November 4, 2010 8:11:00 AM
MACON -- Tyrone Shorter had a plan.
With an experienced group returning on the offensive line and with a group of running backs with a ton of potential, Shorter hoped he could help change the identity of the Noxubee County High School football team.
The past few years the Tigers had earned a reputation for their ability to throw the ball all over the field. Led by wide receivers Patrick Patterson and Vincent Sanders and quarterback Termarcus Conner, Noxubee County was state runner-up in 2007 and state champion in ''08.
Noxubee County can still burn you for the big play through the air, but the Tigers are more likely to use the legs of junior Ladarrell Hunt and sophomore Darrell Robinson and the rest of a stable of running backs to do their damage on the ground this season.
So far, the Tigers are at the front of the pack. At 10-1, the Class 4A, Region 4 champions will try to take the first step toward getting back to Jackson, the site of the state title game, at 7 Friday night when they play host to McClain.
A season-ending injury to fullback Antonio Ryland and at least three injuries to starting offensive linemen only slowed the Tigers'' rushing attack. Things haven''t gone too slowly, though, because Noxubee County has rushed for 2,160 yards this season.
"It has just worked out for us," Shorter said. "(Hunt) has just come on and is one of our best running backs with Robinson. That combination has been hard to stop."
The injury to Ryland forced the Tigers to move Hunt, who saw more playing time last season on defense, to fullback.
"I thought I was too little to play fullback," Hunt said. "I just worked my way up to try to make the team better. It feels good to be a fullback. Usually a fullback gets caught when he breaks away, but I am a speed fullback. When I break into the open no one can catch me."
Shorter said Robinson, who is 5-foot-10, 175 pounds, is going to try to make tacklers miss, while Hunt, who is 5-7, 165, is more apt to try to run over or through a defender.
That might sound improbable, but Hunt is a quicker version of a fullback and can use his speed to keep tacklers off balance.
"He is just a hard-nosed running back," Shorter said. "He is going to hit it fast."
Robinson might have put it best when he said Hunt runs "like a real fullback" despite his lack of size.
"He will put a lick on a person no matter how big they are," Robinson said.
Robinson has 132 carries for a team-best 1,054 yards (10 touchdowns). He is averaging just under 8 yards per carry. Hunt has 581 yards and eight touchdowns. He is averaging 9.7 yards per carry.
"I feel I can do everything," Robinson said. "I can catch, run, stiff-arm, and when I have to run over someone I will lower my shoulder."
Shorter said both running backs are fast and hard working. He said Robinson, who played last season on the freshman team, has learned not to dance and to make his moves more decisively.
"We had high expectations because he was such a great running back in the ninth grade," Shorter said. "There was a little concern about how he was going to handle the speed of the game, but he is doing what we expected of him."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.