November 12, 2009 9:07:00 AM
MACON -- Patrick Patterson and Vincent Sanders have attracted a lot of attention the past two seasons.
A lot of publicity about the Noxubee County High School football team has accompanied the attention the standout wide receivers have generated.
And while Patterson, who is a freshman on the University of Mississippi football team, and Sanders, a highly regarded senior, deserve all of the individual accolades and notoriety, the Tiger football program hasn''t been affected.
Noxubee County''s ability to stay focused and stick to a team concept is something that makes coach M.C. Miller proud as it prepares for its second-round Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 4A North Half State playoff game at 7 Friday night against Senatobia (9-2).
Toddrick Tate, Felix Edwards, and Tony Glenn epitomize the Tigers'' team attitude. None of the players is a star or is attracting interest from major Division I college programs, but they all play integral roles in the team''s success.
"It is good to have guys like that who don''t complain," Miller said. "They are all for winning. We have people who are about making it a team effort. There is no ''I'' or individuals. Everybody plays their part and we''re able to come together and have success."
Tate, a 5-foot-7, 180-pounder, plays right-side linebacker for the Tigers (11-1). The junior is in his second season as a member of the varsity squad. Corey Williams, Earnest Harmon, and Fredeas Tate are his cousins on the team.
Tate is one of 11 speed demons on the Tigers'' defense. He and his teammates use their quickness and athleticism to make up for what they lack in size. He said teams try to run a lot of screen passes to slow the Tigers'' blitz package. But he said he and his teammates continue to adjust to it to be ready for anything.
Noxubee County, the defending Class 4A state champion, had an uncharacteristic showing last week in a 36-17 victory against New Albany in the first round of the playoffs. Not only did New Albany snap Noxubee County''s string of six consecutive shutouts, but it also nearly matched the 20 points West Point scored on the Tigers in a victory on Sept. 18.
That game, just like the New Albany victory, served as eye-openers to the Tigers. Tate believes he and his teammates are ready to make another title run.
"We learned a lot and that anybody can be beat," Tate said. "We didn''t expect them to score 17 points. We aren''t going to take anybody lightly."
Edwards, a senior, is a 5-10, 246-pound center and guard. Miller said Edwards and classmate Gussie Lane anchor the offensive line and provide valuable leadership.
"He is one of those guys we can use all of the time and he is going to give it all he has," Miller said.
Edwards realizes the offensive linemen don''t receive a lot of attention, even though they give quarterback Jared Johnson enough time to throw the football and create holes for running backs Harmon, Patreon Hopkins, and Jontae Skinner.
That''s fine with him because he knows he is just another piece of the puzzle.
"We have been able to protect well against the blitz," Edwards said. "We have the mentality to block somebody and to be able to break them down to our level."
Edwards said the unit''s power and footwork enable it to overcome size disadvantages. He said the Tigers played pretty well last week and need to do a better job of protecting the inside the rest of the season.
Glenn, a senior, is a 6-foot, 175-pound wide receiver. Miller admits he probably has suffered from being in Sanders'' shadow. He also said Glenn''s statistics don''t show his worth to the team because the Tigers haven''t thrown the ball as much as they have in past years.
"He is a stud ballplayer," Miller said. "Tony gives it his all every day. He is a quiet kid who comes from a good home and a good family."
Like Edwards, Glenn doesn''t mind. He even mentions blocking as one thing he and his teammates need to improve on if the Tigers are going to have a chance to advance to Jackson and earn the opportunity to defend their title.
"We learned to take the game more serious (last week against New Albany)," Glenn said. "We have a lot of talent and skill people (that will help us get back to Jackson)."
Miller felt the Tigers were ready to go last week and suffered from missed interceptions that allowed New Albany to score as many points as it did. He said his players will have to take advantage of their opportunities as they move forward.
"We don''t have that ''I'' attitude here," Miller said. "We try to get rid of that and encourage all of the players to do what they have to do. We consider all of them stars because they play a part every day in practice. It is a team effort here because one person can''t play a game, and all 11 have to do their jobs."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.