STARKVILLE — Noxubee County High School’s reputation in football has largely been influenced by its defense.
The Tigers, whether they have big bodies or are undersized, always fly to the football, hit hard, and create turnovers.
There are times, though, when Noxubee’s offensive attack has been greater and more explosive than the “three yards and a cloud of dust” ground game. Head coach Tyrone Shorter was an assistant coach on the last Noxubee team that featured and offense as deadly as its defense: the 2008 squad that featured eventual Ole Miss signees Pat Patterson and Vincent Sanders.
He saw glimpses of it again Saturday in a 35-6 win over Forest at the New Hope Fall Jamboree at Davis Wade Stadium.
Noxubee junior quarterback Tamorris Conner was 7 of 16 for 201 yards and two touchdowns. He added another score on the ground. And if not for three drops, including a wide open strike to the end zone, Conner’s half-game against Forest may have been greater.
“We expect to average 35-40 points a game, so this was about what we expected to do,” Conner said.
Shorter lauded his quarterback’s growth from last season, noting an improved ability to read defenses before the snap and while going through his progressions.
“The camps and stuff helped him out, all the seven-on-seven,” Shorter said of Conner. “He’s a better leader. Our receivers are seasoned guys, and they all worked extremely hard the whole spring and summer. We have eight starters returning on offense, and we think we can put up some points. Three and a half starting linemen are back.
“We’re gonna try to be balanced this year,” Shorter said. “We know we can run it, but the length we have at receiver, and the ability we have there, I expect this offense to score like we did in 2008.”
The Tigers won’t have that tall of a hill to climb if they hope to make it to the Class 4A title game, at least not with its roster. The Noxubee defense was just as dominate as its offense Saturday. Defensive end Jeffery Simmons had three quarterback hits, Kevarkian Brewer had four tackles of a loss, and Quendarrion Barnett had an interception.
“At practice, we (offense) don’t look that good,” Shorter said. “We have problems against our defense because of our speed. We do a good job of comepting against each other, and hopefully that keeps carrying over to the ball game.”
Shorter said Conner has been the greatest beneficiary of practicing against the Tigers’ D. He said Conner’s mental toughness and ability to shoulder more responsibility is a byproduct of working against the likes of Brewer and Simmons.
“The playbook has expanded because of our quarterback,” Shorter said. “As a sophomore, we didn’t want to put too much pressure on him. But he can see the field better. We can run just about anything we want offensively.”
Noxubee’s ground game was powered by junior Shannessy Sherrod, who had 114 yards on three carries and touchdown runs of 82 and 36 yards to give Noxubee an early 13-0 lead.
The first run showed Sherrod’s growth from last year, as he waited for a block to set up before bouncing off tackle and darting back across the hash for an 82-yard touchdown run — his first carry of the game.
“I came out here focused, reading holes better,” Sherrod said. “I struggled with that early on (preseason). I had to learn to just stay calm, be patient and wait for it to develop. I was so fast and ready to go, I just had to calm down.
“All of us have made those same kind of improvements.”