September 3, 2014 9:13:36 PM
After one week of change, Tyrone Shorter has opted to stay the course.
The Noxubee County High School football coach shifted personnel on defense and went back to an old-school, ones-vs.ones brand of physical practice last week following a season-opening loss to Starkville.
Noxubee County admittedly received plenty of help from Columbus on Friday in a 46-7 victory, but the Tigers also looked like a different team, especially on defense. Noxubee County capitalized on six turnovers and scored three defensive touchdowns. When it wasn't scoring, the defense was more aggressive and flying to the ball like Tigers' defenses of the past.
Shorter continued that practice plan this week leading up to a game that only needs two words -- "Rivalry week" -- to determine its opponent. At 7 p.m. Friday, Noxubee County will travel to Winston County to take on M.C. Miller and Louisville High.
"I put practice at 10 a.m. Monday. The guys wanted to go at 9 a.m.," Shorter said. "I don't know if they wanted to get here to get practice over with so they could home and enjoy their families or if they wanted to come on and practice. I thought we had a great practice Monday. ... The guys responded Tuesday and had a great practice. ... This week here, everybody is focused. All of the kids are telling me, 'Coach, we've got your back.' "
Miller, the veteran coach who guided Noxubee County to a state title in 2008, led Louisville to a 30-28 victory against Hazlehurst to win the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 3A crown. The Wildcats loss a wealth of talent to graduation from that squad, including quarterback Wyatt Roberts, but Shorter knows experience and past history go out the window when you're dealing with one of your biggest rivals.
That's why Shorter hopes his defense can continue to improve. Noxubee County (1-1) allowed only 26 yards in the second half against Columbus. Although it committed 20 penalties -- many due to overaggressiveness on false starts -- the defense quieted the Falcons' running game thanks in part to the changes Shorter and his coaching staff made after what he called an "embarrassing" 51-19 loss to Starkville.
"The changes were real helpful to us," Shorter said. "We moved one of our linebackers back to defensive end, and he was more comfortable there. We moved some other folks around and it really helped us a lot."
While Shorter said the Tigers tackles and swarmed better in week two, he still wants to see the defense communicate more. He said the Tigers need to speak up when they recognize audibles or shifts that need to be called to prevent big plays, like the one Columbus broke in the first quarter for a 77-yard touchdown run.
"The guys on defense are thinking too much instead of reacting," Shorter said. "We are aggressive and we are fast. I think we are faster than last year, but they are thinking too much instead of reacting. We are trying to get them to stop thinking and play football and enjoy themselves."
Shorter also said he went with a new nose guard -- freshman Miles Smith -- who won the job over several upperclassmen. He said he doesn't mind going with younger players as long as they are the ones who give the Tigers the best chance to win football games. Shorter feels competition like that grows in practice, especially when they Tigers are going ones-vs.-ones and developing a hard-nosed mind-set that will prepare them for a championship run.
"I told all of the guys no positions are safe," Shorter said. "We have a bunch of juniors and sophomores playing. We are going to get the right people on the field."
Noxubee County appeared to have the correct personnel on the field on offense. Junior quarterback Timorrius Conner looked more settled and didn't throw an interception after throwing three against Starkville. Shorter still wants to see the Tigers run the ball better, but he feels his team still has the ability to be explosive.
Whether it can be explosive against a younger but still hungry defense remains to be seen, but Shorter said his team isn't looking past the Wildcats because, much like in Macon, there is a tradition in Louisville.
"When you have a program, just like here, even though you might lose some guys, the next kid is going to step up," Shorter said. "Coach Miller is one of the best coaches in our state. He knows how to motivate the kids, and those coaches work so hard, just like we do, so the next kid is going to step up."
All the more reason to stay the course, particularly since things will only get tougher for Noxubee County. Next week, Noxubee County will continue its non-conference schedule against Aberdeen. Games against West Point and Charleston follow before the Class 4A, Region 4 opener at Kosciusko.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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