September 17, 2010 8:47:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Jeff Terrill can''t wait for a handful of extra football players to appear at his office door.
Neither can his Starkville Academy football players, most of whom have learned and played multiple positions in the Volunteers'' 0-4 start this season.
The fact the Volunteers could be 2-2 following losses of one and two points is disappointing to a squad that is trying to work twice as hard as its opponents.
Terrill said injuries and extended learning curves due to low roster numbers have caused frustration.
"We would not be in the position we are if we had five to 10 more kids out for football," Terrill said. "With injuries, it causes us to move kids around. It hinders getting deeper in our playbook. It''s frustrating to both (the players) and me, but it''s just a reality."
Starkville Academy''s opponent at 7 tonight at J.E. Logan Field, Jackson Academy (4-0, 1-0 Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class AAA, District 1), is the antithesis as one of the organization''s largest program. The defending AAA North State champions have a 70-man roster, nearly 40 players deeper than the Volunteers, who are riding a 19-game losing streak dating back to the 2008 season.
But there''s no sugar-coating the adversity the Volunteers will face, Terrill said.
"We''re very honest with our guys," Terrill said Wednesday. "This is the game where we''re probably the biggest underdog. This is David and Goliath, but still our focus hasn''t been on JA, it''s been on us."
Starkville Academy lost to Parklane Academy 38-20 last week as its defense gave up a season-high number of points and failed to follow up on a string of strong performances to open the season, Terrill said.
Terrill described the first four games as a "Yo-Yo" from week to week, as different elements on offense and defense would shine and then take a step back. Starkville Academy has used rookie snappers and also has been inconsistent in the kicking game.
But considering the inexperience at the beginning of the process and the extra responsibility placed on the players, the team''s progress is encouraging, Terrill said.
"It may be hard for a coach to sit here 0-4 and say they''re pleased with things," Terrill said, "but we''re getting the effort we want. The players are learning and we''re seeing the difference. We just don''t have the wins to show it."
Linebacker/fullback Ryan Mann believes the turning point is near, pointing to strong defensive efforts against Ackerman and Lamar School and teammates Kyle Henson and Matt Ward''s 186 rushing yards against Parklane.
"Fundamentally, we''re way ahead of where we were," Mann said. "With the linebackers, we''re getting better at our reads. A lot of teams have used pulling guards and tackles, and we''re reading that better and getting to the ball quicker. You can see the four games we''ve played are paying off.
"We know we''ve got to put a complete game together."
Jackson Academy is coming off a 38-14 win against Madison-Ridgeland Academy. It beat Parklane Academy 23-9 to open the season.