October 30, 2009 9:09:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Jaquez Johnson understands what he must do to move forward.
The Starkville High School junior quarterback wants to settle down and rely on his teammates more to make plays.
That''s something Johnson doesn''t think he''s done well enough in the past two weeks with five interceptions.
Johnson believes he''s making the right reads, but says he has tried to force some things.
"I''m trying to throw into smaller holes and trying to make bigger plays when the plays aren''t there to be made," Johnson said. "I''ve got to take it one step at a time."
Johnson and the Yellow Jackets (3-6, 3-2 Class 6A, Region 1, District 2) are still in the playoff hunt, but need to win one of their last two games to stay in contention.
South Panola High School is a tough place to try to find one of those, but that''s the task presented Starkville will face at 7 tonight.
"We''ve got to come out and play hard just like we do any other game," Johnson said. "We''ve got to play harder because they''re a lot better than the teams we''ve been playing.
"We look at it the same as it was at the beginning of the season when we went 0-4. It''s not over yet. We''re still trying to make the playoffs."
Johnson is 111 of 216 for 1,291 yards with six touchdowns and nine interceptions this season. He threw two interceptions in a loss to Southaven and three more last week in a 23-13 loss to Olive Branch.
Starkville High offensive coordinator Rob Morgan doesn''t think technique is the problem for Johnson. He said the desire to win and the pressure that comes with it forces Johnson to try to do too much.
"He''s such a competitor and plays so hard," Morgan said. "He''s trying to put the whole thing on his shoulders and is trying to carry everything. He''s played well and a lot of his stuff has been good, but his mistakes have come at a time where it has just killed us."
Morgan said Johnson has remained positive despite the injuries that have happened around him and the other adversity he''s faced.
"He''s such a great person and great kid," Morgan said. "He never complains. He lines up every day and tries to get better. I don''t fault him. He''s trying to win and it''s a shame he has to go through that. By the time he''s a senior maybe we''ll have some stability on the offensive line and running back to help him out."
The Yellow Jackets hope mistakes don''t follow them to Panola County to take on the powerful Tigers (8-1, 5-0), but Morgan said it won''t be from a lack of effort.
"If we make mistakes, we make mistakes, but we''re going to make them trying to win the football game," Morgan said. "I told him just keep playing hard and don''t shy away from anything. It will turn around for you."
Starkville High coach Bill Lee said his team had a good week of practice to prepare for South Panola.
"We want to be of one mind-set," Lee said. "We''re going there to win and don''t want to be wishy-washy. We don''t want to be guessing. We want to be focused on stopping their streak and don''t have any doubts about it."
The Yellow Jackets could be without linebackers Craig Armstead (neck injury) and D.J. Jordan (upper leg), while offensive lineman Eric Rogers (broken wrist) has been out.
Lee said his team must learn to deal with injuries and mistakes and move on.
"Sometimes bad things happen, but you live with it," Lee said. "We don''t point fingers and we grow from it. That''s all you can do."
1. Central Academy softball looks for return to state tournament HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
2. Walters column: Noxubee County rarely backs away from challenge HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
3. Bulldogs land commitment from McLaurin at Collins LOCAL SPORTS
4. MSU men's basketball releases non-conference schedule COLLEGE SPORTS
5. Oak Hill Academy softball hopes to build on win column HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS