The injuries are starting to pile up for the Columbus and Noxubee County high school football teams.
That”s bad news for Columbus coach Tony Stanford and Noxubee County coach Tyrone Shorter considering their teams will meet at 7:30 tonight in Columbus in the second game of the season.
Columbus is coming off an 8-6 victory against Aberdeen, while Noxubee County defeated Starkville 14-7.
The victories didn”t come without losses.
The Falcons, who already were without starting quarterback Cedric Jackson and running back Damian Baker, lost starting outside linebacker Gemriah Williams.
The Tigers also took their share of bumps and bruises against the Yellow Jackets. As a result, Shorter said senior offensive lineman Tommy Lane and senior linebacker Todderick Tate won”t play tonight. He also said sophomore defensive lineman Dylan Bradley, who had seven or eight tackles last week, won”t play after he suffered smoke inhalation earlier this week.
Noxubee County could be without two other players who Shorter said will be “game-time decisions.”
“We looked pretty good last week, but I have some concerns about five kids might not play,” Shorter said. “We”re pretty banged up, and Columbus is much improved from last season. It”s going to be another dogfight.”
Shorter said he was pleased with his defense, which held Starkville 107 yards rushing and 37 yards passing. On offense, though, Shorter said the Tigers left too many points on the field, failing to score on four drives inside the red zone, or 20-yard line.
Still, sophomore running back Darrell Robinson rushed for 86 yards to lead the ground game. Quarterback Jarred Johnson had a 10-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, and Deangelo Ballard hit Ladarrel Hunt with a 32-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter that propelled Noxubee County.
“Our offense is capable of being an explosive offense,” Shorter said. “We just need to get it going. At this point, I am OK with the direction we”re going.”
Shorter expected his younger players to make mistakes, but he said they will have to minimize those mistakes tonight against another bigger opponent.
Last year, Noxubee County neutralized Columbus” size advantage by rushing for 173 yards. Patreon Hopkins led the Tigers with 86 yards.
The Tigers could be primed to duplicate that effort tonight, even without Lane. Shorter feels his offensive line did a fine job last week, and that the key tonight will be how well younger players fill in for injured starters.
Stanford feels Noxubee County is better than it was last year and is ready to make another run at a state title. The Tigers were the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 4A runner-up in 2007 and the Class 4A champion in 2008.
While those teams had weapons at receiver like Patrick Patterson and Vincent Sanders, Robinson and classmate Antonio Ryland showed plenty of promise in the preseason and against Starkville. Stanford expects to see a healthy does of that one-two punch tonight.
“They are running the ball a little more than they have done in the past,” Stanford said. “I think in the future those two backs are going to be tremendous. They will be running it then.”
As for his team, Stanford liked the continued development of senior Randy Brown at quarterback. Brown played the position as a sophomore and will lead the team in Jackson”s absence. He likely will have to do it again without Baker, who rushed for 136 yards and a touchdown last season in a 23-12 loss to Noxubee County.
“I think he”s doing a real good job for us,” Stanford said of Brooks, who was 12 of 21 for 155 yards and one touchdown last week. “He looked good all week, and I thought he did an excellent job for us and really led us through the game. I feel he is going to do it again. I feel it is his senior year and he is going to help the team be as good as it can be. He is really working hard.”
Stanford also will look to wide receiver Deontae Jones and running back Quan Latham to play key roles on offense. He said Jones will line up in several places and will be called on to shoulder a bigger load to help give Latham, who also plays safety, a chance to rest.
The Columbus defense will need to be rested because Stanford said opponents always will have to find ways to contend with the Tigers” speed and athleticism.
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.