November 18, 2017 8:35:48 AM
The contents of this article have been modified since its original posting.
MACON -- Tyrone Shorter knows there is a lot more to coaching than just Xs and Os.
The things coaches have to handle often increase in a small community like Noxubee County, where fans who follow the high school have plenty to say about the football team every week.
Two years ago, Shorter had to talk to his players to get them to stop listening to chatter outside the locker room that was negatively
affecting the Tigers' chemistry. Thanks in part to the leadership of seniors like Jeffery Simmons and Timorrius Conner, Noxubee County righted the ship after a 2-4 start and finished the season on a 10-game winning streak en route to its second-straight Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) title).
This season, Shorter and the Tigers have navigated similar turbulence. Another 2-4 start to the season had Shorter frustrated. He also admitted players were competing against each other rather than coming together to try to help the team achieve its goal.
The smile on Shorter's face is a telling sign that those issues have been resolved.
Shorter said L.C. Clemmons and Terry Joiner are the vocal leaders in what he called a "quiet" senior group. He said that group helped set the tone in practice and the results have flowed from there.
"You lose a few games and a little adversity hit," Shorter said. "
Shorter said. "They have been through the fire. Our seniors have been unbelievable in the second half. I like how they're approaching things. They really bought into it."
Noxubee County (8-4) will look to extend a six-game winning streak at 7 tonight when it plays host to Corinth (7-5) in the third round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 4A playoffs at Tiger Stadium.
"Our guys are not looking at Louisville or Greenwood," Shorter said. "We have a game to take care of (tonight) against Corinth. We are not allowing these guys to look ahead because we are facing a good football team. We are just glad we have them here and we can keep our same routine."
Shorter said the 17 seniors have set the tone after disappointing losses to Starkville, West Point, and Meridian early in the season. He said members of the junior class also have emerged as leaders. As a result, Shorter said the team chemistry has exploded.
Shorter had similar issues in 2015, when he said personality conflicts early in the season prevented the Tigers from clicking. But the team, which featured seniors like Jeffery Simmons and Timorrius Conner, brought everyone together and helped the Tigers win their second-straight state title.
This season, Shorter said the players have stopped listening to outside talk and thinking about competing against their teammates. He said all of the Tigers have turned their focus to helping the team realize its goal.
"Everybody is just feeding off each other," Shorter said.
Shorter said the Tigers are "tuned in" after a great three days of practice. He said the players have focused on the right approach after a 2-4 start to the season. He said things started to turn during the fourth loss, a 38-26 loss at West Monroe (La.) on Sept. 22.
The momentum on offense Noxubee County built in that game carried over to the following week and a 35-30 victory against Louisville. That victory kicked off another undefeated run through Class 4A, Region 4 play.
Wins against Amory (48-26) and Yazoo City (39-0) have Noxubee County primed to protect its home field again. A victory tonight by Noxubee County would set the stage for a possible rematch against Louisville in Macon or a game at Greenwood next week. The winner of the North State title game will advance to face the South State champion at 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2, at Ole Miss' Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Noxubee County's goal all season has been to get to Oxford after the 2016 season ended prematurely with a 29-20 loss to Pontotoc in the third round of the playoffs. Shorter admitted his players were surprised last week when they learned Corinth rallied for a 27-24 victory against Pontotoc. He said the victory has helped his players focus even better for a matchup against an opponent the Tigers haven't faced in the playoffs in recent memory.
"What I like about our team is our seniors aren't looking ahead," Shorter said. "None of these kids know anything about Corinth. It is a good thing they don't know anything about them. The only thing they know is they must be pretty good because they beat Pontotoc."
Shorter expects Corinth to try to run the football out of the Wing-T. He said the Tigers' defense will have to combat three talented running backs. Shorter said discipline will be crucial because he feels Corinth will stick to what it does well and its running backs have enough speed to make big plays.
Last week, Corinth used a blocked punt and recovered two onside kids to rally from an early 21-point deficit. That's why he has stressed tonight's matchup will be a test of wills.
"This team is going to come in here expecting to win," Shorter said. "It is hard to go on the road to get a playoff win, but they are going to go out fighting because they have nothing to lose."
Corinth, which edged Clarksdale 14-7 in the first round of the playoffs, has attempted only 89 passes and has 509 yards passing (four touchdowns).
Sophomore running back Tameron Patterson leads the team with 1,187 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns. Junior Zack Patterson (942, 10) and senior Chris Kelly (792, five) have combined to rush for 2,921 of the Warriors' 3,447 yards.
"They are hot and they have the momentum going in their favor," Shorter said. "The three practices we have had, the guys are locked in and focused. They are hungry."
Now that the "senior thing" or "junior thing" has turned into a "team thing," Shorter said the team appears to be following the same path as the 2015 squad. He hopes the final result is the same, too.
"Being a coach is a hard job because you have to keep all of that animosity, all of that riff-raff out of your locker room," Shorter said. "It is kind of hard when you're in a small community when people are feeding this in peoples' ears, but the kids heard my voice. Once we did that and these guys got on the same page, there isn't anything they can't do."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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