November 10, 2018 8:44:25 AM
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
MACON -- The number jumps off the stat sheet.
When you consider Tyrone Shorter has been stressing discipline in an effort to eliminate mistakes, it's even more alarming that the Noxubee County High School football team committed 19 penalties against New Albany.
Despite a plethora of self-inflicted wounds, Noxubee County pulled away in the second half for a 28-3 victory in the first round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 4A playoffs at Tiger Stadium.
At 7 p.m. Friday, Noxubee County (7-5), the No. 2 seed from Region 4, will travel to the Delta to take on Greenwood (9-2) in a second-round game.
Shorter said finding a way to limit penalties has been a big topic of conversation this week because he understands teams that commit that many mistakes won't be able to survive very long.
"The penalties wee are committing we can control," Shorter said. "We had six or seven holding calls. I don't want to take the kids' aggressiveness away from them, but they are judgment calls. We also had a targeting call. The other one were offsides or false starts. Those penalties are driving me crazy because they are a lack of focus. We have to be more disciplined than that."
Shorter acknowledges no team is going to play a perfect game, so he knows the Tigers likely won't play a game in which they don't commit a penalty. Still, he said penalties and turnovers contributed to a sloppy first half that featured seven penalties in the first quarter last week.
Shorter feels the penalties are a result of being too energized and not staying true to their fundamentals. He said the Tigers might not have committed 19 penalties because some, he thought, were judgment calls.
"I fee like the farther you move down in the playoffs it is going to get tougher and tougher, so you might not be able to overcome that many penalties later on," Shorter said. "We are telling our guys to stay aggressive but stay focused. Your receivers shouldn't jump offsides. Those are the type of penalties that drive me up the wall. Defensive linemen shouldn't jump offsides on a hard count. You have to be disciplined."
Despite the mistakes, Noxubee County relied on a strong effort by the defense and watched as an offense led by senior athlete Kyziah Pruitt continued to develop. He said New Albany stacked the box in an attempt to stop Pruitt's ability to run the football. The move backfired as Pruitt threw for 109 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 117 yards and two more scores.
Shorter expects opponents to keep loading the box to try to contain Pruitt and a running game that features senior Ja'Qualyn Smith because they believe that to be the stronger part of Pruitt's game. But he cautioned against that because he said Pruitt can run the entire offense and can throw the football to beat teams.
"We feel good with him at quarterback because he can do so many things," Shorter said. "He can get out of trouble. The first touchdown he scrambled and made a play and saw the guy down the field. That is what he has to do, be that dual-threat guy."
Greenwood beat Clarksdale 21-14 in overtime on Oct. 26 to win Region 3. Its only losses have been to Holmes County Central and to Louisville (21-0 on Sept. 21). Since then, the Bulldogs have won their last five games, including a 48-25 victory against Amory last week in the first round.
Greenwood earned the right to play at home by virtue of its first-place finish in the district. Louisville edged Noxubee County 27-26 on a last-second field goal to end the Tigers' 30-game winning streak in the region and earn the No. 1 seed from Region 4.
A victory would mean Noxubee County would play at home regardless of the winner of the game between Corinth and Rosa Fort next week at Tiger Stadium.
But neither Shorter nor the Tigers are looking that far ahead. In a season that has been filled with twists and turns, Shorter knows looking past any opponent at this time of the year will end your season early. He feels his players won't do that because they still have unfinished business.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.