MACON — Tyrone Shorter has been in this situation.
Maybe that’s why the Noxubee County High School football coach isn’t panicking even though his team is 2-4.
In 2015, the Tigers also lost four of their first six games before they ended the season on a 10-game winning streak and as the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 4A State champions.
Noxubee County followed a similar road last season, going 2-4 to open the campaign and rebounding to win the final nine games, including a victory against East Central in the Class 4A championship game.
This year, though, the injuries have nagged a little longer. Senior athlete Kyziah Pruitt has played in only one game — against Starkville in the season opener — and the Tigers have had more than their share of missed games.
Shorter hopes Noxubee County can continue to inch closer back to 100 percent health this week as it prepares to take on Glenwood School (Ala.) at 7 p.m. Friday at Birmingham Southern College in Birmingham, Alabama.
If Shorter knew then what he knows now he likely would have taken the bye week to help Noxubee County take the time to prepare for its Region 4 opener next week at Louisville. But Shorter and the Tigers never have backed down from challenges, so don’t think they are going to do that now as they try to find their footing after another slow start.
“Our kids have been here before,” Shorter said. We’re in the same situation we were in last year at this time. Our kids are in good spirits. They were saying the same thing after the game Friday like, ‘We have been here before.’ When the kids are talking like that you don’t have to remind them, but it’s tough. It’s tough on our kids and on our coaches because losing is something we don’t really do around here.”
Last week, Noxubee County lost to West Monroe High (La.) 30-9. Shorter lamented three interceptions thrown by quarterback Khristopher White and the offense’s inability to protect the football. He said a fumble at the West Monroe (La.) 1-yard line was just one example of a missed opportunity. Mistakes like that as well as penalties — he said Noxubee County was whistled for four or five in a 99-yard West Monroe (La.) scoring drive — have hounded the Tigers in the first part of the season.
“The good thing is we’re competing to the very end,” Shorter said. “We’re just getting worn down in the fourth quarter. We are playing some very good football teams, some well-coached football teams.”
Still, Shorter has remained positive. He feels Pruitt could provide a big boost to the offense when he returns, although he isn’t sure when that might happen. Last week, receiver Jeffery Malone and middle linebacker Trillo Brown didn’t play and several other Tigers were at less than 100 percent. As a result, the Tigers scored only nine points to move their scoring total to 107 points. In 2015, Noxubee County scored 91 points through six games but it finished the season with 452 points.
In 2017, the Tigers had 118 points through their first six games and finished with 500. Shorter said a key to the success of last season’s team was the mature play of Armoni Clark. He said the senior quarterback, who took over the starting job for Maliek Stallings, didn’t hurt the Tigers with turnovers and managed the game.
This season, Shorter says he continues to have confidence in White, even though he has speculated about the possibility of moving Stallings, a senior who also plays wide receiver and cornerback, back to quarterback to provide a spark.
Shorter feels the return to health of the Tigers’ skill position players will bolster an attack that has been effective at times running the ball with senior running back Ja’Qualyn Smith.
“Our biggest problem is we’re not healthy,” Shorter said. “Once we get healthy I think we’ll be fine.
“This team has been here before. We have good attitudes and good spirits about it, and the kids are still coming to practice and working hard. When we get back healthy, I still like our chances and I still like this football team.”
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.