubee County lined up and dominated the line of scrimmage. 

 

"This team, with our 23 seniors, has dedicated themselves this offseason to get stronger and bigger," Noxubee County coach Tyrone Shorter said. "We had to dominate the line of scrimmage, and from the first play of the game my guys did that." 

 

Shorter had his Tigers highly motivated after creating a attitude of disrespect for the preseason rankings that saw Starkville ranked higher than his program. 

 

"We thought we should be higher than we were and high up in the overall top 10, but I told my team this field is what we can control," Shorter said. "We can't control where we're ranked from week to week." 

 

Noxubee County contained what is expected to be an explosive Starkville offense to 83 total yards of offense and one completed pass. 

 

The Tigers' defensive line play, led by 255-pound senior defensive end Dylan Bradley, had senior quarterback Gabe Myles on the run on nearly every snap from center. 

 

"Dylan Bradley is a monster, and I'm here to tell you he's not getting all these offers from major schools for no reason," Shorter said. "A lot of people want to still say he is undersized, but if you can play, you can play anytime and anywhere." 

 

Bradley, who has received interest from the University of Memphis and Arkansas State University, could get serious offers soon from Southeastern Conference schools after he had three of his four sacks in the first half and was involved on even more tackles behind the line of scrimmage. 

 

"This is just the beginning for me and this defense because I plan on terrorizing a lot quarterbacks this season," Bradley said. "This is a message to all college coaches that when you see Dylan Bradley, you'll see this type of performance every single week." 

 

Bradley, a three-star prospect according to Rivals.com, lined up with his hand in the ground at end and stood up as a rush linebacker. 

 

"Coming into the season, I knew our coaches would have me in various spots, and basically what I had to do this summer was run hard and work hard to get faster and stronger," Bradley said. "I think the hard work really paid off for me and what this team can accomplish." 

 

Myles, who has given a verbal commitment to Mississippi State University, had 1 yard of total offense in the first half. He was forced into eight incompletions in the first 24 minutes, and finished with 6 total yards. 

 

"After the game, Gabe told me I gave him some problems back there," Bradley said. "He wasn't able to stand there in the pocket and do anything with comfort." 

 

When Bradley wasn't causing havoc from around the end, Noxubee County relied on the run-stuffing ability of massive defensive tackle Deshawn Hopkins to cover up any offense inside the tackle box. Hopkins, a 6-foot-7, 367-pounder, overpowered a double team from the center and guard. 

 

"After the first quarter, we all looked at each other and said, 'This is easy and nobody can block us,' " Bradley said. 

 

The domination up front for Noxubee County was a pleasant sight for senior linebacker Jeremy Hunt. The 200-pounder ran sideline to sideline to chase down Myles, senior Stanley Higgins, and tailback Preston Baker. 

 

Starkville coach Jamie Mitchell admitted to concerns in the preseason 

 

about his youthful offensive line, which has five new starters including a pair of seniors, two sophomores and a freshman. The third-year coach came away from his fourth straight loss to Noxubee County having identified his team's inability to move the chains. 

 

"I don't know if we'll play a better defense than that all season, and I'm hoping that is the case," Mitchell said. "I don't know what to tell you. They simply lined up and whipped our you-know-what as good as you can whip it." 

 

Even after a partially blocked punt by linebacker David Fair, Starkville needed three plays from the 1-yard line to score its first touchdown. 

 

Noxubee County didn't have this issue on offense, as the power game was effective thanks to senior tailback Darrell Robinson. The 5-foot-10, 191-pound tailback had 194 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries mostly on off-tackle sweeps and toss plays. 

 

Noxubee County, which is considered a favorite to challenge for the Class 4A state championship, might be able to wait on the development of their young receivers if Shorter can rely on Robinson and senior quarterback DeAngelo Ballard to deliver performances like they did Friday night. 

 

"Let me tell you what's going to happen, the play-action pass is going to be there for us later in the year," Shorter said. "When there are plays in the passing game to make, our young kids will eventually have the experience to make them count." 

 

Noxubee County will play host to Craigmont High School out of Memphis, Tenn., next week. Starkville will travel to Madison Central High School for a 7:06 p.m. game. CSS will televise the game. 

 

 

 

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