October 2, 2013 9:24:06 PM
MACON -- Tyrone Shorter is re-energized.
It shouldn't be surprising because a week without a game -- particularly after your team has run a murderer's row to start the season -- can do wonders for a coach.
Shorter hopes a bye week will prove equally invigorating for the Noxubee County High School football team. After a five-game stretch that featured matchups against Starkville, Columbus, Louisville, Aberdeen, and West Point, Shorter and the Tigers are primed to begin the second season at 7 p.m. Friday when they play host to Kosciusko in their Class 4A, Region 4 opener.
Shorter and his players have had plenty of time to review film from the first five games. What they saw wasn't memorable. Noxubee County (2-3) committed 27 turnovers in its non-region slate, much too many for a young team that has shown potential but, according to Shorter, has lacked the consistency and focus he needs.
He hopes a relaxed week following a 14-6 loss to West Point, which included added time to go slowly through film sessions and to answer questions, has given the Tigers a chance to regroup and to prepare for the games that will determine their playoff fate.
"I think our kids learned a lot during the off week," Shorter said. "I usually don't like an off week, but at this time I think it really did our team some good. It allowed us to get healthy and pick up some things (on film) that are really going to help our team."
Kosciusko (2-4) is coming off a 28-0 loss to Louisville. The Whippets have lost four games in a row since opening the season with victories against Winona and Neshoba Central. Last season, Noxubee County beat Kosciusko 29-0. Despite their record and the margin of his team's victory last season, Shorter anticipates a tough game. The off week gave him a chance to scout Kosciusko against Louisville. He said the Whippets had multiple drives that reached the Wildcats' red zone but couldn't capitalize. He also said Kosciusko's size could present problems.
As much as he is concerned about the opponent, though, Shorter is more focused on getting his players back on track. he said he remembers only one time in 15 years as an assistant and head coach at Noxubee County that the football team has had an open date. He originally tried to fill the date, but with all of the injuries and inexperience, he is glad he didn't find a game for the open week.
Shorter liked how his team started the week in practice. He said he even heard some of his seniors say, "It is a new season." That's the mind-set he wants all of his players to have, especially since Noxubee County was in all five games to start the season and could have a much different record.
"We played some tough competition and made a lot of mistakes, so now let's correct those mistakes in these division games, where everything is on the line, and play better football in the second half of the season," Shorter said. "The kids realize now we can't afford to have all of these mistakes. The kids want to be district champs. Then we talk about being North champs and state champs. They don't want to be the group that isn't district champs."
Shorter said he gave his players Friday off. He feels the players have come back more focused and sees the seniors being more vocal and ready to keep the team in line for the crucial part of the campaign. Even though the 2013 team is much younger than the 2012 version that had 23 seniors and went 16-0, Shorter feels the Tigers have "been in the fire" thanks to a challenging opening five games. His hope is that stretch is going to pay dividends the rest of the way.
"I know we have some good football teams in our conference. I am not taking anything away from them, but the first five games we played, you're not going to ask for any better competition," Shorter said. "We showed our kids we were in every game we played. If you just correct your mistakes, there is no telling where you will end up.
"Just being at practice with them, it seems they are more focused and are ready. It makes me feel like, OK, maybe it is time for us to take off."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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