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Walters column: Finishing off another set of prep football questions

 

Noxubee County coach Tyrone Shorter (shown in blue) has led the Tigers to back-to-back MHSAA Class 4A state championships.

Noxubee County coach Tyrone Shorter (shown in blue) has led the Tigers to back-to-back MHSAA Class 4A state championships. Photo by: Stan Beall/Special to The Dispatch

 

Scott Walters

 

 

Editor's Note: Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters will share five questions each Wednesday through Aug. 17, as we count down to the start of the prep football season. 

 

 

 

Teams are now gathering for photo shoots. 

 

Coaches are now trying to figure out which time of day is best for practice, so kids will have limited exposure to the heat. 

 

Program ads are being sold. 

 

Yes, it is that time, as we move within three weeks of the start of the prep football regular season. 

 

While the countdown heads to smaller numbers, we look ahead with some more questions needing to be answered. 

 

1. Which coach have you found to have the most optimism? 

 

Well almost all coaches are full of optimism this time of season. Each coach feels they have the right talent and depth to make a run. 

 

However, this season, New Hope coach Kris Pickle firmly believes better times are ahead for his Trojans. 

 

"We lost so many close games last season," Pickle said. "We have a lot of kids back from that team, so they experienced some tough losses and they know how far we have come." 

 

After winning 10 games in 2014, New Hope won three games in 2015. While the talent did need to improve, Pickle said the team also needed more mental toughness. 

 

"That is what we have focused on during the off-season," Pickle said. "How can we become mentally tougher? How can we games there in the fourth quarter when the game is on the line and a big play has to be made?" 

 

New Hope should make more of those plays this season. 

 

2. Is there a game you are still recovering from played last season? 

 

Few games held the compelling drama of last season's Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 6A playoff matchup between Columbus and Clinton. 

 

Behind the ultra-talented Cam Akers, Clinton was considered one of the favorites in Class 6A. Meanwhile, Kylin Hill helped upstart Columbus make lots of noise with a second-place finish in Class 6A, Region 1 play. 

 

On the field, Akers and Hill did not disappoint in the head-to-head matchup. 

 

Akers threw for 355 yards and rushed for 150 yards, with three passing scores and two rushing scores. Hill ran 24 times for 382 yards and five touchdowns. 

 

In a game not decided until the final minutes of play, Clinton scored the game's last two touchdowns (one a defensive score) to take a 56-42 victory at Falcon Field. 

 

Down 42-21 late in the third quarter, the Columbus defense made stops on four of five possessions for a stirring rivalry. 

 

An 86-yard touchdown run by Hill tied the game before Clinton broke that tie with an 11-play, 72-yard drive. 

 

With many of the key participants from that contest returning, a rematch in the playoffs is entirely possible. 

 

3. Which week three matchup holds the most intrigue? 

 

While it is almost impossible to believe, three weeks of the high school football season will be in the books before the senior college football season kicks off on Labor Day weekend. 

 

The third week of the season finds several intriguing matchups, including the latest installment of West Point at Starkville High on Sept. 2. 

 

The rivalry has lost its luster in recent seasons with Starkville taking a rather-pedestrian 16-0 victory last season and a 34-3 win the year before that. 

 

West Point last won in the series in 2013 with a stunning 55-33 decision at home. In 2012, the teams met twice with Starkville losing 47-22 in the regular season before winning 29-28 in overtime in the Class 5A playoffs. 

 

This season, the two teams should be on more even playing terms. The Green Wave should have a shot to snap the two-game losing streak in the series. 

 

You will also find a bunch of talented juniors on both squads to this series should be special again next year as well. 

 

4. Any word from Noxubee County yet this season? 

 

While things have been quiet out that way, it's a safe bet that Noxubee County will be ready to tangle when it comes time to compete for the Class 4A state championship. 

 

Traditionally, Tyrone Shorter's club has played a difficult non-region schedule so playing Class 4A competition¬≠ has become relatively easy. The same can be said for this year's team.  

 

It will be interesting to see how such a young team responds to such a difficult schedule. After all, a senior-laden squad started 2-4 before winning 10 straight a year ago. 

 

When it comes to have roll call in the Class 4A playoffs, Noxubee County should again be sitting at the head table. Knowing how to win is important and these youthful Tigers have done plenty of that here lately. 

 

5. How about another player to watch? 

 

Today, we give you Starkville Academy's Noah Methvin. The 6-foot, 165-pound junior will take over starting duties at quarterback this season. 

 

While most coaches would be concerned about a new starter at such a prime position, second-year coach Chase Nicholson is not in that category. 

 

"Noah brings a different style quarterback than we have had in the past," Nicholson said. "He throws the ball really well and he is really smart. He is very intelligent. He is a 30s in the ACT kind of person. 

 

"He has worked very hard to be in this position. It wasn't given to him. He certainly earned it." 

 

Starkville Academy won 11 games a year ago. Despite losing around half of that team to graduation, the expectations are still very high for the Volunteers. 

 

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

 

Scott is sports copy editor and reporter

 

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