May 21, 2010 9:30:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- The rain held off long enough for Starkville Academy to have its intra-squad scrimmage Thursday, capping the team''s first spring practice period under head coach Jeff Terrill.
For roughly four hours, thunderstorms blanketed the area and threatened to postpone the scrimmage. Even Terrill said it was "doubtful" the Volunteers would scrimmage two hours before the 6 p.m. start.
Quarterback Kyle Henson said he sent Terrill a text message inquiring about the scrimmage as he and his teammates were anxious to play.
Thirty minutes before the scrimmage was scheduled to start, the skies cleared and the sun shined on a surprisingly dry J.E. Logan Field.
"I did not expect it to be that dry," Henson said."I guess we''ve got a good drainage system. We all wanted to play to see how much better we''ve gotten. It all worked out and I''m glad we got it in."
Starkville Academy started its first team offense at its own 5-yard line and Henson completed a 35-yard pass. He later hit Ryan McKell, who ended the day with a pair of touchdown grabs, for a 60-yarder.
Big plays in the passing game were absent from Starkville Academy''s offense last season, especially when Henson became the starter. He was used as a runner last season, but part of his growth this spring has been through the air.
"It''s really come a long way," Terrill said of the passing game. "Kyle has gained some confidence and receivers have learned concepts of running routes and how it fits. We were pleased to hit some balls today."
Thursday''s scrimmage was a chance for Starkville Academy''s players to have fun after adjusting to a new head coach and new systems. The goal was to forget about the team''s 15-game losing streak and focus on what it will take to end matches with a smile come the fall.
"We''ve been working hard all spring and we just tried to show everybody what we''ve been working on," McKell said. "I felt a lot better tonight knowing we had gotten better over the spring. Fundamentals, everywhere -- we''ve gotten better."
Terrill was quick to remind his squad still has a mountain to climb before returning to championship form.
The former Itawamba Community College coach took aim at improving every aspect of the program, but most importantly was changing the culture that turned sour following two down years under the last staff.
"We talked about attempting to change an attitude and becoming a more physical, tougher team," Terrill said. "I think they''ve come as far as they can in this four-week period. We''re real pleased with the progress and where we are, but we''ve still got a long, long way to go.
"Hopefully this spring, as good as it was, will carry over into a great summer."
Though no positions were won or lost through Thursday''s scrimmage, Terrill said the team still faces a numbers issue heading into the summer.
"We''re down," Terrill said. "We had 27 on the varsity squad when we finished and that''s tough. Even in academy ball playing at this level. We''re hoping the positiveness of the direction of the program will attract some more kids that''ll help these that are working so hard."