Former Noxubee County High School standout Corey Williams is a key performer on an East Mississippi Community College defense that is allowing seven points per game. Photo by: Lee Adams/Dispatch Staff Buy this photo.
September 26, 2012 8:58:44 AM
SCOOBA -- East Mississippi Community College sophomore linebacker Corey Williams learned the art of a shutout while playing at Noxubee County High School.
"Coach (Tyrone) Shorter wanted the perfect game on defense," Williams said. "We tried not to give up an inch of ground. Each first down was something we took personal. We strived to be perfect on every possession, no matter the score, no matter the opponent."
Williams has put those lessons to good use for No. 5 EMCC. His defensive prowess has helped anchor one of the nation's best defenses this season. That defense will be back on display at 6:30 p.m. Thursday when EMCC travels to Clarksdale to take on Coahoma C.C. in for a MACJC North Division battle.
"Playing at Noxubee County helped me get ready for this level," Williams said. "Each team has the same exact defensive mind-set. We are hungry and we play with an attitude. When I was in high school, you had to play that way to get on the field. You were supposed to be a little nasty and a lot hungry."
Williams saw valuable playing time as a sophomore on Noxubee County High's 2008 Class 4A state championship team. A year later, Williams came into his own as a mainstay for another strong defensive unit. Each of those two seasons Williams played for head coach M.C. Miller and defensive coordinator Shorter.
Shorter replaced Miller prior to Williams' senior season. The state championship team gave up less than seven points per game. In 2010, Noxubee County lost to Lafayette County in the Class 4A North State championship game, capping a season in which they allowed less than eight points per game.
"It is a mind-set and an attitude," said the 6-foot-1, 235-pound Williams. "What really sets a defense apart is its speed. For a team to be successful, you have to have one heartbeat. You have to have 11 players communicating as one. I think that is what us apart at Noxubee. That is what sets us apart now."
Along with good defense, success has been another common theme. In Williams' three high school seasons, the Tigers were 39-4. At EMCC, losing has even been rarer, as the Lions carry a 16-game win streak into Thursday night's game. This means EMCC has been perfect in Williams' two-year junior college career.
"All of the credit goes to (EMCC defensive coordinator and associate head coach William) Jones," Williams said. "He does a great job of putting us in a position to make plays. The game plan we have is always perfect. It is all about execution. He wants your very best.
"At the same time, he does not ask anything of you you can't do. It is a great situation. We have a lot of fun, yet we work at it real hard. Every day, we come out and try to be even better than we were before. That might sound a little crazy, since for the most part, we have been really good."
Jones said Williams' playing-making ability was something he noticed on videotape. Williams' personality and work ethic told the coaches right away this would be a good fit.
"Corey sets an example every day," Jones said. "Whether in the weight room or on the practice field, he was always being a leader. Our defensive unit has several dependable, reliable veterans. They strive to get better every day. That is how you win championships."
A season ago, the Lions allowed 23 points per game en route to a school-record 12 victories and the program's first national championship. The defense played well in some of the bigger games down the stretch.
This season, the Lions have taken the theme of defensive perfection to another level. EMCC has allowed 28 points in four games. The Lions have allowed four touchdowns and held two of four opponents below 200 yards of total offense.
EMCC's 56-0 victory against Mississippi Delta C.C. last week was its first shutout of the season, and second in the past two seasons.
"Getting the shutout makes you feel really great," said Williams, who is sixth on the team with 16 tackles and a forced fumble. "That is our goal every week. We work harder than any other team in the state on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. To go out and get the job done is incredible. It is our end zone and we begin every game with the goal of keeping the other team out."
With the Lions losing several key offensive starters from last season's championship squad, Williams and the rest of his defensive mates took it as a challenge to get this season's team headed in the right direction.
"I did not know it was possible, but (the national championship) motivated us even more," Williams said. "Once you get one ring, you want to go back and get another. It motivated us to put in those extra hours and to study that extra film. We have something going and we are not going to give up anything without a fight."
For Williams, that mind-set started at Noxubee County. As a senior, Williams led the Tigers with 78 tackles, three sacks, one interception, and two fumble recoveries.
"Corey does a great job of reading other team's offenses," Shorter said. "He always knew where to be to make the big play. He has always had the physical tools. Then you combine that with a great knowledge of the game, as well as some incredible leadership skills. He has always been a leader."
Just like EMCC, Noxubee County also is working on a perfect season. It enters Friday night's Class 4A, Region 4 opener against Kosciusko with a 6-0 mark. The Tigers have allowed 35 points in those victories, which is why Williams thinks Noxubee County should be the team to beat in Class 4A.
"I don't have any doubt they are going to win it all," Williams said. "They play some incredible defense. I have been there and I understand what they are trying to do. It is enough to make you really proud."
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter
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