October 12, 2012 11:17:10 AM
Matthew Stevens - firstname.lastname@example.org
STARKVILLE -- Starkville High School football coach Jamie Mitchell received all the motivation he needed for his team's matchup against Canton last week.
The Yellow Jackets' third-year coach couldn't wait to tell his team Canton (3-4, 1-2 Class 5A, Region 2) earned its first division victory by beating Neshoba Central 35-15 in Philadelphia.
The problem is the players already knew.
"I've said it before but I'll say again, kids nowadays are so in tune on what has happened," Mitchell said. "You better believe we're looking at a Canton team playing well enough to beat us."
Starkville (4-3, 3-0) will take its 10-game winning streak in the region to Canton for tonight's game at 7. Mitchell and the Yellow Jackets hope to continue to get healthier on offense with the anticipated return of senior wide receiver Jimmy Saulsberry tonight or next week. The Yellow Jackets have five players with a rushing touchdown and four players averaging more than 10 yards per catch.
"I don't think anybody in the state could've survived losing as many people on offense to injury as we did in the first month of the season," Mitchell said. "It's staggering when you think we've been without our starting quarterback, tailback, wide receiver, and pieces on the line through the first four games. We're just now the kind of team we thought we'd have on offense."
Canton features one of the best pass rushes Starkville has seen since it opened the season against Class 4A power Noxubee County. Canton had 19 sacks in a three-game stretch against Crystal Springs, Ridgeland, and Yazoo City this season. Junior defensive end Keontra Anderson leads a group that will try to harass quarterback Gabe Myles, but Mitchell feels his offensive line is ready after tinkering with that group in the first four games. Myles will need to avoid the two rush ends and mix his running and passing skills. The senior, who committed to Mississippi State University, leads the team with 449 passing yards. He also has rushed for 163 yards. Myles also has eight fumbles.
"(Anderson) and the other end (junior Charles Elam) are about as talented as they come in rushing the passer, but we're just simply more experienced than we were in the beginning of the year and a better group in that regard," Mitchell said. "We know Canton has talented players. The film shows that all day."
Canton also will look to senior offensive lineman Daronte Bouldin. The 6-foot-6, 310-pounder is one of the state's top linemen. He has given a verbal commitment to play for the University of Mississippi.