Columbus, Starkville meet with playoff spot on line

November 6, 2009 9:19:00 AM

Danny P Smith -


Bubba Davis and Bill Lee have playoffs on their minds. 


Unfortunately, only one man''s team could get to realize those dreams. 


That will be the storyline at 7 tonight when Davis'' Columbus High football team plays host to Lee''s Starkville Yellow Jackets. 


Starkville and Columbus enter the game at 3-7, but the Yellow Jackets are 3-3 in Class 6A, Region 1, District 2 and the Falcons are 2-4. 


All Starkville has to do is win and it''s in the playoffs. 


"I always like for it to be in our hands," Lee said. "I never like having someone else lose for this or that to happen. If we win, we''re in. We''ll deserve it." 


The scenario isn''t so clear for Columbus. 


If the Falcons win and Tupelo loses to Olive Branch, Columbus, Starkville and Tupelo would be tied at 3-4. 


Since Tupelo defeated the Falcons (10-6), the point system would come into play and it''s believed Columbus would have to beat the Yellow Jackets by at least 15 points to extend its season. 


Davis, who won only one game in his first season last year, likes that his team is in the playoff conversation.  


"It''s good for the kids and good for the program," Davis said. "That''s where we want to be at this time of the year." 


The coaches anticipate a playoff-type atmosphere in the regular-season finale. Davis noticed a little more emotion from his players in practice this week. 


"They think it is (a rivalry)," Davis said. "They know a lot of those kids over there and it''s a big game for both of us." 


Lee knows Columbus will do everything it can to prevent his squad from making the playoffs. 


"Columbus would like nothing better than to turn our lights out," Lee said. "If we don''t handle our business, they will turn our lights out for the season." 


The Yellow Jackets and Falcons have met 17 times since 1992 when Caldwell and Lee High Schools consolidated into Columbus High. 


Starkville leads the series 14-3. The Yellow Jackets won the first 11 times, but the Falcons broke through with a 13-7 victory in 2003 and went to the playoffs that season. 


Columbus also defeated Starkville 31-21 in 2005 and 20-19 in 2007. All of the Falcons'' victories have been at home. 


The 2007 win knocked the Yellow Jackets out of the playoffs. 


Last year, Columbus led 21-7 entering the fourth quarter, but Starkville scored 22 unanswered points to take a 29-21 victory.  


That loss left the Falcons (1-10, 0-7 in the district) with a bad taste going into the offseason 


Davis wants it to be different this time. 


"The bottom just fell out in the fourth quarter and we let it slip away," Davis said. "That''s part of the process and they''ve learned something. Hopefully if they get in that situation again, they''ve been there and won''t let it slip away again." 


Lee said a victory would provide a huge boost for his program. 


"It would be like spinach to Popeye," Lee said. "That''s what this one means. It''s going to fill us up. We need it. We''ve had so much adversity this year. We need to come out with something a little more positive." 


The Yellow Jackets lost their first four games but won their first three district games against Desoto Central (9-3), Tupelo (14-7), and Horn Lake (34-6). 


Starkville has lost its last three games, including a 51-7 loss to district leader South Panola last week. 


Lee hopes his team has gotten over the sting of that defeat. 


"You''ve got to get yourself back up and go on to the next day, whether it''s good or bad," Lee said. 


Columbus lost to South Panola 53-7, but has won two if its last three games. The Falcons defeated Desoto Central (12-7) and Horn Lake (28-0) before losing last Saturday at Olive Branch (33-7). 


"The more you look at them on film, the better they get," Lee said. "They are starting to grow and mature. Defensively, they are a sound and scrappy bunch. Nobody has really scored that much on them except for Olive Branch and Panola." 


Davis has challenged the Falcons to grow through the year and believes the performance late in the season is proof they have. 


"We''re proud of the kids for what they''ve done and where we are," Davis said. "People who have seen us play last year and this year know there''s a tremendous difference. It may be slow, but we''re making progress."