August 21, 2018 11:38:50 PM
One game isn't going to change Tyrone Shorter's mind about the 2018 Noxubee County High School football team.
Granted, Noxubee County won't have a perfect record after a 30-6 loss to Starkville on Friday night in the season opener for both teams.
A banged up bunch of Tigers also will have to watch out that one game doesn't become two and their mantra "New Beginning, Same Ending" doesn't turn into a bad idea for a T-shirt.
But Shorter doesn't get the sense that will happen. He has been around the school's football program for 20-plus years, so he knows about talent, potential, and resiliency.
Shorter also understands championship teams have heart. Despite the loss to the Yellow Jackets, Shorter believes his Tigers have plenty of that.
"I learned they didn't quit," Shorter said when asked what he learned about his team from the loss. "Starkville is good. I have to give them credit. They are one of the best I have seen in a while. They are solid, but my team didn't quit. My young QB (junior Khristopher White) took a punishment. They kept fighting and fighting and showed a lot of heart and character."
Noxubee County will try to show the same heart and character and earn a different result at 7 p.m. Friday when it takes on Columbus. It will be the second higher classification team in as many weeks for the Class 4A Tigers, who played last week without senior linebacker Chaokang Brooks and running back Bobby Shanklin. Senior wide receiver Kyziah Pruitt, a Mississippi State commitment, also was banged up and didn't play the whole game after making seven catches. White also took his share of hits against a defense Shorter feels will be the best his team will see this season.
Still, Shorter doesn't want to make excuses because Noxubee County, the reigning Class 4A State champion, has built a program on playing the best teams regardless of classification and not accepting defeat.
"The kids kept telling me they were sorry and that they let me down," Shorter said. "I told the kids they didn't let me down. They fought to the end. We just played a good football team, a powerhouse 6A team."
Games against reigning Class 5A State champion and perennial Class 6A power Meridian also will come prior to the start of Class 4A, Region 4 play. Shorter feels the Tigers will be in good shape for region action, but the question will be if they will be healthy when they get there. Shorter said Pruitt is one of multiple players who likely will be game-time decisions Friday night. But he said he is looking at the "bigger picture" and not just one game this week.
"If Kyziah Pruitt can't go Friday we're not going to worry about it," Shorter said. "I am not going to put a kid out there who is 65-75 percent.
"You hold your breath when play against 6A schools and hope you don't have a lot of injuries. Playing those teams will make you better, but it can hurt you as well because we don't have a lot of depth. We are banged up right now. Hopefully, we will get these guys ready to go. If we can't then it is next man up."
Despite the loss, Shorter said he saw positive signs from his defense. Aside from giving up a few big pass plays, Shorter felt the Tigers did a good job of containing the Yellow Jackets' running game. The problem, though, was Noxubee County couldn't get off the field on third down. Shorter said all four of the Yellow Jackets' scores came on third-and-long situations.
Shorter hopes Noxubee County can correct that this week. He said White will try to bounce back from a challenging evening and a physical opponent. He said one game isn't going to make him lose confidence in a player he feels has a bright future.
Shorter said the same thing about the rest of the Tigers. After convincing the players they didn't let him, the community, or their parents down, he said the Tigers returned to practice and had two of the best days since the start of fall camp. On Friday, he hopes to see that fight and hard work pay dividends.
"I like our guys being in the fire early on so we can correct things and move forward," Shorter said. "I like their attitude and how they bounced back. Everybody has been accountable."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsporteditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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