October 5, 2012 10:43:30 AM
STARKVILLE -- The target in Class 5A, Region 2 remains on the Starkville High School football program.
The Yellow Jackets have won all nine region games since the Mississippi High School Activities Association re-classified schools the summer before the 2011 season. At 7 tonight, Starkville (3-3, 2-0 region) will try to keep that streak going against Ridgeland (4-2, 2-0). Last season, Starkville scored the final 21 points in a come-from behind 26-23 victory on the road in the regular season. It then earned a 28-7 victory in the North State title game.
"Our kids understand we're going to get every team's best shot in this district, and in Class 5A football," Mitchell said. "They understand that's the deal when they carry that flag for what Starkville means. They relish the challenge of knowing if we don't get back to Jackson for the state title game, it'll be because of something we did to ourselves."
Mitchell credited quarterback Gabe Myles for rallying Starkville past Ridgeland in the first game after his team played three of its worst quarters of the season. He said the second game was a much more complete effort. Despite being besieged by injuries this season, Mitchell hopes his team can deliver an effort that resembles the one it delivered in the second game against Ridgeland.
Ridgeland will try to win the battle up the middle by handing the football to senior tailback Gary Adams and junior quarterback Parker Lohman. Both are averaging more than 6 yards per carry. Lohman is a dual-threat option and is averaging a little more than 72 yards rushing and 80 yards passing.
"Lohman is maybe the most athletic quarterback we'll see this season, and can beat us in a lot of different ways," Mitchell said. "We'll have our hands full with him."
Starkville will counter with a running attack that features senior athlete Preston Baker. Mitchell expects Baker to be as close to "100 percent physically as possible" after recovering from a severe ankle injury.
Baker played in the first three possessions last week in a 23-6 victory at Provine, and was held out of action for most of the second half.
"We held him out to have him ready to play in a game like this," Mitchell said. "We understand how important it is to have a healthy Preston Baker because not many teams have a kid that can break it in the run game and the pass game for their offense."