October 30, 2013 10:05:15 AM
Starkville Academy football coach Jeff Terrill has been looking for signs his team was ready to compete with the state's premier Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class AAA members.
Terrill saw several of those signs Friday night in a 14-10 loss to defending Class AAA, Division II state champion Heritage Academy. The Volunteers had a chance to win the game in the final two minutes, but the potential game-winning drive stalled at the Patriots' 10-yard line.
Starkville Academy (3-6, 1-4 MAIS Class AAA, District 1) will try to put those lessons learned to good use at 7 p.m. Friday night at Jackson Academy (7-2, 5-0).
"We made some adjustments early (against Heritage Academy) and after that I thought we played some really solid football," Terrill said. "In a rivalry game, really anything can happen. We put ourselves in a position. We just couldn't come away with it there at the end."
Starkville Academy has played numerous sophomores on both sides of the ball. The Volunteers also have had to shuffle lineups due to injury. Sophomore Colt Crestman completed the game at quarterback against Heritage Academy after starter Houston Clark went down with injury.
Clark also is a sophomore.
"Colt really did a great job of leading the team," Terrill said. "We have stretches where our sophomores play like veterans. Then we have stretches where they play like sophomores. That is what happens with a young team."
Offensive consistency continues to a problem for the Volunteers. Starkville Academy has been held to 14 or fewer points in five-straight games.
Led by 583 yards from Grant Wolfe, Starkville Academy is running for 167 yards per game and 4.7 yards per rush. The Volunteers have only thrown for 416 yards (46.2 per game) with two touchdowns and eight interceptions.
With its playoff run snapped at two, Starkville Academy is playing for a strong finish. After Jackson Academy, Starkville Academy will play host to Pillow Academy (4-5, 2-3) in its season finale.
"We are just trying to grow up as quickly as we can," Terrill said.
East Oktibbeha (1-5, 1-5) at Pelahatchie (7-2, 6-1)
East Oktibbeha County High coach John Davis wants to see a strong effort from his Titans against the Chiefs, the MHSAA Class 1A, Region 3 leader.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. in Pelahatchie.
"We want to really finish strong in these last couple of games," Davis said. "Even though we had some things to work around, the kids have remained positive and continued to work hard."
East Oktibbeha got a big confidence lift two weeks ago when it defeated West Oktibbeha 20-18. The Titans parlayed that confidence into their game the next week. Despite dropping a 40-20 decision to West Lowndes, Davis saw a much better final product.
"The first win really did a lot for the team," Davis said. "You could tell it got them energized and a little more focused. I am really looking forward to this game to see if we can build off that. We had an open date and sometimes you don't want the time off when you are playing well."
Senior Justin Williams leads the ground attack. He has rushed 114 times for 740 yards and six touchdowns. As a team, the Titans have rushed for 1,026 yards but thrown for only 129 yards.
Williams, a linebacker, also leads the team with 94 tackles.
Pelahatchie can secure a share of the region title with a win. It beat West Oktibbeha 48-12 last week on the road.
Pelahatchie won last season's meeting, 56-16.
West Oktibbeha (0-6, 0-6) at Ethel (1-8, 0-6)
The Timberwolves and Tigers will play their MHSAA Class 1A, Region 3 game at 7 p.m. Friday.
West Oktibbeha is coming off a 48-12 home loss to Pelahatchie, while Ethel lost to French Camp Academy 36-0.
"We did a lot of things well against Pelahatchie," West Oktibbeha coach Danny Crawford said. "They had more depth and more speed. Those were big factors in the game. Hopefully, some of those things we did well late will carry over to the game with Ethel."
West Oktibbeha won last season's meeting, 50-14, also at Ethel.
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Scott is sports copy editor and reporter