September 13, 2013 10:49:02 AM
MACON -- Tyrone Shorter wasn't as distressed Sunday as he was following his team's season-opening loss to Starkville High School.
But the Noxubee County High football coach echoed a familiar refrain from that first weekend when he watched film of his team's 28-6 loss to Louisville.
"We need to grow up," Shorter said.
After not seeing the level of focus and disappointment he felt was necessary following a home loss to one of the school's biggest rivals, Shorter was primed to bring his team together and demand to see some changes.
He didn't have to.
Instead, Shorter tried to eavesdrop Tuesday as some of his seniors and juniors spoke up at a team meeting in which the players addressed their need to be more serious and to live up the football program's tradition. After hearing the discussion and seeing how his team responded Wednesday in practice, Shorter was a little more confident the Tigers could recover from a 1-2 start to the season.
The only trouble is things don't get any easier for Shorter and Noxubee County. At 7 tonight, Noxubee County will travel north to take on Aberdeen, another Class 3A power with a talented quarterback (Josh Williams) and a talented cast of skill-position players, including senior wide receiver Sammie Burroughs.
"They are very similar to us," Shorter said. "They are very athletic, can run, and are very fast. They are not a big team, but they are very athletic. I think their best player is their quarterback."
Williams, a junior, leads an Aberdeen team that improved to 2-1 with a victory against Amory last week. Shorter still feels Louisville senior Wyatt Roberts is the best quarterback in the state of Mississippi, but he considers Williams even more of a dual-threat because he can make teams pay with his arm and with his legs. He said the goal tonight will be to contain Williams and to give him plenty of defensive formations to keep him off balance.
A week ago, the Tigers couldn't find their balance on that side of the football against the Wildcats. Aside from a long kickoff return by Eric Hunt that set up the team's only score, a 1-yard run by Darrell Brandon, Noxubee County struggled to protect quarterback Timorrius Conner and to run the ball against a senior-dominated opponent. Shorter felt the team was heading in the right direction after it rallied to beat Columbus in the second week of the season. But watching the tape of the Louisville game made him re-assess his team's path.
"It was like we took another step back," Shorter said. "We have to get better in special teams. Special teams hurt us. The little things are making us shoot ourselves in the foot. ... Things are falling apart at the wrong time for us."
Noxubee County's defense surrendered only three scores against Louisville. In fact, its defense made several stands when it was forced to protect short fields after the punter couldn't handle a low snap and another snap went over the punter's head. Shorter stressed his players needed to grow up. He wasn't pleased that his players returned to practice with a demeanor like they won Friday instead of lost. With a young team, Shorter said he and his coaches are pushing the players because they know they can do it. But he also said they are having to slow things down and go over points more often than they did last season when the team had 23 seniors.
With patience as a guiding hand, Shorter remains confident this year's team will live up to its potential and carry on the legacy of the 2012 state championship squad.
"Last year, we put a play in and they run it one time and they have it," Shorter said. "This time, we might run it five or six times before they get it, or we come back the next day and are doing something totally different.
"I just realized last night when we watched film that we are starting five sophomores and a freshman on offense. Wow. It is just rough right now. Defensively, I think we can play with anybody."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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