MACON — Chaokang Brooks feels the time for the Noxubee County High School football team to hang its head is over.
With three games remaining for the start of region play, Brooks realizes the Tigers are running out of time to fix the ups and the downs that have plagued them through the first four games.
Brooks also knows injuries have played a key part in Noxubee County’s 2-2 start. He was one of the Tigers who has been at less than 100 percent since the team’s scrimmage against Greenwood on Aug. 10 in Starkville. Brooks has returned to action and hopes all of his teammates are back on the field soon to help lift the collective spirit of a team that knows it has the talent to get back to the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 4A State title game.
“We hang our heads down at some point and then the coaches make us come back to our senses,” Brooks said. “When we have that out of our heads, we just go. We have to block out what happened on the last play and have short-term memory and go back out and be better than the last time.”
Noxubee County will try to bolster its fortunes at 7 p.m. Friday when it takes on long-time rival West Point.
Noxubee County is coming off a 26-23 loss to Meridian last week in Macon. Noxubee County coach Tyrone Shorter credited Meridian, which was his team’s third Class 6A opponent of the season, for making big plays, but he said he felt his team was the better squad. Unfortunately, Shorter said his players hang their heads at times and make untimely mistakes and commit penalties that proved too much to overcome.
“They just have to be more mature,” Shorter said. “We were down two scores an they came to the sideline with their heads down. We told them to pick their heads up because there is a lot of football left to be played. They can’t get into that mind-set. Sometimes things happen. People make plays. Situations might happen and you go down two scores. I think this showed them — and I hope they learn from it — that you fall down a couple of points and you keep grinding and you keep battling your way out of it. We still had a chance to win the ballgame at th end. We just have to cut down on our mistakes and get more consistent at quarterback.”
Shorter feels the return of senior athlete Kyziah Pruitt will give the offense a boost. Pruitt, who played in the season opener against Starkville, has been out of action since week one. He is expected to miss this week and could be back next week for the game Sept. 21 at West Monroe (La.).
Shorter also feels improved quarterback play will help the Tigers achieve the balance on offense they need. Last week, Shorter said he was contemplating moving senior Maliek Stallings back to quarterback full time, but he said he still had faith the Tigers’ offense could be explosive with junior Khristopher White at quarterback.
The decision to move Stallings to quarterback likely would have a ripple effect because Stallings also plays cornerback. Last week, Meridian used three big passing plays to earn the victory. The absence of Stallings on defense would impact the depth in the secondary and would force another player to step up to take his place. It remains to be seen how much playing time Pruitt would see on defense when he returns or if Shorter decides to move Stallings to quarterback in time for the team’s Class 4A, Region 4 opener against Louisville on Oct. 5.
Those are two defensive questions Shorter and defensive coordinator George Richardson will have to address. Richardson, who re-joined the team after the first game, had taken over his old position following the resignation of former Noxubee County player and Jackson State standout Javancy Jones, who is no longer at the school.
“I am not worried about our defense,” Shorter said. “We just gave up some big plays. That can be fixed. We just took bad angles and they made some plays.
“I think the mistakes we’re making we can correct them, but the most important this is we have to get more consistent at our quarterback position,” Shorter said. “If we do that I think we will be fine.”
Brooks believes in the defense, too. He said the Tigers continue to make “little” mistakes and to have a hard time getting off the field on third down. Brooks said the Tigers have to keep their focus and understand one big play doesn’t mean the game is over. He also is looking forward to the return of Pruitt, who will add to the leadership that will help keep the team on the right path.
“It’s just mental,” Brooks said when asked what the defense has to do to eliminate the big plays against it. “When they mess up, they just hang their heads down. If we stop that, shutout. Nobody will score on us.”
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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