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Plenty of positives in first taste of prep football

 

Scott Walters

 

With prep football season two days away, things are about to turn serious. 

 

This past weekend, most teams participated in some type of scrimmage -- a last-second dress rehearsal before regular-season games are played Thursday and Friday. 

 

While one can't put a lot of stock into the results, there is nothing wrong about making some observations. There was some head-turning performances at the New Hope Jamboree played Saturday at Mississippi State's Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville. 

 

Noxubee County won nine games last season. Despite being young on both sides of the ball, many felt like Noxubee County overachieved one year after winning a state championship. Still, Tyrone Shorter knew his team would have to throw the ball better to take the next step. 

 

In its opening performance, the Tigers threw the ball with authority in a 35-6 victory against Forest. 

 

"There is no secret we really struggled to throw the ball last year," Shorter said. "The strides (Timorrius Conner) has made have been tremendous. You can tell he is putting to use what he learned in the seven-on-seven camps this summer. He has also become a much better leader." 

 

Shorter quickly added he felt like this Noxubee County team has the best group of wide receivers he has coached. Led by the fast and sure-handed senior Curtis Randle, the Tigers have several players who can go get the football. 

 

Even though there were a couple of mental lapses Saturday, it is a safe bet Noxubee County's defense will rank among the best in Class 4A. The Tigers were praying for offense last season. This year, they should be expecting it. 

 

While Saturday was only an exhibition, Conner threw for 201 yards, eclipsing his best game of 152 yards against Aberdeen as a sophomore. 

 

Speaking of Aberdeen, it is OK for Bulldog Nation to be excited about a 33-7 victory against Philadelphia. 

 

Aberdeen finished 7-6 last season. However, coach Mark Bray really likes his Bulldogs' talent. Aberdeen started several sophomores and juniors Saturday. Senior quarterback Josh Williams thinks that may help give his team an element of surprise. 

 

"I really like the being leader on this team," said Williams, who threw for 150 yards in the win. "We are so young in so many places, but I think a lot of teams will sleep on us because of that. This team has the best attitude we have had since I have been here. It's like they come out every day and don't mind working hard. They know how to make plays. When you are the quarterback and the leader, that is what you want to see from the guys." 

 

Aberdeen lists only 12 seniors on its roster. Junior Tyreke Gates caught both touchdown passes from Williams. 

 

While the jury is still out on the first edition of the Columbus Falcons under new coach Randal Montgomery, Saturday was a step in the right direction. A late defensive touchdown lifted Columbus past Kosciusko. 

 

In his initial interview, Montgomery said there would be no excuses and he expected to win right away. Columbus has made one playoff appearance in the past eight seasons. 

 

"We are going to work hard and we are going to be disciplined," Montgomery said in January. "We are going to play with a high expectation. We don't want to win tomorrow. We want to win right away." 

 

Columbus will have limited experience this season. However, the Falcons showed Saturday what Montgomery promised -- a hard-working and well-disciplined team. Columbus trailed 12-0 but kept plugging away until things finally turned. 

 

Louisville and West Point played to a 7-7 tie. While that score will be meaningless in November, it had to lift the spirits of West Point. 

 

In 2013, Louisville won the Class 3A state championship and began that march with a thrashing of West Point. It was an exhibition half of football that damaged the morale of the Green Wave team. So while it's too early to tell what that tie means, West Point played well defensively. The importance of that can't be understated. 

 

The evening session went as expected. Ranked third in the preseason by The Clarion-Ledger, Starkville rolled over Terry 24-0. New Hope also started strong under first-year coach Kris Pickle with a 21-0 victory against Greenville-Weston. 

 

Starkville put its size advantage to good use immediately. The Yellow Jackets received a good start from quarterback Brady Davis in his debut. Coach Jamie Mitchell likes his group of receivers. Now the challenge is to get Davis and his receivers on the same page on a consistent basis. 

 

Davis threw for 176 yards and Starkville amassed 252 total yards. It will be a work in progress, but the Yellow Jackets should like where they end up. 

 

New Hope had to take positive vibes from its victory. On defense, the Trojans didn't allow the Hornets to cross midfield until the final possession. 

 

After replacing Shawn Gregory as coach, the biggest thing Pickle and the Trojans need is peace and harmony. When you see new players and new coaches at a program, positive momentum from a debut can be crucial. 

 

Scott Walters is a sports reporter for The Dispatch. You can reach him at swalters@cdispatch.com. Follow him on Twitter @dispatchscott.

 

Scott is sports copy editor and reporter

 

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