August 6, 2010 10:04:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Jeff Terrill''s positive energy is infectious.
And it''s a good thing as Starkville Academy''s football program is attempting to climb out of the valley and to the top of the mountain.
Today''s home scrimmage against Leake Academy gives the Volunteers their first chance to play against a different team since Terrill took over at the beginning of the year.
Eager, hungry, anxious and antsy, the Vols have been buoyed by Terrill''s diligence in creating an expectation to be better than they''ve been since winning a state title in 2005.
It may seem easy to take that approach after a winless season in 2009, but as positive energy can be contagious so can negativity.
Senior quarterback Kyle Henson admits the current 15-game losing streak feels like a dark cloud hanging over J.E. Logan Field, and the only reprieve will be to win a game.
That hasn''t stopped the team from training as if the Vols were coming off a playoff berth and division title as they''ve embraced the task ahead and tried to leave the naysayers behind.
Still, most people outside the team can''t help but bring up the current losing streak and the dismal 2009 season when talking about the upcoming slate.
"Last night I was on facebook and one of our eighth-grade boys said ''you better get ready because SA is coming,''" Henson said. "And a boy on our team last year says, ''That''s got to be a joke.'' That really burned me up. Things like that have got to change, even though you''ve got your people who are positive.
"But it''s a great motivational thing."
Today''s 6 p.m. scrimmage is the first step in that direction as Terrill and his staff hope to see the Vols'' ground game replicate what they''ve shown in fall camp. Terrill feels good about tailbacks Ryan Mann and Ryan McKell, but beamed about fullback Matt Ward. The middle skill players, including the speedy Henson under center, have been pegged as the strength of the team''s rebuilt offense, which goes from a spread system to a run-based system that''ll utilize play-action passes.
Ward looks to be the key to rushing success, but not simply because of his skill set. The thick-necked bruiser has been pegged by teammates as the enforcer on both sides of the ball.
After going to Army basic training last summer, Ward is keen to put that toughness and senior season motivation to work.
"I like to hit people and be physical, that''s the best part of the game," Ward said.
What that translates to in Henson''s eyes is the team has someone who won''t be intimidated by opponents.
"He doesn''t stop and he doesn''t care what he has to do to put someone on their back," Henson said. "He''s the kind of guy who is going to hoop and holler. Matt''s got your back, whether it''s clearing a lane or sticking someone at linebacker."
Leake enters the scrimmage coming off a 7-4 season, the team''s seventh-straight winning ledger.
Success against Leake could go a long way in building confidence ahead of next week''s jamboree at Jackson Academy, Henson said.
"Team-wise and individually, it would provide a big boost," Henson added. "It''ll also tell us a lot about where we''re at right now. One thing''s for sure, we''re all anxious to play."
Next Friday, the Vols play Greenville Weston at 6:30 p.m. and Northwest Rankin at 8 p.m. in a jamboree at Jackson Academy.
1. Lessons learned helped Coggin earn promotion COLLEGE SPORTS