August 27, 2014 9:00:24 PM
MACON -- Tyrone Shorter knew the questions were coming.
After all, there haven't been many times in the past 20 years that the Noxubee County High School football team has given up 30 or more points -- let alone 51.
But that's what happened to Shorter's Tigers on Friday night in a 51-19 loss to Class 6A Starkville High in the season opener for both teams. The 51 points were the most Noxubee County had allowed since a 52-32 loss to Neshoba Central on Oct. 27, 2006.
In the past seven seasons, Noxubee County didn't allow 30 or more points in a game. Dating back to 1994, Noxubee County had allowed 30 or more points 22 times in 249 games.
Shorter didn't know those statistics immediately after the game. He likely wouldn't have mentioned them in his post-game talk to his players, one in which he accepted the responsibility for a loss he called "embarrassing."
On Wednesday, Shorter said he, his coaches, and his players are ready to put the loss behind them, but not before taking several valuable lessons from it.
"It was a loss we gained a lot from," Shorter said. "The kids came in with a positive attitude. A lot of them texted me throughout the weekend and were like, 'Coach, I am sorry' or 'We let you down.' I tried to let them know they didn't let me down."
Noxubee County will try to rebound from the loss at 7 p.m. Friday when it takes on Class 6A Columbus in Columbus. The Falcons, under first-year head coach Randal Montgomery, had a bye last week.
Shorter said the Tigers spent the first two days of practice this week sharpening their tackling and finding a way to prevent the big play, two things that hurt against a Starkville team that is expected to challenge for a state title.
In Class 4A, Noxubee County is expected to be a contender to come out of the North and play for a state championship. Two years ago, the Tigers went 16-0 en route to the program's second state title. That defense was one of the best in school history. On Friday, Shorter admitted the team missed to many tackles and wasn't nearly as aggressive as Tigers need to be on defense.
Those are just some of the reasons Shorter heard plenty of questions from Noxubee County fans on Monday and Tuesday.
"Everywhere I went everybody was asking me, 'What happened?'" Shorter said. "The kids were saying the same thing because they never would have imagined in a million years Noxubee County would have been beaten that bad. It is a game I never want to remember again. We are just going to move on."
Prior to putting the Starkville game on the shelf for the rest of the season, Shorter said the Tigers made some changes. He declined to mention specifics, but he said changes have been made up front and at linebacker. He feels the changes will help shore up a defense that Starkville ran through and threw over.
In an attempt to correct the mistakes his defense made Friday night, Shorter said Noxubee County went back to physical practices Monday and Tuesday that featured the first offense against the first defense. As much as he knows practicing like that could lead to injuries, Shorter feels he had to go back to what he knows best to affect a change.
"It surprised me how we played defensively, and how poorly we played Friday night," Shorter said. "Watching film, we were in position to make plays all night and to have tackles for loss all night. I can't explain it, but it was like we forgot how to tackle. That has always been our strength with this defense -- swarming to the ball, tackling, hitting hard -- and it seemed like we just didn't do that Friday night."
Shorter "guaranteed" fans wouldn't see a repeat of the defense's performance. He said the team didn't specifically work on tackling Monday and Tuesday and hopes the new mind-set in practice will serve the team well early in the season as it battles through a non-conference schedule that includes games against Louisville, Aberdeen, West Point, and Charleston.
"Sometimes people say you lose early and you can gain a lot from it. I hope that is the case," Shorter said. "We saw we needed to make some changes, and we did that. e made a lot of changes. We switched some people around. Hopefully, the way we played can better our football team because we saw some things we didn't see at first. Going back to the way we used to doing things could help us through this tough stretch we are about to go through. The next seven to eight ballgames there are no easy ballgames. Week in, week out, we have to come to play or we are going to get our butt whupped.
"We have another tough, physical game Friday. It is another big school, and I know those kids from Columbus are going to get up for coach Montgomery. It is his debut, and I know they are going to play hard for him. He is a great coach, and they have some great players. We're going to have to turn our game up for us to win.
"If people come out and watch the game on Friday, they are going to see a different Noxubee County football team, especially defensively."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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