September 17, 2013 11:32:12 PM
MACON -- One more week.
That's all Tyrone Shorter and the Noxubee County High School football team have to get through to complete their murderous non-conference schedule.
Nothing like saving one of your biggest rivals for last.
It's not that Noxubee County needed any extra motivation, but Shorter is confident his players will be ready at 7 p.m. Friday when West Point comes to town for their annual showdown.
Last week, Noxubee County (2-2) scored 21 unanswered points in the final 16-plus minutes to beat Aberdeen 39-21. Columbus dropped West Point to 1-2 with a 41-14 victory in West Point. Noxubee County defeated Columbus 21-10 in week two.
Shorter and his players watched film of the Columbus-West Point game. He said he has tried to impress to his players that West Point will be focused and prepared to bounce back this week because he knows coach Chris Chambless and the Green Wave don't want to be 1-3 with a game against Oxford set for next week.
"When Noxubee County and West Point play, you can forget about the records and previous games," Shorter said. "That team is going to come in here angry. ... I told my players to expect a physical football game and that they are going to try to run the ball down our throats."
For Noxubee County, a bye week follows an opening stretch that has included a loss to 2012 Class 5A champion Starkville, a victory against Class 6A Columbus, a loss to Class 3A favorite Louisville, and a victory against perennial Class 3A power Aberdeen. That Noxubee County will play up again Friday against Class 5A isn't an accident. Shorter knew this non-conference slate was going to be a challenge for a young team looking to replace 23 seniors from its 2012 Class 4A state title team.
This season, the Tigers have experienced their share of ups and downs early. Turnovers played a key role in a 17-0 loss to Starkville and a 28-6 defeat to Louisville. Giveaways haunted Noxubee County against Aberdeen, too, but Shorter was pleased to see the Tigers run the ball more effectively, which helped sophomore quarterback Timorrius Conner use the passing game to balance the offense.
"We still made mistakes. We had six turnovers in the ballgame," Shorter said. "Aberdeen has a good football team. They have very good athletes. Their quarterback (Josh Williams) is the best I have seen this year. I think our turnovers are the ones that kept them in the game because we gave them short fields. You take the four fumbles and two interceptions away and we drove the ball up and down the field on them."
Noxubee County contained Williams, who had 199 yards passing and 63 yards rushing. The Tigers sacked or tackled Williams for a loss 10 times. They used a 15-yard toss sweep by Eric Hunt to take the lead for good after trailing 21-18 with 4 minutes, 37 seconds left to go in the third quarter.
Shorter said the offense showed signs it can be an explosive unit against Aberdeen. Through three games, Shorter admitted he is a little disappointed in his offense, in part because of the turnovers. He said he has instructed some of his younger running backs to use two hands to secure the ball when they know they are about to get hit. He has challenged the running backs by telling them they won't play if they fumble the football.
Shorter also noticed improvement in special teams (the Tigers kicked a field goal) and in focus. He said the players bounced back well from the Louisville game and showed good effort and concentration by going on the road and getting a key victory.
On Friday, Shorter knows Noxubee County will have to shut down another player like Williams who can hurt you in so many ways. Columbus held West Point senior running back Aeris Williams to 46 yard rushing and one touchdown last week. Shorter hopes the speed on his defense will allow the Tigers to keep Williams from getting back on track.
"Columbus has a very good football team," Shorter said. "I think their front four is one of the best in the state. I told someone before the game that I thought Columbus would give West Point some problems because their front four is very good against the run.
"It was surprising they got beat by that much, but it wasn't surprising that Columbus was able to slow them dow. Just like I told my kids, just because we beat Columbus and Columbus beat West Point, that doesn't matter."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.