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Starkville Academy falls to JA, remains winless

 

Jan Blaine Special to the Dispatch

 

STARKVILLE -- Records and final scores don''t tell the whole story about the Starkville Academy football team. 

 

On Friday night, the winless Volunteers didn''t back down against defending state champion Jackson Academy. Even though the final score -- 42-14 in favor of the Raiders -- didn''t go their way, the Volunteers eliminated their opponent''s big-play ability and kept the score within reach before a costly fumble late in third quarter. 

 

"These kids never backed down," said Starkville Academy first-year head coach Jeff Terrill, whose team slipped to 0-5. "Not once, even when the score finally got away from us we still kept playing hard and were able to reel off that touchdown late in the game." 

 

Throughout the season, Starkville Academy''s defense has kept opponents in check enough to give it a shot at winning. But the offense has seen its struggles, and those have contributed to the team''s record. 

 

The good news is Starkville Academy held Jackson Academy scoreless in the first quarter and to two touchdowns in the second, while its offense snagged a touchdown in the second quarter and trailed by seven at halftime. 

 

"That was a great effort by our defense, especially in the first half," Terrill said. "Jackson Academy has a great offense, and they were able to put up some yards, but our guys forced some key turnovers and kept them in check for the most part. In the third quarter we still had a shot." 

 

The defensive presence Terrill spoke of surfaced on the game''s first series, when senior cornerback/quarterback Kyle Henson intercepted junior quarterback Hull Bolls (7-for-10, 47 yards) in the end zone. 

 

After a scoreless first quarter, Jackson Academy broke through with 10 minutes, 3 seconds left in the second quarter. Following a crucial fourth-and-2 situation, Raiders'' junior tailback Jacob Berry capped a 10-play, 67-yard drive on a 1-yard draw to help make it 7-0. 

 

Five minutes later, the Raiders extended their lead with another steady drive, as senior tailback Benton Green (seven carries, 69 yards) scored on a 1-yard run. 

 

Starkville Academy used determination and a trick play to crack the scoreboard. Henson (5-for-10, 94 yards) orchestrated an eight play, 80-yard drive, which included a 30-yard completion to junior wide receiver Ryan McKell across the middle. On the following play, sophomore Drew Pellum took the toss from Henson to the right and with the defense jumping to the notion of a run, stepped back and hit senior Patrick Jones with a 30-yard completion to the 2. On the next play, senior running back Matt Ward dove in for the score. 

 

"Up to that point Jackson Academy hadn''t really respected the pass," Terrill said. "They knew Kyle (Henson) and Matt (Ward) ran the ball a lot and were crowding the line of scrimmage, so we were able to capitalize on that error twice in that drive." 

 

With 11 seconds left in the half, McKell, who was playing in deep coverage, intercepted Bolls and returned the ball 50 yards to give the Volunteers a shot at the end zone. A Jackson Academy blitz caused Henson to duck and run for a 2-yard gain, and a miscommunication between the Starkville Academy coaches and the officiating crew led to the timeout not getting called and Starkville Academy failed to capitalize. 

 

"We had enough time to take a shot at the end zone and if that didn''t work to kick a field goal," Terrill said. "It turned out to be a busted play and instead of throwing the ball away Kyle (Henson) tried to make a play cause he is an athlete, and we weren''t able to get the timeout in time." 

 

Jackson Academy relied on the run in the second half to score 21 unanswered points. Two of the touchdowns came from senior running back Michael Martin (nine carries, 85 yards). The other from senior tailback Christopher Jew, who had a game-high 16 carries for 186 yards. 

 

Starkville Academy''s offense clicked with the addition of converted lineman Adam Crittenden (eight carries, 27 yards) earning some snaps at running back, but a fumble in the red zone with the Volunteers trailing by 14 led to another JA touchdown that helped sap the momentum. 

 

With six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Henson connected with Jones for a 44-yard score to give Starkville Academy its final touchdown. 

 

"It really was a tale of two halves," Terrill said. "In the first half, we hung in there and pushed the defending state champions to the limit, but they have a lot more guys they can rotate and we really began to wear down. But I am very proud of how these young men never quit and never gave up." 

 

Starkville Academy will play host to Winston Academy at 7 p.m. Friday in its homecoming game. 

 

 

 

 

 

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