STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — The football coaches at Starkville and West Point High Schools didn’t have to say very much to their players this week.
All the Yellowjackets and Green Wave had to do is take a glimpse of the schedule and understand it’s time to face each other in another special game — this time in West Point on Friday night.
“West Point is that one game on our schedule that’s the biggest rival game to our kids, to our school, (and) our town,” Starkville coach Jamie Mitchell said. “Obviously with the tradition we’ve had with them the last couple of years, it makes it that much bigger.”
The two teams have played four times in the last two seasons with two meetings in the regular season and two in the Class 5A playoffs.
In 2011, West Point won a 33-21 decision against SHS in the regular season, but lost in the postseason 20-14.
The Green Wave defeated the Jackets handily 47-22 last year, then were edged in the Class 5A North championship game 29-28.
Even though the two teams won’t meet in the playoffs this year as Starkville has moved up to Class 6A, West Point coach Chris Chambless said his team has not forgotten how the last two seasons have ended.
“We just didn’t get the job done when it counted,” Chambless said in the preseason. “They were our brick wall, and we couldn’t get through it. We are using that as motivation this season.”
The Green Wave are searching for their first win of the season after being beaten by South Panola 55-33.
Even though West Point lost, it got a huge game out of senior running back and Mississippi State commitment Aeris Williams, who had 194 yards on 32 carries and four touchdowns.
“In that kind of heat, I don’t know how he did it,” Mitchell said. “He looked as good in the fourth quarter as he did in the first quarter. He’s arguably the best running back in the state. If there’s a better one, I haven’t seen him. He’s durable, he’s big, he’s strong and certainly seems to get better as the game goes on.
“He’s without a doubt a guy you have to deal with. He’s a special player and everything I’ve heard about him from the coaches there that he’s an even better person. It’s great to see a kid from this area have that type of success. Hopefully, we’ll get out there and find a way to contain him a little bit.”
The Jacket defense has been good so far this season against the run in only allowing 102.5 yards in two games.
Oxford did break a 62-yard run against SHS last Friday and Mitchell said the big plays have to be minimized with Williams.
“The first guy is not going to be enough.” Mitchell said in tackling Williams. “It’s going to take two or three to get to the ball and we’ve harped on that this week. We want to swarm to the football and get as many people there as we can.”
The defensive leaders for the Jackets this season have been Marlow Rogers with 21 tackles and Taylor Johnston with 17 stops.
Starkville starting strong safety Tyler Rogers, who has 11 tackles in two games, was injured in practice Tuesday and Mitchell has listed him doubtful for the game.
“That’s a big blow for us,” Mitchell said.
On offense, Darius Grayer was hurt late in the 35-24 loss to Oxford, but Mitchell hopes the versatile player will be ready for the Green Wave.
The Jackets committed 13 penalties and had five turnovers against the Chargers. Mitchell knows those things just can’t happen if his squad is to have success in games.
With that in mind, Mitchell said the focus has been on internal things and not necessarily the opponent.
“Our problems are dealing with us and our mistakes,” Mitchell said. “We’ve got to get better at the things we’re doing and not worry so much about who we are playing. We want to fix things we’re messing up on. (With) 13 penalties and five turnovers, you are not going to beat anybody doing that.
“Of the 13 penalties, I think eight were pre-snap penalties, which are just absolute mental mistakes that kids should not be making. We got basically six points out of three drives and should have been 21 points.”
Information from: Starkville Daily News, http://www.starkvilledailynews.com/