November 16, 2012 11:56:49 AM
Matthew Stevens - firstname.lastname@example.org
STARKVILLE -- Starkville High School understands the stakes tonight in the second round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A North State playoffs.
A victory at 7 tonight against Oxford likely would earn Starkville the right to play host to the North State title game next week against an area rival it lost to earlier this season.
But next week won't matter if Starkville (9-3) doesn't take care of business tonight against Oxford (11-1).
"We don't need to tell the kids what is on the line this week," Mitchell said. "This is a been-there, done-that type situation for these kids as they try to get to Jackson for a shot at a state title again."
Mitchell has been focusing practice all week to try and slow down an Oxford passing attack led by senior quarterback Parker Adamson. The 6-foot-5, 200-pounder, who has received interest from the University of Alabama, Duke University, and Vanderbilt University, has averaged 182 passing yards per game, and has thrown for more than 200 yards three times this season. Adamson threw for 257 yards and three touchdowns in a 35-21 loss to West Point three weeks ago.
"He is by far the best quarterback we're likely to see this season, and can make all the throws needed," Mitchell said.
Mitchell's plan to stop a quarterback who "can pick you apart all night if you let him" is to put him on the ground as much as possible. Early tonight, the question will be if the Yellow Jackets can get to Adamson before he can find a receiver.
"We're going to have to using our strength to combat him, and we feel like that's our pass rush," Mitchell said. "If we can't get to him early, we'll go to some of our counters, but we've been working all week to give him looks of blitzes coming from every possible angle."
Starkville will try to use its speed at the skill positions to exploit a defense that hasn't allowed more than 27 points in a game this season. Tonight's game is the first time nearly every quarterback, tailback, wide receiver, and tight end on Starkville High's roster will be healthy enough to suit up. Mitchell feels that will be a huge advantage.
"As much as I talked about it early on, it seems like the health of our football team is starting to turn around to our advantage as everybody else gets bumps and bruises throughout the season," Mitchell said. "We've got guys back on the field and with fresh legs for a playoff run."
Starkville senior quarterback Gabe Myles had a season-high 166 yards on 8-of-12 completions last week in a first-round victory against Saltillo. He added two passing touchdowns to go with a 45-yard rushing score. Myles has 1,471 total yards and 19 total touchdowns this season despite missing a couple of games with a severely sprained ankle.
The last time Starkville made it to the North Half championships in back-to-back years was 2000-01. This will be its last chance to earn that ark in Class 5A. On Thursday, it was announced Starkville will move back to Class 6A next season when the MHSAA re-classifies schools based on their enrollment.
"This group has a chance to do something special and leave their mark in school history," Myles said. "We know that and the coaches don't have to say it. It's our chance to do something special and return to Jackson."