Noxubee County junior Maliek Stallings (1) attempts a pass earlier this season against Columbus. Stallings started at wide receiver vs. Meridian, paving the way for senior Armoni Clark to draw the start at quarterback. Photo by: Chris McDill/Special to The Dispatch Buy this photo.
September 14, 2017 10:15:47 AM
Tyrone Shorter sees the improvement.
It might sound like coach speak, but the Noxubee County High School coach feels his team played better Saturday in a 35-20 loss to Meridian than it did a week before in a 21-18 victory against Shannon.
Shorter made the comment even though the Tigers were whistled for 18 penalties for 155 yards, committed three turnovers, and surrendered big plays on third and fourth down to the Class 6A Wildcats.
While those things -- particularly the penalties -- concern Shorter, he remains positive because he sees the potential in his squad and believes it can make a push for a Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 4A State title.
"Our kids are going to keep grinding and fighting," Shorter said.
Noxubee County (2-2) will have to do those two thing and a lot more at 7 p.m. Friday night when it plays host to reigning Class 5A State champion West Point (3-0) at Tiger Stadium.
Shorter said Noxubee County spent the early part of the week analyzing film from the game against Meridian to identify its mistakes. He said a lack of concentration or fatigue could be factors that allowed defenders to let Meridian players get behind them for big plays that turned a game Shorter felt his squad controlled.
"I think our kids were really aggressive and really wanted to win. I think they played really well on both sides," Shorter said. "The offense did a great job. I thought the defense did a great job. We just gave up big plays.
"We are not getting off the field on third down. We are good on first and second downs. On third down we're terrible. We have to eliminate that."
Shorter stressed again the Tigers have to find a way to "finish" drives. He said he was pleased with the improvement of the offensive line and the running backs because he felt the Tigers were able to move the ball on the ground and through the air.
Senior Armoni Clark led the Tigers at quarterback. Shorter said entering the game his plan was to start Clark and move junior Maliek Stallings, who had started earlier in the season to wide receiver. Clark was 18-for-26 for 162 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for a score. Unfortunately, Clark and Stallings threw interceptions and the Tigers failed to capitalize on several scoring opportunities.
Shorter said penalties continue to prevent the offense from finding consistency. He said he has encouraged his players to keep being aggressive despite all of the penalties. Shorter said Noxubee County is averaging at least 12 penalties a game.
"We have to cut that out," Shorter said.
As for the defense, Shorter said the Tigers will consider limiting the playing time for players like Kyziah Pruitt and Jaqualyn Smith, who play in the secondary. He said both players are key parts of the team's offense and that he feels going both ways is keeping them from being as fresh as possible to make big plays. Shorter said the Tigers should have enough depth to allow Pruitt and Smith to focus more on offense.
Whether Shorter will be able to make that move against West Point remains to be seen because Shorter knows he will have to have his most experienced players ready to go to handle the onslaught from the Green Wave.
"I think they are probably the best team in the state right now," Shorter said. "They are a solid, sound football team. Watching them on the film they are just smash mouth. They are the easiest team to prepare for but the hardest team to stop. They will let you know we are going to run the football right here. They are just a physical football team. Like I told our kids, it is going to be like a heavyweight fight. This is a game the kids are going to have to sacrifice their bodies because they are coming. There is no secret to what they're going to do. We just have to stop them."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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