MACON — Tyrone Shorter can’t be sure about the timing.
But given everything the Noxubee County High School football team has been through in the first seven weeks, Shorter feels now is as good a time as any to open region play.
It just so happens that Noxubee County’s Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 4A, Region 4 opener just might determine the region champion.
With two winless and a one-win team rounding out its region, Noxubee County and Louisville will square off a 7 p.m. Friday in Louisville in a matchup — affectionately known as the “Toothpick Bowl” in honor of longtime Noxubee County and Louisville coach M.C. Miller — that likely will determine the region championship.
“It’s possible if we win this one that we will be division champs and probably where the North State championship will be held, so it is a lot riding on this game,” Shorter said. “They’re a good football team, but we have been here before and we are up for the challenge.”
Noxubee County is coming off a 32-0 victory against Glenwood School (Ala.) at Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham, Alabama. Junior quarterback Khristopher White threw three touchdowns passes and ran for another score to help the Tigers (3-4) snap a three-game losing streak.
Louisville (6-1) opened region play last week with a 54-0 victory against New Hope. It has defeated only one team in the state of Mississippi with a winning record (Greenwood, 5-2). It also defeated Navarre (Fla.) in its season opener. The Raiders, a Class 6A school in the state of Florida, are 6-0.
Louisville also has victories against Kemper County (1-6), Ripley (3-3), and Grenada (3-4). Its loss was a 26-10 decision to West Point on Aug. 24. Noxubee County lost to West Point 41-0 on Sept. 14.
Shorter said he talked to his players earlier in the week about the team’s 30-game winning streak in region play. The last time Noxubee County lost a region game was a 14-12 decision to Louisville on Oct. 20, 2011. Since then, the Tigers have won six-straight region championships. Some have been with Louisville in Class 4A, while some haven’t when Louisville dropped down to Class 3A in MHSAA reclassification.
In all, Noxubee County has won the last five meetings, including 35-30 and 35-28 victories last season en route to the program’s third title in the last four years. Louisville’s last win in the series was a 28-6 decision on Sept. 6, 2013.
Regardless of the history, Shorter said he told his players not to pay attention to records because things are different in rivalry games.
Shorter said his team is inching closer to 100-percent health. He said senior wide receiver Kyziah Pruitt, who was injured in the season opener against Starkville, remains a week-to-week decision. Shorter said White will need to continue to mature and build off an effort he felt helped him build confidence last week. Shorter likes the Tigers’ chances if White can continue to lead the offense and not make mistakes like senior Armoni Clark did last season in leading the team to the Class 4A State title.
“The kid can play. There is no doubt about that,” Shorter said. “He just has to block out all of the outside talk, and, like I told him, he is my quarterback. We are riding with him.”
Shorter said White had a great day of practice and he feels he “has his swagger back” as he has worked his way back to better health after getting dinged up against Starkville.
Shorter said Noxubee County will need White at his best against a team he feels is a mirror image of his.
“You’re kind of looking at the same team,” Shorter said. “They have a lot of speed. They have a lot of talented players, a lot of Division I guys. We pretty much play the same style of defense. We pretty much run the same style of offense.”
With opponents and coaching staffs that are so familiar with one another, Shorter said the game will come down to which team makes fewer mistakes and which team wants it more.
“I told our kids this senior class at Louisville has never beaten Noxubee County since they entered high school, so they are coming after them,” Shorter said.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.