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Blocking by wide receivers key to Volunteers' success

 

Starkville Academy senior wide receiver Brady Richardson fights for extra yardage Friday against Adams County  Christian Academy.

Starkville Academy senior wide receiver Brady Richardson fights for extra yardage Friday against Adams County Christian Academy. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff  Buy this photo.

 

Adam Minichino

 

 

STARKVILLE -- "No block, no rock." 

 

That statement isn't visible anywhere in a common area in the Starkville Academy football team's locker room. But just because that mantra isn't posted on a wall or a dry erase board, that doesn't mean the Volunteers don't take it to heart. 

 

William Wolfe smiles after he says a phrase that the Volunteers have embraced. If anyone epitomizes the meaning behind the statement, it is Wolfe, a senior wide receiver. Wolfe isn't the fastest player on the team. He also isn't the tallest or strongest. But if you ask Wolfe to block, he will be out on the hash marks, in the slot, or on the sideline doing whatever he can to occupy one or two defensive players to give one of his teammates a chance to gain yards. 

 

Twins Raegan and Brady Richardson are the same way. All three learned early in their careers at Starkville Academy that if you don't block in the running game or in the passing game, you won't get the ball. 

 

"Catching the ball is fun, but it's also fun to block somebody and dominate them," Raegan Richardson said. 

 

Second-seeded Starkville Academy (12-1) will put that adage to the test at 2:30 p.m. Saturday when it takes on top-seeded and reigning champion Indianola Academy (13-0) in the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) Class AAA State title game at Jackson Academy. 

 

Starkville Academy lost to Indianola Academy 35-21 on Sept. 1 in Indianola. The Volunteers have won 10 games in a row since then. Their defense has shut out Park Place Christian Academy, Central Hinds Academy, and Adams County Christian Academy to pave the way to the title game. 

 

Last week, Starkville Academy rolled to a 31-0 victory thanks to a balanced rushing attack, led by Taylor Arnold, and a passing game that use quick-hitting bubble screens and slants to keep the Rebels off balance. The strategy worked as the Volunteers were able to find running lanes in the defense. The work of the offensive line and Wolfe and the Richardson twins were integral parts of that success. 

 

Raegan Richardson leads the team with 56 catches for 770 yards and nine touchdowns. Brady Richardson is second on the team with 35 catches for 325 yards and five touchdowns. Wolfe is next with 24 catches for 362 yards and five touchdowns. He has the longest catch of the group (40 yards). 

 

"I wouldn't say we rate the blocks, but we are absolutely competitive with everything we do," Wolfe said. 

 

While those numbers are impressive, the Volunteers' rushing stats (433 carries, 2,616 yards, 6.04 yards per carry) are even better. Led by senior quarterback Noah Methvin (13 touchdowns), the Volunteers have rushed for 31 TDs. Arnold leads the team in yards with 1,277, while Methvin has 405. Nason Heflin has 371 and quarterback Ben Owens has 230.  

 

Starkville Academy coach Chase Nicholson said he has never seen the Richardsons, whose birthday is today, as a package deal. Still, they both have bought into the Volunteers' ground game and, like Wolfe, block extremely well. 

 

"I know they are brothers, but I see them as two different guys," Nicholson said. "It is an effort thing on their part. Coach (Trace) Lee makes it fun in practice. Most of the time you get excited when people catch balls in games. We do, but you see more excitement from the wideouts and coach Lee when they block better than anybody else because they know we are a running team. We have always said if you are going to play wideout, you have to block first. They take it personal that hey are going to go out and block and beat the person in front of them." 

 

Raegan said his brother is a minute-and-a-half older than he is. He said he looks at his brother more like a friend than a brother. He said he likes Ole Miss and his brother like Mississippi State. He also likes vanilla ice cream and plain milk, while his brother likes chocolate ice cream and chocolate milk. 

 

That doesn't prevent each of them from doing their job blocking because they know the team's success. 

 

"It's fun to dominate somebody (when he blocks) and to take control of them like that," Raegan Richardson said. 

 

Wolfe said "no block, no rock" helped him get playing time as a sophomore. He said he embraced that concept quickly because he realized blocking was the only way he was going to get on the field as a slot receiver. His ability to play that role has matured as he has added strength and experience. Now, all of the Volunteers trust Wolfe and the Richardsons to do their jobs blocking to keep the offense flowing. 

 

"We didn't really try to get the perimeter (against ACCS), and that is really the main time you block, but when we were running inside runs and the backs can bounce it outside, that is huge for us," Wolfe said. "That was a huge deal for us Friday night." 

 

Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor

 

Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

 

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