August 13, 2010 8:11:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Jamie Mitchell''s Starkville High School football team has gotten mentally and physically tougher, but he will find out just how much progress his squad has made when it faces Jackson Callaway on Saturday at the New Hope High jamboree at Mississippi State''s Davis Wade Stadium.
Callaway went 8-4 and has three Football Bowl Subdivision prospects on its offensive line, with 6-foot-5, 300-pound Aaron Morris garnering the most attention in recruiting circles.
The Yellow Jackets are in a different situation, looking to recapture the form of past teams under a new head coach. Despite several key upperclassmen, they are incredibly young and inexperienced.
The situation is at the root of Mitchell''s chief concern entering the 2010 season.
Mitchell didn''t like the response from his team when faced with adversity during the spring, and he was keen to build its resilience in pressure-packed moments.
"We''ve got to understand it''s only one down and that we''ve got to keep competing," Mitchell said. "I like what I''ve seen in practice in regard to fighting through this heat and developing the toughness we need, but we''ve got to get better at handling adversity as a team. I''m very eager to see how the kids respond."
The chance to face Callaway at MSU and to get a look at Week 1 opponent Noxubee County in the game prior, will be a bonus for a team still searching for its identity, Mitchell said.
The Yellow Jackets, though one week from the season opener, are still looking for a base on which to build their offense. Mitchell admits it could be Week 2 or 3 before that happens.
"It''s a process, and when you have young players you know it''s going to take some time," Mitchell said. "But the offense will come. Defensively, we''re really pressing to be more physical and get more players to the ball. We''re not tackling well."
Compounding the defensive issues are injuries to defensive lineman Eric Rogers and Prinston Henderson, who are among five Yellow Jackets who won''t suit up Saturday.
Rogers has a ankle that has bothered him since April and forced him to miss the spring game. Henderson, who was featured at linebacker and defensive end last season, is recovering slowly from meniscus surgery and has missed all of fall camp. Henderson is still on crutches.
For a team short on experience, practicing and possibly playing without two starters is problematic.
"Prinston''s recovery is taking much longer than I''ve experienced," Mitchell said. "It''s no fault of his own, but the doctors are going a little bit longer than anticipated. He''s still probably four weeks away.
"Luckily, we don''t have any injuries that are season-long. We''re probably like everybody else in that sense, but it''s not ideal."
Sophomore Devin Mitchell will start Saturday in Henderson''s place.
Also scheduled to start is junior kicker Daniel Fumo, who has been in competition with Colby Runnels for the starting kicker job. Mitchell confirmed Fumo has the job "for now," and Runnels is still in contention when he recovers from injury.
Terrill seeking increased effort, intensity
First-year Starkville Academy coach Jeff Terrill walked away from last week''s scrimmage against Leake Academy feeling "50-50."
With just one week until the start of the 2010 season, he knows being halfway ready for tonight''s Jackson Academy jamboree won''t cut it.
He noted several positives from the scrimmage, including James Mapp''s 65-yard scoring run and linebacker Ryan Mann''s solid tackling. Terrill was pleased with defensive lineman Angus Catchot''s ability to anchor and to shed blocks, but he wasn''t as pleased with his offensive line or his secondary.
"Our offensive line just didn''t play well, and our secondary didn''t break on the ball like we needed them to," Terrill said. "We broke down a little bit more in pass protection, which we hadn''t worked on as much. I just hoped we would play with more competitiveness and aggressiveness than what we saw. They''re still kind of in that shell."
Tonight, the Volunteers hope to shore up their offensive line play against Greenville-Weston and Northwest Rankin at the JA jamboree. The Vols open with Greenville-Weston at 6:30 p.m. before facing Northwest Rankin at 8 p.m.
Terrill plans to use a conservative game plan in an effort not give away too much before next week''s season opener against Ackerman. He wants to see how his team handles a pair of two-quarter matches in a live-game environment. The team scrimmaged last week without officials and play clocks, and Terrill hopes the effort and execution don''t fall off against two quality teams from the Mississippi High School Activities Association ranks.
"We just need to play faster and more physical," Terrill said. "It''s the battle cry on both sides of the ball. Last week, I think (the players) were a little bit disappointed in their effort, too. They know it''s going to take more to find that winning formula. This is a good opportunity for a dress rehearsal to see where we''re at."
First-year wideout Pat Jones will miss the jamboree due to an Achilles injury, though Terrill expects Jones to be ready for the season. Cornerback Hamilton McBride has a bruised toe and is questionable.
1. New Hope turns to Olsen to return soccer program to prominence HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS