By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
Jeff Terrill had to learn quickly last season as a high school coach that you don’t get much of an opportunity to talk strategy with players during the course of a game.
Not when your players are having to take the field for both offense and defense.
“I’m never going to forget having to learn that you never get your hands on a kid until halftime or at a timeout,” said the former junior college coach.
Terrill, 54, is in his second year at the helm of Starkville Academy after eight seasons as Itawamba Community College’s head coach.
“Certainly there’s a big learning curve,” Terrill said about making the transition. “I had to learn a lot about coaching at this level, but it’s been very enjoyable.”
The Volunteers, winless in 2009 and winners of just three games last season, are 5-1 and No. 5 in The Clarion-Ledger’s Academy AAA rankings.
The only setback for the Volunteers this season came Friday night at one of the best teams in the state, 18-time state champion Jackson Prep.
“I thought our kids really went in there and didn’t let the atmosphere or numbers at Prep intimidate them,” Terrill said of his team losing 23-0 to the Patriots. “It was only 2-0 until there was 1:30 left before the half.
“A couple of breakdowns on defense and a couple of big plays we gave up or it would have been a battle to the end. It was hard to match intensity and effort with Prep on both sides of the ball.”
’65 against 35′
Not to mention, the Volunteers had lost offensive tackle Landon Scrivner (knee) for the season and Ryan McKell, who had been a slotback on offense, is strictly limited to playing free safety on defense because of an elbow injury that requires him to wear a large brace.
McKell was the Volunteers’ top rusher in 2010.
“It was 65 playing against 35, basically,” added Terrill. “But Prep did a great job. They were well-coached. Ultimately, we just couldn’t overcome their numbers.”
Prior to that contest, the Starkville Academy D had been putting up impressive numbers, holding teams to just 6.4 points per game. That’s a far better stat than their 29.3 points allowed per game in 2010.
Terrill credited his team’s defensive improvement to the addition of Mississippi Association of Coaches Hall of Famer Bubba Davis.
Davis, who recently was Columbus High’s head coach before retiring, is in his first season as the Volunteers’ defensive coordinator since retiring.
“He’s also been great at working with the kids in the weight room,” said Terrill.
On the offensive side of the ball, in his first year to start behind center, is Drew Pellum.
“He’s really progressed,” said Terrill. “With the option attack we do, the quarterback is required to read (the defense) 75 percent of the time. So, our success depends on him making the right read.”