August 29, 2014 11:20:22 AM
Starkville High School football coach Jamie Mitchell feels his squad will be battled tested by the time play in the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 6A, Region 2 begins.
Starkville has assembled a star-studded non-region schedule designed to ensure it will be at peak performance when it's time to play the seven-game region schedule.
Ranked third in this week's The Associated Press poll, Starkville will take its next step at 7 tonight when it faces top-ranked Oxford in the "Little Egg Bowl."
"I don't think we really have to apologize for who we are playing," Mitchell said. "This is the best way I know to get a team ready to win a championship. We have some challenges. Five weeks into the season, we should really know where we stand."
Starkville defeated Class 4A title contender Noxubee County 51-19 last week in its season opener. Tonight, Starkville will face one of the favorites in Class 5A. Next week, another Class 5A powerhouse -- West Point -- awaits.
"It is exciting to play a big game every week," Starkville senior quarterback Brady Davis said. "We know we can't take any Friday night off. Each week, you have to be ready to play. Even those these games won't have an impact on the playoffs, they are important. You want other teams around the state to look at your program and know that you are good.
"Winning games like this one is the best way you can prove you are one of the best in the state."
Davis, a transfer from New Hope High, threw for 183 yards and three touchdowns last week. The biggest storyline may have been the rushing attack of Matt Fuller and Jacquez Horsley. Against a highly regarded defensive line, that duo ran the ball 26 times for 230 yards.
"Our running game may be the secret weapon this year," Mitchell said. "If you have a lead, being able to control the tempo of the game is huge."
Oxford won its season opener, 26-21 at Jackson Prep on Friday night. Junior quarterback Jack Abraham threw for 286 yards and three touchdowns.
A year ago, Oxford sent the big statement statewide as it rallied from a 17-7 halftime deficit to take a 35-24 win at Starkville. Abraham threw for 304 yards and four touchdowns.
Oxford won its first 14 games before falling to Picayune in the Class 5A state championship game.
"We feel like we owe them one from last year," Starkville senior wide receiver Raphael Leonard said. "We didn't play well and they really made some big plays. We are going up there looking to return the favor this year. We are excited to be playing them again."
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Scott is sports copy editor and reporter