By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – There’s a vacant wooden pedestal sitting in the middle of the Starkville High School football team’s locker room.
It’s reserved for the MHSAA Class 5A state championship trophy … one the Yellow Jackets hope to win Saturday in their BlueCross BlueShield of Mississippi Gridiron Clash game against Pascagoula at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium.
The structure, built by the school’s vo-tech department, was commissioned by the team’s player leadership committee after the season’s fourth game.
Believe it or not, Starkville’s record was 1-3 at the time.
“It’s something we wanted to do,” senior linebacker David Fair said. “We knew who we were and we knew what we could do.”
Starkville senior quarterback and Mississippi State commitment Gabe Myles says the team kept its championship intentions quiet, especially the building of the trophy pedestal.
“We kept it to ourselves,” he said. “We knew where we wanted to go.”
Myles, who has passed for 1,153 yards and rushed for 554 yards, missed two of the team’s first four games with an ankle sprain. The losses were to 4A state finalist Noxubee County, 4A North finalist West Point and 6A North finalist Madison Central. The Jackets’ lone win early was against rival Tupelo.
Starkville, which is expected to move up to 6A when the MHSAA announces its re-alignment later this week, lost to Picayune in last season’s 5A championship game.
“That was our goal when we left Jackson last season … to get back to Jackson,” Myles said. “We were wide-eyed last time. That’s a huge stage.
“But that’s OK now, we’ve been there. This year we bring a lot more experience to the table.”
Fair missed last season’s title game with an injury, so he is anxious to join Myles and his teammates in the championship spotlight.
“I didn’t get to play, so all I wanted was to get back,” Fair said.
And nobody wearing black and gold wants to leave the pedestal trophy-less.
“It reminds us of our goal,” head coach Jamie Mitchell said. “It’s for a gold ball. We hope to top it off.”