August 19, 2010 10:10:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- The genesis of Starkville Academy''s 2009 football misery, preparing for Ackerman High doesn''t feel like déjà vu one year later.
It''s an interesting approach because for the second year in row players and coaches are positive the team can achieve a favorable result against the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 2A power.
The only difference is the actual belief, the collective feeling the Volunteers can win the season opener, senior quarterback Kyle Henson said.
Last year, a surprising jamboree performance capped an up-and-down fall camp, bolstering expectation ahead of the hyped home opener. But Henson believes there was an underlying feeling of uncertainty throughout the locker room, which ended up affecting preparation. Ackerman then defeated Starkville Academy 55-2.
However, he insists this year''s feeling is legit.
"Last year, I think we saw that jamboree result and felt we could lay back and get better," Henson said. "This year, that feeling''s deeper. This offense fits us a lot better and we''ve got some experience. Then we look at what Ackerman lost and we feel like we can go in there and make the statement we wanted to make last year."
The Indians, despite the losses of Andrew Furr, Shawn Stricklin, and Havier Murphy, return an experienced line from last year''s Class 2A state runner-up.
By no means will the Indians be any less competitive than they were last year, even with quarterback John Cummings'' two-game suspension for unspecified reasons.
That doesn''t change the intimate nature of the burgeoning rivalry, as there''s family and friendship connections between both sides.
Henson is from Ackerman, and fullback Matt Ward used to attend Weir.
"We hear them talking and we''re ready to get it on," Ward said earlier in the preseason. "We''d love nothing better than to open our season with a win down there."
Starkville Academy coach Jeff Terrill discourages overexcitement in preparing for the Indians. He warns pinning too much focus and energy into making a statement has the potential for a repeat of ''09.
"We understand what we''re facing," Terrill said. "The team''s attitude doesn''t have anything to do with Ackerman. It has to do with Starkville Academy. Hopefully, they have that attitude that they can go out and compete at a higher level than they did last year. It wouldn''t matter if we were playing Ackerman or Lamar."
With a short week to prepare, it was vital the Volunteers adjusted to game-week preparation and channeled the excitement of facing the Indians. The team opted to come in Sunday to review jamboree film, a move that helped it have a cleaner practice Monday, Henson said.
"We got back to work quicker," he added. "In film, we noticed the things we need to work on and how it revolves around the little things. One block here and it''s not a busted play. If you get around that edge, you might add 10 yards to that run. Really, that''s what it boils down to for us."
The little things are vital, but offensive success, especially early in the game, could be the wave of energy needed to weather the adversity of being an underdog on the road.
The Volunteers moved the ball and finished drives in the second of their jamboree games Friday, and Henson is anxious for flawless execution to start the game.
"Get the ball, execute, and score," Henson said. "We can''t go in there and mess around. Putting together a big drive, a scoring drive, to start the game is what we''ve talked about all week. It''s got to happen."