September 8, 2017 10:20:29 AM
Consistency can be an elusive ingredient in the first few weeks of a season.
When your program has won four state championships in the last nine seasons, the early season struggles can be particularly troublesome. Those difficulties are magnified when your team regularly faces a murderer's row of some of the state's top teams prior to district play.
But Tyrone Shorter isn't going to make excuses, even if his team's inconsistency -- especially on offense -- through three games has him scratching his head.
"We just have to finish," Shorter said. "We just have to slow down a little."
Shorter hopes Noxubee County (2-1) can execute at a higher level at 6 p.m. Saturday when it takes on Meridian.
It will be another challenge for the perennial Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 4A State champions, who are coming off a 21-18 victory against Shannon on Friday. The Tigers overcame three interceptions and a fumble to win a battle of teams expected to compete for the Class 4A North State title.
This week, Shorter hopes Noxubee County can take a bigger step forward by simplifying things. He said senior Armoni Clark will start at quarterback, while junior Maliek Stallings will see significant time at wide receiver. Both players have split time at quarterback, which has been according to the plan Shorter laid out in the preseason. He also said he expected Stallings and Clark to be on the field at the same time. Shorter feels the decision to have both players on the field at the same time will give the Tigers needed depth at wide receiver.
"I think it will take some of the pressure off of them if we go with one guy and, if we need, we can bring the other one back," Shorter said. "Both kids are really good quarterbacks. I thought we would be jelling a little better at this point."
Shorter attributed some of the Tigers' inconsistency on offense to a new offense led by co-offensive coordinators Teddy Young and John Sallis. But the perplexing aspect Friday was Noxubee County moved the football against Shannon. Shorter was most pleased with a 12-play drive that featured all running plays. But Shorter said mistakes and penalties prevented the Tigers from converting the 21 points he felt they left on the field.
"We just have to develop some consistency," Shorter said. "If we can do it one time and get a 12-play drive, you can continue to do it all of the time. We have to get guys to understand we have to get some consistency going. We will be fine when we get that. Right now we're not consistent at all. When we get consistency we can be really explosive."
Thankfully, Shorter said the defense has played well while the offense continues to develop. However, he said he has heard grumblings from players that the offense is having too many three-and-outs, which is forcing the defense to spend too much time on the field. That isn't a good recipe against a Class 6A power like Meridian that figures to be in the mix again at playoff time.
"We have depth (on defense), but it is young depth," Shorter said. "Against good teams that inexperience is going to take its toll."
Despite the struggles, Shorter remains confident. He said he and the coaches will have to stay positive to find a way to get the Tigers clicking on all cylinders.
"I just preach that this kind of competition early is going to prepare us for division play, and that is what it is all about," Shorter said. "We are telling the kids just to give us 110 percent and to give me your best and we will see what happens. We still have the mind-set that we can play with these bigger schools and we can beat these bigger schools. That is not going to change."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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