Starkville High School junior defensive back Justice Robinson closes in on Noxubee County’s Jeffery Malone in their game Friday night in Starkville. Photo by: Jim Lytle/Special to The Dispatch
August 18, 2018 10:21:19 PM
STARKVILLE -- The Noxubee County High School football team entered Friday night with a vision: new beginning, same ending.
The goal was to erase the sting of a 40-point loss to Starkville in the 2017 opener that was part of a 2-4 start to a campaign that ended with a Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 4A State championship.
The new beginning will have to come in Week 2.
Luke Altmyer threw two touchdown passes, and Starkville gained 388 yards en route to a 30-6 victory in the season opener for both teams.
Noxubee County opened the 2017 season with a 43-3 loss to Starkville. Coach Tyrone Shorter hopes the latest loss serves as a learning experience on the way to greatness.
"Starkville's got a good football team," Shorter said. "Their defense made us do some things we normally don't do. We hurt ourselves a lot tonight. You can't turn the ball over against a good team like this."
Starkville hit Noxubee County with a litany of formations and personnel packages unusual to its offense from last year. Part of it was a planned expansion from Starkville coach Chris Jones. Part of it was out of necessity after Altmyer, the junior starting quarterback, cramped in the second half. Starkville used the new wrinkles to average 6.6 yards per carry. But the average drops to 4.3 if you take out Dreke Clark's 40-yard run and KJ Lawrence's 49-yarder.
"We gave up too many big plays, but I thought our guys fought hard," Shorter said. "I thought our defense played well enough to keep us in the ballgame.
"It's nothing we didn't know they were going to do. We scouted them pretty good. ... We stayed on the field too long and gave up some big pass plays, a couple of them were busted plays. This was the first game of the season. We're going to get better."
That reason for optimism begins with junior linebacker Kevarious Harris, who had his nine tackles, two for a loss, one sack, and a pass breakup. Senior defensive lineman Malcomn Purtue had a sack and four tackles. Senior defensive back JaQuaris Johnson led the team with 11 tackles. Linebackers Tyrese Hopkins and Trillo Brown had 10.
On offense, junior quarterback Khristopher White made his first career start. Rain and lightning delayed start of the game for more than an hour. The rain stayed through the first half and didn't help White, who threw two interceptions as part of a 13-for-31 passing effort.
"I saw some good things tonight, but I thought Starkville did some things that rattled him," Shorter said. "We probably won't face a defense as good as them.
"We have to get better offensively. Our guys have to show up."
Noxubee County will try to take a similar road through a difficult non-region schedule to 4A play, where it figures to be a title contender. Jones, a Noxubee County Tiger, won't be surprised to see his alma mater realize that potential.
"That's a pretty good team. They'll be there at the end," Jones said. "That's typical Noxubee. They play a tough schedule. They're going to be battle tested and they don't play cupcake teams. I thought it was a good test for us to play against a quality team like that."
"I think this team here is better than last year's team, but we have to get healthy," Shorter said. "I think we have the pieces to win it all in 4A, but it's going to be tough. There's some good 4A teams out there."
Shorter left the game taking a macro view of things, as well, just on a different subject.
"It's about time for me to stop playing these big schools," he said. "Our numbers are getting smaller. We're probably going to be a 3A school next year. It's good to be battle-tested so early.
"I can easily play a cupcake football schedule and think we're pretty good, but I like playing the tough teams. We are a small 4A school and I might need to think things different in the future, play different competition. Playing these 6A and 5A schools is starting to be a toll on us."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
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